Sometimes It’s Just Like That- The “Second Arrow” and Equanimity

Hello everyone. This week’s lackluster blog post is brought to you by more medical bullshit and me trying to make the best of it.

It all started around Sunday. I woke up feeling a strange tightness in my chest and a headache. I did my best to go through my normal morning routine, but after eating breakfast my body made quite clear what it wanted.


”But, I need to exercise, otherwise I won’t have the energy for work. It’s the start of the work week, I’m the guy in charge, I need to

”No. No no no NO NO FUCK YOU, YOU’RE GOING BACK TO BED. We are sucking all the energy out of your muscles until the LAST possible instant, so if you don’t want to pass out on the carpet you don’t vacuum enough, GET BACK IN BED NOW.”

In the middle of the previous week, after an extremely rough day, I’d gone for a walk and found myself at a impromptu dance party at Mt. Tabor Park. Everyone was masked, but it was hard to socially distance. All the same, I decided to hang out and listen to the band.

I’d also lately been taking a new pre-workout mix to help out my exercise, but after a solid week of feeling like crap after taking it and getting beyond irritable, I realized it was roughly twice the amount of caffeine and other stimulants that I was used to. I’d long been familiar with the symptoms of caffeine overdose and cut myself off as of Sunday morning. (Not cold turkey- I’m not a complete idiot.)

Then, on Wednesday morning, I woke up in the middle of my first-ever panic attack.
For those of you who’ve never had one, or think that all anxiety/panic attacks look like someone huddled in the corner, shaking and/or screaming, let me set the scene for you:

I woke up, and it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. It hurt to breathe deeply, and I managed a kind of shallow whistling breath. Mentally, I just stared at the ceiling of my darkened bedroom and went “Oh, this is weird. Guess I’m dying. Huh.”

I felt my pulse in my ears- loud, but slow and steady. I was safe at home, in my bedroom, with my cat on my legs- but my body was convinced that I was on the verge of death.

Then I rolled over on to one side, and it all just slid away. I got up, ate breakfast, and promptly called out of work. If this was going to be an ongoing thing, functioning at work would be a nightmare.

So let’s just recap what “sudden chest pain and tightness” could have been in this instance:

After a negative Covid test, two mornings spent in Urgent Care, blood tests, a chest X-ray, two EKGs, and close to a week of struggling to breath deeply, the doctors have spoken:

  1. Of course, COVID I got from the dance party somehow.
  2. Caffeine withdrawal
  3. Anxiety
  4. Chronic fatigue/ exhaustion

Your EKGs, X-rays, and blood tests are all normal. So is your white blood cell count, and it’s too early to send you for another COVID test… so we’re just going to send you home, put you in bed, tell you to hydrate, and diagnose you with “being sick.” If this is a virus, it should clear up in a few days anyway.”

Sometimes, all you are is tired and sick, and your chest decides the best way to tell you so is to explode.

As I write this, I am propped up in bed. I ate a late lunch of vegetable soup, and am drinking vaguely-root beer-flavored seltzer to try and cram as much liquids into my body as possible.

I have nothing to write about this week really, but writing this blog gives my brain something to do that’s not focusing on its decrepitude, or the lost week of pay.

The same reasoning let me finally finish the edits on my next book and send it on to beta readers, as well as finally sort out my taxes. I imagine I’ll do my laundry in a bit, and pull out another manuscript to work on. I kinda suck at relaxing.

It’s hard for me not to be frustrated by being sick again. I almost wish that someone could tell me it WAS Covid, or pericarditis, or my anxiety playing up. Those are Things with Names that I can do Other Things about.Being sick” sucks because the only answer I have is “Do nothing, wait until you are not sick anymore, and enjoy wrestling with your personal insecurities and demons while already feeling like twice-fried dogshit.

2500 years ago, The Buddha gave a sermon where he elucidated on what became known as “the Second Arrow.”

A giant statue of the Buddha seated on a lotus platform against a blue sky

In a nutshell, when a person suffers an injury (physical, mental, emotional, etc,) The Buddha compares it to being shot with two arrows. The first arrow is the actual pain of the injury- the actual personal impact. There is no negotiating with the first arrow- something happened, and you are feeling the effects.

The second arrow, however, is how we react to that experience, and that is malleable. The second arrow is the pain that comes from being aggrieved, self-pity, obsessing, and frustration.

The first arrow is the illness. The second arrow is me going “Oh for fuck’s sake, how can this happen to me, really, right friggin’ NOW, where’d it come from, what’ll happen next, how will I deal with this…”

No one is denying you should suppress your emotions- much less dissociate yourself from them. You are human. You feel things. The second arrow tries to remind us to feel those feelings, honor them, then pull the damn arrow out. Let them go. Shit happened, it sucks, you have accepted that it sucks- now instead of driving yourself crazy over how bad it sucks, just roll with it.

This is the bit I need to get better at- dealing with the now before the later. Letting myself rest and heal, and convincing my anxious brain that it needs to chill out too.

Time for a cup of tea, I think.

Stay Classy,

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