It was 1981, and I was in Mantua, Ohio, staying with my beloved Grandma as I was re-cooperating from my first disastrous and scary three month marriage. Grandma was a tiny, feisty woman, who grew up with 15 siblings. She had an 8th grade education, but was quite smart in the ways of the world that she grew up in.
“If you ever get in a fight, never tuck your thumbs into your fists; tuck them back so that they don’t get broken!” she would tell me in her high pitched, squeaky voice. Then she’d take another drag off of her unfiltered Camel cigarette, and sip from her umpteenth cup of coffee that she’d poured for herself that day.
She was a police dispatcher for that small town, and the Police Chief and other officers would often gather around her dining table, joining her for smokes and coffee, to tell jokes, and share the town’s gossip at the end of the day. They called her “Scotty” because she was of Scottish descent. What some didn’t know was that she was also frequently visited by small aliens who would land their little ships by her bedroom window, climb into the window and chat with her at night. She would point out the ships to me sometimes when we would sit out on the patio and stargaze together.
Unfortunately, within a few days of my visit, Grandma had to go into the hospital. She was struggling with emphysema. Then, the next day, I had a phone call from my Mom that a dear family friend had committed suicide. That was one too many blows to my young mind and heart within a month. Divorce; hospitalization of my Grandma; suicide. And, it was my first grapple with trying to reason about death.
I immediately began suffering from what were soon diagnosed as severe panic attacks. It felt like the world was literally caving in around me, several times per day, and I couldn’t move. The doctor in the ER told me what it was, and gave me this package of little pills to take. “They’re tranquilizers,” he said to me. This in itself terrified me. I had never taken drugs, and I was afraid of addiction. I called my Mom.
“Honey, take one pill, but before you do, find something wonderful to do with your day. Go for a ride in the country. You are going to feel better than you have in your life. The colors will be brighter, you’ll be happier. Enjoy the trip—really feel it, and remember it—so that, when it is done, you can always bring yourself back to that feeling. Keep the other pills with you, so that you know you have them just in case you really need them."
I did exactly what she said. A friend took me on a ride in the country, and the green trees were never more green, nor the sky more blue. I never felt more relaxed and joyful in my life. And, when it was done, I tucked the pills into my purse where they traveled with me for the next 10 years of my life, untouched.
The most healing pill of all was not the one that I took that day. Mom suggested that I pour love into the experience. She didn’t buy into my fears and expectations around the pills. Instead she gave me the transformative gift of self awareness.
Unbeknownst to me, when I took that pill as guided by my Mom, I was acknowledging the love and guidance that was within its frequency, one hundred percent, rather than seeing it as a monster who was going to possess me.
It turned out that the most healing pill of all was love. All I had to do was acknowledge what was inside of me all along.