The Making of "Ocean Cry"
It was the day of the last of a series of anxiety attacks that had lasted a week. The two weeks prior I had gone to be with a boy in hospice. Without going into detail, I'll just say the situation was emotionally, spiritually and physically intense and exhausting. I was able to "keep it together" while being there for the family and other people who had come to visit, but within a half hour of leaving the house I had a panic attack. It's as if my body had stored all the anxiety until it was safe to express. Well, relatively safe. I was in afternoon traffic in Phoenix when my hands, feet, and tongue started tingling. I was able to make it to a fast food parking lot and allowed the wave of the attack to come and go over the next hour in that parking lot. I only had 3.5 miles of driving to get to my hotel but it took a full hour to regain motor function and enough mental clarity to keep it together. In fact, once I started driving that 3.5 miles I loudly repeated the Serenity Prayer over and over until I safely arrived.

I'd only had one other panic attack in my life, so I was not used to the experience of labored breathing, pounding heart and loss of motor function. It took me four days to drive 10 hours home to Taos. Once arriving in Taos I found it hard to be in public. The slightest thing seemed to set off another panic attack. I felt so out of control in the attacks that I mostly stayed home for those initial days.

That Saturday I went to a morning 12-Step meeting. Usually I'm very engaged but found myself withdrawn and left right after the meeting. I knew I just had to get to the store to get myself some water. It was just a 1/4 mile drive to the store, but on the way I started having another panic attack. I made it to the parking lot but couldn't go into the store, so sat in the parking lot praying that someone would come help me. I was surprised to see my former boyfriend's truck pull in. He and I hadn't talked for a year and a half and the relationship was one with a lot of power struggle. Though I tended to feel anxious around this man, I also know him to someone who is very helpful and able to hold space for people in difficult times.

He saw me and said hi, but could immediately tell something was wrong and asked how he could help. He got me water, got me food, and drove me to the fire at a vision quest ceremony that would be starting later that day. At the fire were many people I know and love. The men wrapped my shaking body in blankets and coats and had me put my bare feet on the ground near the fire. The women hugged me and told me that I was having a trauma response and that it was good to shake and cry. They held my hand, sang songs, rubbed soothing essential oils on me and let me know through their words and actions that I was not alone.

Once my breathing stabilized and I had integrated some of the experience I noticed myself feeling more grounded than I had felt even before the trip. Crying, shaking, being held in love, allowing myself to lose control, and reaching out for help allowed a healing to take place in me. At one point I sat in my former boyfriend's truck and drew the image "Ocean Cry."

The person in the image is surrendered to the elements, kneeling at the vast ocean, barefoot in the sand. He has exposed himself by tearing all the armor off his heart. His tears fill his heart and bring it back to life. He is supported and surrounded by the light of the sun, but also the footsteps of is experience. The footprints are from bare feet, which represent being grounded and connected to the body and the earth with every step. In surrender and vulnerability he is healing.

I digitally added layers of the ocean to the top and bottom to represent layers of the unconscious. I also added feathers for the gentleness and lightness I felt after exposing my pain to my community and allowing myself to be tenderly loved. I have not had an anxiety attack since.

My past pattern was to hide or numb my emotions. Some part of me is, or at least was, afraid to cry in front of people. I learned from this experience that being seen and loved was the medicine I needed to transmute not only the anxiety from my trip, but other anxiety my body had been storing. I'm learning that being with my feelings is how the energy moves and integrates. I'm learning that just as it's an honor to be trusted with someone's vulnerability, it's also an honor to others when I trust them with my vulnerability. I'm learning that tears and grief are part of what makes us human and that a good cry can be very nourishing and connective. This is an image of surrender and beauty, honesty and provision.

~Tracy Rae Clark, November, 2015