On Dog Bites and Rabies and Getting Hit by a Car in Myanmar

I refuse to only share about the high points of living overseas because that’s not life. It’s not real. A huge draw to being abroad (for me at least) is the struggle that comes with it—the hardships which add more depth. Risks are real. Especially when you choose to travel and/or live in places deemed somewhat dangerous, a little lawless, and always unpredictable.

I’ve been quiet. For months I haven’t blogged. It’s primarily because I’ve taken on more work than I can handle at times, but it’s also because I haven’t known what to say. I’ve put off allowing sentences to flow because, well, so much has happened and I knew I’d need a lot of time to construct this post on death and dying and dog bites and rabies and getting hit by a car in Myanmar and also, mostly, about anxiety. Otherwise it’d sound like one, big, run-on sentence. Who’d want to read that? (Please keep reading.)

There’s a belief in Myanmar that bad luck happens in streaks of three. I found that out in March. At the beginning of the month I left my wallet in a taxi. About two weeks after losing cash, credit cards and my driver’s license, a car hit my principal and me as we were standing in front of my apartment. The final blow struck a week or so after the vehicle did. A stray dog suddenly bit me when I was walking to the grocery store.

My friend, Stephanie, and I tried to make light of the serious situation while in the emergency room. We posed for “selfies” as three or four nurses huddled around me, taking turns to inject a total of seven anti-rabies shots—some of which were administered right into the gushing gashes on my left leg. The metal bed railing and I became best friends that night. I clung so hard to it.

Almost as cringe-worthy as having your puncture wounds poked is getting hit by a car. It’s a very surreal, almost out-of-body occurrence that I’ve had the privilege of living to tell about.

I’ll never forget the moments immediately after the accident. There was no time to process what had just taken place, or even let the reality of it sink in. I just knew my principal, a woman I love like a mother, had been hit as well. She was thrown to the ground as I was lifted up onto the hood of the vehicle.

I screamed her name several times as I ran to her body on the cement. She was conscious. I calmly gauged her awareness and began asking where she felt pain. Her lower back had been injured, and it seemed her head had been as well. I pinched her toes to check for feeling, and held her hand to comfort her as more and more people began gathering around the scene.

In those chaotic minutes I became madly protective. Believing my principal had a very serious neck and/or back injury, I hovered over her body and shouted at anyone who tried to move her. Being in the middle of such a mess is one thing, but not being able to understand a word anyone is saying is another. It was terrifying.

We attempted to call for an ambulance, but none were available. Because Myanmar. Eventually, a group of neighbors carefully hoisted my principal into the back of a taxi. Thoughts of fear turned to rage as I rode to the hospital with the driver who could’ve killed us. She was already lying about what had actually transpired to keep from getting in trouble. Putting up with her ugliness for several days after the event was way more traumatic than the incident.

I’ve never been more upset and charmed by humanity at the same time—angry as all get out with the driver, in awe of neighborly love and support. The entire experience gave me the chance to grow closer to others involved, to see sides of people I never thought I’d see, and to peek at places in Myanmar I never thought I’d peep at. But, going through such life-changing unluckiness in the span of a few weeks is a lot to handle. It’s no wonder I developed side effects.

Anxiety is real.

It takes hold of your otherwise sensible thoughts and convinces you something is wrong—very wrong. It seems to have no physical, mental, or emotional boundaries. Every aspect of living can be altered by its grasp.

I was confident I was having a heart attack at the beginning of April. Panic attacks would set in, which only furthered my belief that I was, indeed, dying of cardiac arrest. I had all the common symptoms—shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, pain and palpitations. I kept a positive attitude and tried to go about my busy routine until it became too much to ignore.

During one of Myanmar’s biggest holidays, Thingyan (Water Festival), I was sprawled out on a bed in another emergency room with suction cups suckling my chest. The results of the ECG came back fine. It didn’t appear as though I was having a heart attack after all. Upon returning home from the hospital, I went outside to celebrate the holiday some more by drenching (and getting soaked by) neighborhood kids. There’s no sense in missing out on cultural fun just because you think you’re dying.

Part of the problem back then was I didn’t even know anxiety was a thing. I just knew something wasn’t right, and my mind was reacting to the way my body was acting. Which means I pretty much thought I was dying on a daily basis.

When a heart specialist told me I might be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety due to the several incidents that had just occurred back-to-back in March, I thought he was the crazy one! I neglected to take the “mild tranquilizer” he suggested, and so my saga continued.

Smells would trigger reactions, especially chemicals found in cleaning supplies. While scrubbing my shower one evening, the room became hazy and I could no longer breathe. My only thought at that time was to get out of my apartment, in public, so I wouldn’t be alone if I passed out. Surely someone would see me collapsed on the ground if it came to that point. I stumbled around my street, and all I remember is smiling a bunch to mask what was going on within.

It was the dizzy spells that really got to me, however. They were few at first, but at the peak of my extreme bout with anxiety I’d be woozy more often than not.

Then there were ‘the realms”.

My mind would wander into these other areas of reality, which I now lovingly refer to as just ‘the realms’. I’d be fully aware of actual reality, but my brain somewhat skewed everything. I saw things differently. I had a harder time focusing. Life felt dreamlike. My thoughts and actions were lethargic. It almost seemed as though I existed in between worlds, or within two, but not really at the same time because I knew that wasn’t possible. It isn’t possible. Is it?

My anxiety was at its worse in late April. I was convinced I was having a stroke, and often had to run to the bathroom to look at my face. To see for myself that it wasn’t sagging. Then I’d get back to work and put on a show. I felt sluggish, faint. I couldn’t even sense the left side of my body at times. It tingled. Like it had fallen asleep.

Towards the end of the month, I was even absolutely certain I’d contracted rabies from the dog bite. Before going to the hospital, again, I cried while practicing how I’d break the news to my mother. I paced around my apartment pretending to be talking on the phone with her.

At the hospital I was almost able to persuade Stephanie that I did, in fact, have rabies. It was the only option in my head. It was the answer to the warning signs I’d been seeing for weeks. Numbness. Dizziness. Cloudiness. And it just so happened the street dog bit me within the normal time period such indicators of the virus generally appear. So, I wasn’t entirely insane. Plus, all my Internet research on rabies led to one conclusion: I was going to die. Real soon.

Side note: Never try to self-diagnose using Google if you have anxiety. Everything you think you have, you have, and all of it ends in sudden death. Everything. Suddenly! Death. Upon you!

I felt at peace about death and dying while waiting in the hospital. To face your own death is quite freeing, really, albeit scary. When you know you’re possibly, probably dying, there’s a sense of calm to it. When you know there’s nothing else you can do but accept it, your mind almost goes into this still state of being. At least mine did.

As life would have it though, I wasn’t going to die from rabies. Turns out I'd been given all the necessary preventative injections shortly after being bitten, and on time several days and weeks after. I just overlooked the medical records and thought I hadn’t been vaccinated. Thanks, anxiety, for affecting my ability to read as well. I went home that night with a prescription for antacids after being referred to another specialist who diagnosed me with being “windy” from worrying so much. You can’t blame me! Rabies and anxiety have similar symptoms.

This update isn’t so much about the episodes leading up to the beginnings of my relationship with anxiety in Myanmar—it’s more about what I’ve learned along my journey with it.

I’ve learned anxiety is real. Now that I know anxiety exists, that it’s an actual entity, I’ve been able to regain my somewhat “normal” life back. When familiar sensations do arise, I have more control over them because I understand what they stem from. I no longer think I’m dying from everything. It’s a battle of mind over matter. We have the power to let moments affect us for better or for worse.

I’ve learned I’m not alone in coping with anxiousness. I hope by sharing this post, others will also be able to relate and realize they’re not alone.

I’ve learned feeling overly anxious can be overcome. I took the doctor's advice and tried a month supply of Zoloft* in May. All of my crippling mental and physical responses disappeared. I was able to get myself back on track, and after getting off the meds, for only about a week, I battled a few minor “attacks”. 

Nothing that's happened makes me hate Myanmar. If anything, I love this country even more for smacking me with so many moments to gain something from. I’m embarrassingly scared of dogs now, but hopefully that irrational fear passes as the scar from being bitten fades. And I'm happy to report my principal is doing well. She returned to school after a month or so of bed-rest to help her spinal compression fracture heal. 

Are you living with anxiety? Have you experienced some of the same incapacitating symptoms? Do you have any advice or tips for how you deal with them? Please leave a comment below!

*Photo by Stephanie Warren.

*This post isn’t advertising Zoloft. However, I do recommend speaking to a doctor if you’re suffering from anxiety and haven’t tried the medicated route.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. There are a lot of relatable feelings in your post. Anxiety is the top reason I don't know you better than I do Chase. Thanks for being real. It is healing for the rest of us.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking time to read and post! I do feel like we've gotten to know each other pretty well during my time at the Argus, and also because of our Korea connection. :) I appreciate your honesty and realness as well, friend. Take so much care! Be well. LOVE LIFE!

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  2. Chase! Thanks for the great post! I'm so glad that you're not one of those people who advertise life as a 24/7 fun fest, cause like you say, it has it's ups and downs. When I lived in Korea, I dealt with a person who I strongly believed had bi-polar disorder, and I couldn't do anything about it or even tell anyone about it. But like you said.. it became an entity. Something that I could see and knew was there. Glad you have it more under control these days. Speaking of entity, it reminded me of a guy who created characters for "monsters" like anxiety. Go check it out if you haven't seen it. Think you'll love it. http://zestydoesthings.tumblr.com/post/61131470551/the-real-monsters-are-reborn-upon-getting-so
    Good luck over there, man! Hope it you'll grow stronger everyday.

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    1. Nico, thank you for reading, relating, and commenting! I think it's so important to be real about the good and the bad. But, at the same time, I fully believe goodness can be found in every sort of situation. So, I still try to remain positive to matter what! I'll check out the link you suggested. Thanks again. I hope all is well for you, too, and that you also continue to be strengthened by your experiences, daily.

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  3. You are so strong.
    You have jewels inside of you that are desperately happy to be shared with the world. Thank you for this post.
    Two separate times in my life I have suffered from major anxiety. The first I was able to combat with some therapy and a regimen of Tylenol pm (suffered from a crazy fear of falling asleep while in Guyana... Nightmares that left me depressed for weeks.) and then this year. Wedding planning was really hard, and not because I don't love loving on people-- having fun at parties-- or that I was worried about marrying this great guy in my life... All I can say is that every little thing affected me. Every thing at work that was scary or stressful or negative hit me and clung to me like I was a sponge soaking up all of the emotions around me (positive and negative). I was on the verge of calling a psychiatrist to try Zoloft actually, but the day before I found a list by the American Psychologists Association with their most highly recommended books for treating anxiety. I bought the first one and I am happy to say it has helped me. I am 75% better... And that 25% I am usually able to fix through exercise.
    I didn't think anxiety was real either.
    I feel grateful to have felt it, so I can better love on those who deal with it too.
    If needed I will try Zoloft. And if you ever want one of the most helpful books in the world for depression and anxiety-- I recommend: Feeling Good by David Burns

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