Trapped in anxiety
Something needed to change. Each day my thoughts assaulted me, reminding me of all the ways I wasn't measuring up, frightening me with images of doom and illness. I was trapped in disordered anxiety and my life got very small. Fear caused me to retreat from many aspects of a fully engaged existence. The edges of each day blurred while I anesthetized my worries with alcohol, the only way I knew to experience a few hours of freedom. Until yoga.
Yoga called to me many times through the years, but it wasn't until I heard it helped soothe anxiety that I finally gathered the courage to walk into a class. I'd been living in shame with the secret of chronic panic attacks for years. At first, I ignored the reality of the disorder because it scared me so much and I didn't understand what was happening to me. I didn't realize my body was attempted to communicate with me.
After a while, I adapted to managing the symptoms, making rules for myself about when and where I could go, and who I had to be with to feel safe. I got to a point where I wouldn't drive alone, I wouldn't go to the movies or ride a subway for fear of having a panic attack.
The power of the present moment
As my exploration of yoga was beginning, I had an experience in a class that shifted everything. My body was aligned in an upright lunge shape; one foot forward, one foot back, arms raised. It was a pose I'd been in before, but I suddenly felt saturated with well-being, my mind stilled. The room softened, and I knew on a deep level I was going to be ok.
I've heard many people describe accounts of awakening to a new way of being, be it through yoga, meditation or an inspiring encounter with the natural world. For me, I had tasted the pristine present moment and it prompted me to question why my life had to be any different than it was in that instance, when the grip of control melted away, allowing breath and life to flow naturally.
The experience was memorable because it was opposite to how I was living life. For years, I felt like a captive of a cruel tyrant- the voice inside my head. That voice never let up, cajoling and ridiculing, proclaiming I was doing or saying the wrong things, that I was being ridiculous, stupid or awful.
Previously, I'd never questioned my thoughts. I believed I WAS wrong, bad, not good enough and not smart enough, so I just tried harder to cram myself into whatever version of me I thought would be acceptable. I lived and breathed on the opinions of other people, first in my family to receive love, then, in school to win approval and avoid the harsh words of my peers.
In my profession as a broadcaster, I continued work to please management above myself. Eventually the prolonged stress to my nervous system triggered a five-alarm fire; a panic attack that led me to the emergency room because with my heart rate spiking and my body shaking uncontrollably, I thought I was going to die.
A smaller and smaller life
Once the doctor informed me that I'd had an anxiety attack, I spiraled into denial and shame. Now the inner voice had even more evidence that I was damaged goods, weak and useless. My body had joined in on the attacks now, it had turned on me and couldn't be trusted. I felt like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any minute.
I tried to hide from my body and mind, numbing them with drinks and dates. I organized my life so that I was rarely alone, because when I was, I panicked. I wasn't safe in my own skin; in my own mind. It took so much energy to conceal how afraid I was ALL. THE. TIME.
As years passed, I somehow mustered up the resilience to take strides in my career as a radio host and to meet and marry my husband. He encouraged me to face and begin to gather information about anxiety.
When we welcomed a daughter into the world, I realized I needed to love me as much as I loved her and free myself from the prison of my demeaning thoughts.
Healing is possible
So, yoga. When I was ready for it, the effect it had on my mind and body was immediate. I learned the life changing truth that I was not my thoughts, I was the one watching them. My thoughts were a culmination of messages I'd internalized my whole life and I could choose not to listen!
I was able to see how my thoughts created my feelings (despair, discontent), and how they contributed to the actions I'd taken in my life that had sabotaged so much of my happiness along the way. Consistent practice brought realizations that transformed my relationships and my experience of day to day life. I learned our lives begin in our minds. As my mind continued to heal, improvements were evident all around me.
Practice is key
But paths aren't linear. The voice within still speaks. When it taunts me about facets of my life I haven't yet revisited, I experience shame, doubt and a familiar lack of trust in myself. I've learned to ask myself whose voice it reminds me of, and to travel back in time to soothe the younger version of me who internalized that she wasn't good enough to be loved. I offer her as much compassion and tenderness as I would for my own daughter, who is 16 now and encountering her own inner critic.
My daughter's birth was a true gift. It was the moment I came to know true unconditional love and how important it is to foster that for ourselves. It propelled me toward my work in the world; supporting myself and others to move from fear into love.
You are stronger than you think
If you're tired of trying so hard, of believing you are too much, not enough, unworthy and wrong, if you're ready to overcome fear and move toward love, contact me to begin a conversation about how we can work together to support you as you step into the life you were meant to live.
Begin Your Own Healing Journey
We can work together in a one on one Anxiety Coaching Session:
In a private 75-minute virtual session with me, you will be invited to get into a comfortable position in a chair or on a yoga mat supported by bolsters and props if desired. No previous yoga experience is required. You will only experience very restorative, soothing and restful shapes during our session to encourage the body and mind connection.
I'll offer you breath techniques and mindfulness practices intended to invoke calm and a sense of safety before offering tools to connect you with the wisdom of your body. Bringing awareness to and befriending sensations in your body opens a doorway to the mind and the heart (emotions).
I'll teach you how to inquire into the nature of your mind and compassionately question your thoughts, ultimately cultivating a kinder inner voice. You'll learn to discern how you're speaking to yourself and why.
We will explore how to work WITH emotions and the techniques to construct healthy boundaries that can support you taking care of yourself.
You will come away from sessions with me armed with a customized tool box of techniques to help you create the life you're meant to have, along with simple, daily practices to support you on your journey of self-discovery leading to true self-love.
I will hold non-judgmental space for you as you relearn to accept yourself and treat yourself with radical compassion.