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Friday, January 18th, 2013
Blogs | Sociology of Sheena
Panic Attack at the Wedding
It was supposed to be a learning experience. My friend & mentor invited me to assist him in photography and videography for the wedding of a client and I jumped at the chance. I want to soak in EVERYTHING about shooting, lighting, events and such, so whenever I have the opportunity to learn, I grab my camera and go.
While I definitely learned a lot, I forgot how traditional weddings happen. Traditional American weddings take place in a church. There is a preacher. They pray a lot. And the preacher, along with officiating the ceremony, well….he preaches.
In the last ten years, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been in a church. I love traveling overseas and visiting historic basilicas and cathedrals but American churches steeped in evangelicalism …. I haven’t been in years. Of course this has to do with my childhood, my trauma, my family and that pastor. I get it. I’ve made a point of NOT going to church.
And then there was this wedding.
Listen, I’d like to think that for the most part I have my shit together. Yes, for seven years of my early childhood I endured horrible, sexual abuse but I’ve made it a point to heal. I’ve spent years working through my various issues, wounds and scars. I’m an advocate now. I share my story always. I’m not depressed anymore. I’m okay.
And then there was this church wedding with the pastor preaching.
When I tried to describe to my friend what happened to me, my mind and my body as I sat in that church, a revelation hit me. “I had a panic attack,” I told her. My body went numb. I forgot to breath. This absolute sense of dread came over me. I wanted to run out of the church. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted my mom. And yet I couldn’t move.
As the wedding ceremony progressed which needed a total of four preachers to speak, I had to go through numerous methods to calm myself. I tried breathing. I tried telling myself beautiful things. I tried to remain very still. I tried to distract myself by doodling. I told myself ,”flashbacks were not flash forwards”.Â I updated my facebook status. I tried transmuting my thoughts. I tried to keep breathing. I tried to remember all the good things I experienced at church. And honestly, none of it was working. The only thing I could do was grin and bear it.
Eventually I started listening to what the preacher had to say. I realized that in and of itself was also why I was experiencing a panic attack. His sermon was nothing new. It was exactly the kinds of things I was raised to believe. I’d heard his sermon so many times before. And just like in my childhood, I pulled out pen and paper and started taking notes. Why? I have no clue. It’s a habit. I have my church notes from when I was 7 years old on my bookcase at home. Why? I have no clue. Its what I do when I hear something interesting or stupid, I write it down. When I hear something sensual or profane, I write it down. When I watch a great documentary, I write notes. When I hear a great speech, I write notes. And when I sit in church enduring a panic attack as the preacher tells me I’m not good enough and only God knows how to love…I pull out my journal and I write notes.
There’s nothing profound to say hear. I’m still working on my personal evolution. I still dislike church. It physically makes me ill. Although once late at night I was a wolf howling at the moon in a church. Some call that immersive theater. And tomorrow, I’ll be doing a 24 hour theater immersive called Maraton by the Dzieci Theater Company. It takes place in a church too.
Isis Phoenix describes the experience as, “…. a 24-hour journey into the very depths of your soul. During that time, you are taken through a journey, sometimes silent, mostly non-verbal, into the very depths of your being. Thereâ€™s no hiding. You meet yourself including the parts you donâ€™t want to meet over and over, again and again. In silence, the deep impulse of movement, connection and creation unfolds.”
Part of me is excited. All will be fine. Its like a little mini silent retreat complete with theater exercises and movement.Â If I can do a 10 silent, meditative, yoga retreat, surely I can do this. That’s a page right out of my soul. But its happening in a church and in Polish, “Dzieci” means children.
Children. Silence. Church. <– all together, those words scare me. But there are also words like…
Soul. Journey. Healing. Movement. Connection. Creation. Theater. <— Those words excite me.
I think tomorrow I’ll be where I need to be. And if all else fails, I can take out my journal and start writing notes.
This pain I feel, I know it now. It’s a healing pain.