Home » Anxiety » Big Goodbyes, Magic Jars, and . . . Breathing
March 2, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

Big Goodbyes, Magic Jars, and . . . Breathing

This post is about a couple of topics that are probably kind of strange to see written about in one blog post, but in the end, the connection will make sense.

On February 8th, I had my final session with Therapist, after finishing my job and just before moving (yep; I’m in Jersey now, with SS!  I’ll publish my post about the move very soon; it’s still unfinished).  When I’d seen Therapist the time before that final session, three weeks earlier, I gave her a letter I’d written.  At the top of the letter, I combined an image that I found powerfully moving, to visually convey how I felt, with a quote I’d found that conveyed that feeling in words:

It felt very fitting, since so much of my therapy was around fear issues.  In the letter, I wrote about where I was when I first walked into her office three and a half years ago, the changes I’ve gone through, and where I am in my life now, and I spoke of the stunning contrast between where and who I was and where and who I am now.  I thanked her for all the work she did with me and I told her, “I will remember you always, throughout my life, and I will always carry with me the growth and positive changes that came out of the time I worked with you.  A part of you will remain with me for as long as I live.”

I chose to give that letter to her at my next-to-last visit, because I knew that the last visit would be very emotional for me and would fall in between the ending of my job and the move, both of which I knew would be very emotionally charged events themselves, and I didn’t want to overload myself by giving her the letter then.  It turned out to be a very wise decision, and I’m glad I did it that way.

At my last visit, Therapist gave me a gift.  She does a lot of work with polymer clay, and she’d made a jar with a beautiful clay covering.  (The oval in the center has my name printed in it, but I distorted it in the image since I don’t use my actual name here.)

Inside the jar are hundreds of folded slips of paper.  On each one is an uplifting and positive quote.  I removed the lid and, lying open on the top of all the others was a slip that said, “The other side of every fear is freedom”.

Therapist told me that whenever I am having a difficult moment, or just a time when I could use a bit of wisdom or need to look for a new direction, I could pull out one of those slips.  She told me it tends to work in a magical sort of way, in that the message always seems to be exactly what the owner of the jar needs to hear at that moment.

I found that to be true, the handful of times I’ve pulled slips out so far.  It was hair-standing-up-on-my-arms true last night.

Yesterday afternoon, I was working on a web site and started to see flashes of light in my left eye, in a ring-shape, like the edges of a contact lens, but I was wearing my glasses.  When it didn’t go away, I called my mom because I remembered that my dad had a detached retina, years ago.  I remembered the symptoms and I remembered the fact that it’s very important to get to a doctor right away, because a retinal detachment can lead to blindness quickly if not treated.

The light flashes stopped, so I thought maybe I’d simply been experiencing eye fatigue from looking at the computer monitor for so long, but then I started to have some extreme floaters, and that went on for 30-45 minutes.  I have regular floaters occasionally.  It seems that I get them when I am not sleeping enough.

These were different, though.  They were swirly and very dark and “inky” looking.  It was actually quite pretty, and if I hadn’t been so disturbed by it, I might have enjoyed the show as they danced and swirled all over the place so artistically.  I looked for an image that came close to how they looked, and the image at the left is kind of similar.
While the floaters were happening, I calmly got ready to go to the doctor and waited for SS to call, since I knew she would be on her way home soon.  I was actually a little surprised and proud of myself, that I was so calm, but the lack-of-calm set in later.
When the floaters went away, I graduated to a floating “shadow” that so far, has remained.
We called several local ophthalmologist’s offices, but none had evening hours on Tuesdays.  We wound up at the Wills Eye Institute Emergency Room in Philadelphia.  It’s one of the top eye places in the country, I learned.
Anyway, I had a retinal tear.  It hadn’t detached yet, and they repaired it with a laser.
I had three or four anxiety episodes and I think I was on the verge of passing out the first time.  Everyone’s voices seemed to get so far away, like I was at the end of a tunnel, and I felt for a moment like I was dreaming . . . things people were saying weren’t making any sense and I couldn’t remember what I’d just been thinking, and then suddenly I was “back” and SS had a cold cloth for me.
The anxiety episodes were difficult and upsetting to me, but mostly confusing, because each time it happened, it was after the point when I would have actually felt nervous or anxious.  I got through all the difficult and uncomfortable stuff each time, and then, when that part would be over, I would start to feel sick and sweaty and weak.
SS was so great, and she kept reminding me to focus on my breathing.  That helped me through, every time.
When we got home, I pulled a slip from the jar Therapist had given me, and with one eye 😉 , I read: “When there is nothing left to do, keep breathing”.
Therapist is right.  It IS a magic jar!


  1. Comment by sanityisknocking:

    Wow. So much has happened. I am so very happy for you and how brave you are for moving into this new life.

  2. Comment by kate1975:

    I’m glad that you knew you should go in as soon as possible, and even though you had the anxiety, each time you dealt with it. Good for you. Good and healing thoughts to you.


  3. Comment by Kerro:

    What you and your therapist shared is so so special… made me all teary here, hun. LOL. The jar is amazing, I’ve heard of those before. 🙂

    So glad you were somewhere with good medical care when you’re eye bunged up. And so so glad it’s getting better now.


  4. Comment by lifeischange:

    Thank you, Sanity, Kate, and Kerro!

    I had my follow-up a couple days later, after the emergency visit, and they had to so a little more laser surgery. I handled it better the second time, although I did have an anxiety reaction afterward. While the surgery was going on, I somehow managed to “remove myself” for a time, and the doctor said I’d gotten so quiet and still that he was worried that I’d passed out. lol. He was very comforting, though, and said that I would be surprised to learn how many people react the same way I did. He explained that it’s a function of the Sympthetic and Parasympathetic nervous system, to have the anxiety reaction after the event is over. I’m planning to do some reading about that and hopefully understand it a little bit better, and maybe blog about it in the future. I find the topic fascinating.

    When I went for my follow-up appointment a week after the second surgery, everything looked really good and they were pleased. I still have some floaters and a blurry spot that moves around in that eye, but it’s gradually getting better and the doctor said it could take as long as six months for that to completely clear up.

  5. Comment by davidrochester:

    I love the jar. Sorry about the eye event … my mom had that same thing earlier this year, and it’s super freaky when they rush you in for eye surgery and you don’t really have a chance to prepare emotionally. It’s also weird that they can fix it so quickly… miraculous, really.


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