Inside the Tunnel

Photo by Stephanie, driving by Mom

I’ve been away from home—happily and with wild abandon. Stephanie and I have had long car rides together, talking and laughing and talking some more, and desperately trying to find healthy food at the Love’s Travel Stops in Indiana, where there is an entire aisle devoted to beef jerky and pork rinds. (Who says travel isn’t broadening?)

In the course of our journey, we went through some tunnels. That took me back to my panic attack days in my early thirties. Head held high, I am a very proud panic attack survivor. After a solid eighteen months of intense behavior modification therapy, anti-anxiety medication, and a great mantra (face—accept—float—let time pass), I’ve spent the (mostly) post-anxious years of my life able to spot a panic attack fifty miles away and calmly walk in the opposite direction. But back in the day, I had a problem with tunnels.

When you’re driving through a tunnel, you can’t stop and you can’t turn around. If you panic about being inside the tunnel, you are suddenly in an impossible-to-solve situation, which makes you panic more. I used a tape recording of Joni Mitchell singing Coyote to get me through tunnels—once I was strong enough to attempt them again. The strength and sassiness of Joni’s words and voice gave me the strength and sassiness to keep my foot on the accelerator and my eyes on the road. To keep myself within “the fine white lines on the freeway.” Even inside the tunnel.

And now, tunnels are a breeze. Every time I drive through one, I whisper a thank-you: to my therapist and to Joni Mitchell. They both gave me a lot of “girl power,” for which I am forever in their debt.


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Shirley said,


    Love the photo, too.

  2. 3

    Cristina said,

    Welcome back! I was just thinking about you yesterday and wondering when there would be a new blog entry from you. 🙂

    Peace and Laughter!

  3. 5

    Karen said,

    Good for you, and glad you had fun road trippin’ with your girl!

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