While living in Paradise, one man tries desperately to break himself down in order to build himself back up from the pain of anxiety and depression.
In 2005, I called a San Francisco ambulance on myself because I thought I was going to die.
I was 26 years old.
It was a normal Friday evening. I had gone to a movie with close friends, and instead of continuing on with dinner and drinks, I told them I needed to go home to write. The movie Garden State had struck a chord with me. I had a rush of positive emotions run through me, about my future, my purpose, and it had to be released.
It was also the first time I identified with my depression, which excited me.
I jumped in a cab towards home, rushed up to my apartment, grabbed my lap top, took a huge RIP off of my bong, and headed to the 2nd and King Coffee shop that I frequented. I ordered a Café Mocha, sat down to let it all out, and then it happened.
My palms started to turn sweaty, and I was having a hard time swallowing just two sentences into what I thought was going to be my first novel.
One thought turned into another, and then another, and then like a snow ball running down a steep hill, growing bigger and bigger and rolling faster and faster, I lost control of my thinking, my breathing, and all hell broke loose inside my mind.
I packed my bag, walked out of the coffee shop, called my brother — who always answers — and scared the shit out of him. I could barely talk, and my heart was literally jumping out of my chest.
“I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going to die.,” I panted.
He begged me to slow down, but I couldn’t. I hung up the phone and stumbled over across the street to a bouncer waiting to ID people to get into a dive bar.
“Call an ambulance! I am having a heart attack!,” I begged.
He annoyingly looked at me like I was a diseased nut job, which disillusioned me even more.
I called the ambulance myself.
I can’t explain the feelings that were going through me, I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. I was a monkey in a cage, rattling it as hard as I could to escape. A dark figure was standing on the outside smirking at me, waving the key back and forth as if trying to hypnotize me, saying, “Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick…”
I was a million things at once. I was nothing at all. I was empty, and yet ready to explode.
I heard the sounds of the Calvary coming to rescue me, so I barreled across the street and collapsed in front of the fire truck as they arrived.
They were all laughing at me. I could hear them speaking, but I didn’t feel as if I were coherent.
“His heart rate is 180,” one laughed. “Should we take him in?”
“It is pretty impressive,” another said as he lit a cigarette and stared down at me.
Was this all a joke?
They apparently decided they had enough teasing me, and loaded me into the ambulance. I was writhing in chaos, the heart monitor falling off my finger, me falling off the gurney.
The whole time my body was on fire. The EMT’s advice — “Quit being such a p*ssy and grow up!”
The nightmare continued for another 2 hours, as I was wheeled in to the emergency room and left alone for what seemed like an eternity.
It was a busy night both in the ER and in my head.
I remember hearing screams and seeing blood on white sheets.
I remember a women crying hysterically as she was being pulled away from a small enclosed room, and all the while wondering — why is no one helping me? Why don’t they care? Why are they just letting me die?
At some point a doctor came up to me and asked one question in a stone cold monotone voice.
“Do you want to kill yourself?”
I responded, “No,” and he left. I was given a pill, and 45 minutes later released to the people who I abandoned for dinner.
In the next four days I had two more severe panic attacks, but none as bad as the first.
Had my friends not taken me to a doctor, I am sure there would have been more.
The doctor made me feel normal again.
“Did it feel like you were sitting in your apartment by yourself, lit a joint, smoked it, and all of a sudden a fire alarm went off, and then the cops were in the room, and then you were being handcuffed, and then you were in jail?,” she questioned in a sweet way.
She prescribed me Lorazepam and Klonopin and sent me on my way.
Ten years later, I still have one pill from the first prescription in my possession. Just in case.
I am not a therapist or a mental health professional, but it is my personal feeling that anxiety has its roots in depression, and that depression stems from one taking themselves too seriously. That is something I have failed miserably at gaining control of, but work diligently every day to try and understand more.
It is something that I have chosen to make a focus in my transformation with Revive Wellness Center. I shared my concerns with Mike and Jackie in my first consultation. It felt good to talk about it, and I noticed a calming feeling take effect in the first week of my training, because like many other things in my life, it is more out in the open.
In my guided mediation with Mike last week, I focused a lot on the fact that I have a tendency to sabotage myself.
I am conscious that I get very scared when things start going well for me, because I think it means I am going to die. I have a huge issue with my own mortality, and not leaving my mark, and sometimes I think that makes me coil up into the fetal position and just avoid everything all together.
I think that is a lasting effect of my first panic attack. I had it all figured out, and it fucked me up in pursuit. Well that, and the copious amounts of alcohol I have indulged in while “fiestando” in the last 15 years of my life, and especially since moving to Costa Rica.
In Paradise, I have tried desperately to break myself down to nothing, only so I could build myself up again and feel like it was earned.
For the first 26 years of my life, no one ever seemed to give me credit for my successes and the hard work that it took for me to achieve them. Instead, they would focus on the fact that things came easy for me because of natural talents, or because I was born into them. It really pissed me off.
In the next 60 days I have the opportunity to accomplish what I set out to do, leave on a high note, and know that I have earned every single experience that came my way and will in the future.
This is Tamarindo, nothing comes easy here.
At the end of the day, I am probably just too sensitive and care too much about other’s opinion of me. But that is OK. I am OK.
That is something I am going to train my mind to believe. Through daily meditations and Mike’s custom mental program for me, I am practicing changing these types of perceptions one action at a time. Mike and I have really created a bond through our daily conversations, and I feel I have my own personal Guru who genuinely cares about me and my well-being.
Another thing that has already been rewarding is the aspect of trying new healthy things.
As a creature of habit and someone with social anxiety, I have avoided that a lot since my first panic attack. If the booze bottle crutches weren’t present, or a pack of cigarettes nearby, forget it. I am choosing to pursue healthy activities in Tamarindo these last two months, and I believe it is going to make leaving here very difficult.
Last week, I got to spend some time with Jackie doing two things I have always wanted to.
She first spent an hour performing Reiki with me. I have to say, I enjoyed this more than anything I have done thus far in the experience. Jackie has such a calming presence to her, and the process itself is like a long guided body rest with a lot of energy passing through you. She also led me and others in a Vinaysa Flow yoga class, which was brutal for me. Never again will I tease women in their yoga pants.
I have a lot of flexibility to develop, both in my body, and how I approach situations and people. But I am going to stick with it, as I know I need it, and I know I deserve to take that time to myself.
This is going to be a long journey.
I am not perfect. I know I still have a tendency to party, which was evident because I got ham-boned on Friday night for one of my best friend’s birthdays.
I’d like to say I made that choice because I know that time is running out on me in Tamarindo and I am going to miss this chapter of my life a great deal.
Perhaps, I need to cut myself some slack, but I also know that I need to keep pushing forward. I don’t always have to be the last one to leave the party and I almost certainly am. I like to talk, what can I say?
Perhaps the EMT in the ambulance was right. Maybe all I needed was to grow up. Maybe all of this is a part of that. If he was, I am sure glad I ignored his ignorant ass for ten more years.
My mortality is what is. I am not in control of it. However, I am in control of the decisions I make and of the positive things I can take from and send out into the universe.
I have nothing to prove to anyone, but I could stand to perform more and talk less. I could push a little harder to let my truth be known, and play the clown a little more sparingly.
We are all in control of our lives.
I believe whole-heartedly that we write our own script, including the people that come in and out, the opportunities we are presented, the joy and the pain that we operate within.
I am going to continue to put into my mind what matters to me, and hope that some day it all will come out the way I want it to.
This essay originally appeared on ReviveWellnessLagonsta.com, and is part of a 5-part series detailing Corey Hahn’s life transforming transition before his journey back home from Costa Rica after 17 years away — with his 9-year-old son by his side.
Click here for Part 1: One Year to the Rest of My Life.
Click here for Part 3: Torture on a Pirate Ship.
Click here for Part 4: Sandpaper and Goober.
Click here for Part 5: What Dreams May Come.
Photos courtesy of the author.