Friday, December 29, 2017

"The Storey with Stairs" -the January shot from my 2018 Calendar.

The first in a monthly series that goes with the 2018 Calendar I recently put out of shots from my Instagram account @cssperling. Each blog in this series will have a little info about the shot and then the story behind the shot.**

About the shot:
This is a fun shot at my friend Wally and Morag Gray's place in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. They often let me stay for free in their beautiful ocean-side apartment when on work trips to South Africa. In this picture I'm looking down from about the 8th floor onto the winding stairs in their apartment.   I love the blue linoleum stairs as they are pleasing to the eye and the view from their 8th floor gives the shot some great perspective!

The story behind the shot: Stairs -- taking me to a different storey in my life...
Stairs have become a major part of my life. This is not for fitness reasons, although my growing bulge makes them a great option for keeping me in shape.

Here is the story.
In 1998 I moved to Uganda, along with my sister April, for a year of testing the waters of missionary life. I went on the standard malaria medication, Lariam, as recommended by my Canadian travel clinic. I started on the prophylactic meds a week before leaving for Uganda.

One week into my time at the New Hope Uganda guesthouse I was in my room one evening enjoying the ambiance of my kerosene lantern when I decided I wanted to go out for a bit. I had locked the door from the inside, which is standard practice in Uganda -- but I couldn't find my key! I went, for the first time in my life, into a state of absolute panic. My mind raced madly and my body raced even faster with an accelerated heart beat and feelings of extreme distress. I had never felt that sort of fear and panic relating to a physical event. I finally found my key and got out and went to my sister's room nearby. With my heart and mind still running amuck with feelings of terror, I told her how I felt and that I didn't even want to think about going back to my room. I spent the night, with my body still in panic mode, focusing my mind on scripture and worship music with April's discman until I finally fell asleep.

I soon learned from many other missionaries that Lariam was a disaster for overseas travelers! It had lead to many scary episodes of panic attacks and vivid nightmares as well as paranoia for people from all walks of life. When you read the drug warnings, the label says that people prone to mental stress and a history of mental illness should not take it. Moving to a new country in Africa was certainly enough mental stress to set off these horrible side effects!

In the days and weeks and then months and years following I have suffered continually from panick attacks which were entirely new territory for me. I would wake up with my heart racing and a dry mouth in the middle of the night; feeling the need for fresh air I would get outside to slowly calm myself. I would feel panick when stuffed into a local taxi with countless other Ugandans who had their children, animals and shopping wares along with them. I would even get a feeling of panick when I enhaled dusty air - not good for a farmer interested in agriculture missions!

Where is the connection with stairs in all this? My life in Uganda has involved a lot of time in the crazy Kampala capital going to lawyers offices, visiting immigration officers and filing numerous documents for myslef, my wife and my children all over the city in highrise buildings. In Kampala high-rises or at the Entebbe airport  you can take the elevator to quickly get up to your desired destination. However, unlike the ones I was used to in Canada, these elevators often stopped working frequently due to power outages and mechanical faults. With my aversion for panic attacks and crowded spaces with no air circulation, I knew Uganda elevators were not an option for me. I would take the stairs to avoid the anguish of another panic attack. Even up to this day, I will still take the stairs when on my own as it is still difficult to convince my body and mind not to panic about the possibility of being stuck in an elevator. Stairs are now a major part of my life. So if I'm at your appartment door huffing and puffing, now you know why...

* Note: I have been slowly been able to manage panic attacks by training my mind to think rational thoughts which slowly feeds my body the right information to respond to. It's not easy and, although panic attacks have been a part of my life since 1998, I now experience them less often and with lower intensity. God has been faithful to slowly teach me how to manage them and I'm so glad I've been able to avoid medicating the problem.

** to order a Calendar send me an email and I can get the months you want put into your Calendar. $20 pickup in Abbotsofrd, or $20 plus postage. Follow me on instagram

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