The Ongoing Tale of Anxiety
I have struggled with anxiety since I was a kid. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but looking back, I can remember not being able to sleep because of panic. I remember rituals I used to “have” to perform that I now recognize as bordering on obsessive compulsive behaviors. It would come and go, at more stressful times in my family it was probably worse than others. I constantly worried though. I worried about adult problems; money, relationships, death, avoiding “something bad.” The “something bad” was a big source of my worry. I would fixate on “something bad” happening; my mom dying a violent death, a car accident occurring and my family being hurt, a huge earthquake destroying my home, etc. I would play these whole scenarios out in my mind in great detail, until I was sobbing and completely panicked, lying awake in my bed.
The stress of college alternatively eased and alleviated my anxiety. At times, it would spike it up, I remember having a few full blown panic attack. Other times, the busy-ness of working and attending school full-time took my mind off of worrying about everything else and I thrived off the busy-ness and constant to-do lists.
When I finally finished my education, my busy mind would not sit still. One week after my last class ended, I joined a running club and ran 9 marathons in a span of 3 years. I still have a deep love for running, but part of that love is because of how it gives me time to physically run the anxious thoughts out of my head until I finally get outside of myself and appreciate the world around me. Sometimes, it takes me 26 miles to that.
I started to attend yoga to help with the pain in my knees and hips from running. I loved the way yoga made my body feel. I tried a yin class one night and absolutely hated it. It was so difficult for me to stay still and at the time, it felt like a waste of time to not be getting a workout. Yet, I returned to yin and kept going to yoga. There was something that kept drawing me in and I begin to notice subtle shifts in my stress level and how I handled anxious thoughts.
Then “something bad”happened. It was my fear coming to fruition. My dad was murdered. He was shot and killed. My anxiety came to a halt and was replaced by anger, grief and extreme sadness. Processing grief brought me into the present moment. Meditation, yin and stillness taught me how to focus on healing and finding ease in the discomfort of my new normal. Through my healing, I realized that all my anxious thinking did nothing to prevent this situation. Somehow, I used to think if I thought ahead enough or planned things just right, I could prevent tragedy, pain and discomfort for those I loved. It didn't happen. I worried so much of my life away, and still couldn’t protect my dad or my family from living with his murder.
The years following my dad’s murder were spent healing so many parts of my self, but anxiety seemed to disappear. I felt like it was finally gone forever. I did it! I conquered anxiety. I stepped way out of my comfort zone and lived in the present moment. I did things that scared me and went places were I had no control and had an amazing time.
I traveled to India, China & through parts of Europe. I backpacked my way through Rocky Mountain National Park, sections of the Sierras, the Grand Canyon, etc. So many things could go wrong. I researched, planned and did it. I surrendered to the lack of control and found great solace in the startling contrasts of India, the chaos and history of China and the beauty, but harshness of nature.
Since the beginning of this year, anxiety has been creeping back. I first noticed I was having trouble napping. I take great pride in my ability to sleep anytime, anywhere, but it has been more difficult to turn off my mind when my eyes closed. In August, I finally admitted that I was struggling with anxiety again and the intense heat was making it worse. I was having so much trouble sleeping and for the first time, dreading the night, when I would lay down and start a night full of struggling to sleep.
I felt so much shame. I am counselor and yoga teacher, I “should” be calm, right? I “should” be over this by now, hadn't I already done this work?! All the shoulds would play over and over…the chorus to the song of my anxiety.
I needed to take a big step back and remember that healing is not linear and anxiety will probably always be something I need to address in some form. I took some time to focus on what was triggering my anxious thinking, what shifts could I make? What rituals could I change? How could I get some frickin’ sleep again?! Can we talk about it when were in it? I want to try. I am still working on it, but want to start sharing some of this with you now, while I am deep in it, instead of in a year, when I may say “here’s what I went through.”
Here is what I am currently going through and I think some of you are, too. I created this workshop where I will share some of the resources I have used over the years to help me. I hope it can help you too and we can support each other in this process. You can register by clicking here, if you are interested.
And, even if you are not, I just hope you know you are not alone. I hope we can share more of what we are going through while we are actually in it, instead of suffering silently and telling people later. Let’s lean on those we trust for support when we need it most. Give people the opportunity to show up for you.