Through the Wringer
After years of abuse growing up, coupled with the self-betrayal of marriage, I had my first anxiety attack, maybe the most frightening experience of my life. I was on a bus, when suddenly an intense fear consumed me, flooding every cell in my body. My heart beat like a jackhammer, and I was afraid it would fail any second. I could hardly breathe. The thought that I was going to die right there on the bus in front of everyone added utter humiliation to my living nightmare. (I’m from New England, where calling attention to oneself in public is not done). Desperately, I held on to consciousness, managing to take in a little more air with each breath. I stoically retained my calm demeanor during this assault. The attack finally passed, and I never mentioned it to anyone. Instead, I lived in fear of another one.
There were two more attacks before I finally told someone about them – my family doctor, who had no idea how to help me. No one knew what an anxiety attack was back then. That’s when I told my husband and my family that I was having problems, and went into psychotherapy. There was no discussion and no open support from my husband and family because we were all too afraid to talk about it. I was in therapy for about a year, and it helped me release a fraction of the fear that I would become well acquainted with in future years. I was also pregnant.
I was working as a fabric designer and my husband was working on his Masters degree at that time. Shortly before he received his degree, our baby was born. Before our son was a year old, we were driving from Columbus, Ohio, to Lafayette, Louisiana, in our used car, whose breaks failed on a hill in downtown Cincinnati, lugging a U-Haul trailer filled with the few possessions we had. We were on our way to my husband’s first job as an art instructor at Southwest Louisiana State College.
I became a stay-at-home mother, a welcome change from working for the first five years of my marriage. I loved taking care of my adorable son and having coffee with the other young faculty wives. But the day we moved into our rented house, I remember standing in the kitchen feeling doomed by the thought of cooking three meals a day, every day for the rest of my life. It was beyond depressing. So I explored new recipes to keep myself from sinking beneath the waves of utter boredom and burning resentment. I learned to bake bread, to venture beyond my traditional family food ways in the meat and potatoes department, and my next door neighbor taught me to cook wonderful Cajun food.
I had all kinds of time for art work, but serious research into psychic awareness gradually took over. While my husband was at work and my son was napping, I learned from books as much as I could about psychic phenomena and the mysteries of the mind.
Some of the most important books to me at that time were Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a successful cosmetic surgeon who was inspired to stop treating “outer scars” and treat “inner scars” instead after observing that his clients’ new faces weren’t helping them feel better about themselves; The Betty Book by Stewart Edward White, Western Adventure author, in which he wrote about his wife Betty’s development as a psychic medium; and The Sleeping Prophet by Jess Stern, the biography of a farm boy, Edgar Cayce, who became a renowned psychic medium and healer, and whose readings have been archived in the most massive collection of psychic information ever obtained from a single source by the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
From books written by the celebrity mystic, Chiero, who was popular in the early 20th century, I learned palm reading, astrology, and numerology, which, oddly enough, didn’t impress me then. Guess I had other things to learn before tackling numerology. Again through a book, I took up hatha yoga and loved the energy I received from the refreshing and strengthening exercises that created serenity within. From another book I learned astral travel, exploring life by projecting my awareness beyond my body.
No one else was interested my far-out ventures. I was alone in my self-created mystery school; a mystic unaware. I searched for formal training in the psychic arts, but was unable to find a trustworthy program devoid of sensationalism.
Eventually there was a divorce. Instead of feeling grief, I felt relief. I was free! It was during the ‘60s (no, I didn’t become a hippie), and I searched for training in psychic awareness, which was more accessible then. I was also learning how to be a single mother at a time when my sister was the only other single mother I knew. We were the first divorcees in the history of our family, and among the first in an escalating wave of divorce in the U.S. that continued into the 1980s.
Next time, things begin to look up.