I woke up today completely relieved and relaxed after light and easy dreaming and that’s when the contrast whispered to me, “Whoa! I still have some anxiety…wait do I? What is this light feeling? And what was that heavy feeling?” Today I sensed relief of a weight that had been there moving in my chest during the days prior. Due to drastic improvement in the amount of kindness I offer myself in tough spaces, I mistakenly thought my anxiety had completely disappeared. And in a way the suffering around it has. Confusing right? I find in life when I am in the middle of a both/and situation things can feel a bit muddled at first. Let’s see if I can break this down a bit for both of us.
Throughout almost exactly half of my life I had an anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed and treated medically in my early 20s as panic attacks began to make it impossible for me to function fully. During medical school I was able to safely come off my medication which was shocking to many folks because normally med school would be considered a time of great stress. Not in my life. My tumultuous life became markedly less chaotic during my medical training and has continued to improve year by year since then. In my ability to finally support myself independently through student loans, I brought an end to the financial manipulation that had previously been exerted on me. I believe that the root sensations of anxiety are not disease. I believe that it is the body responding to real threats in the present and the past all at once. These threats may have been difficult for an outsider to see because by the time I was 20, the greatest threat was myself. My mind had learned perfectly how to mimic the deep self hatred and abuse that I had been raised in. I hit my 20s with absolutely no idea how to be kind to myself in tough spaces. I recognized the repetition patterns in abusive relationships and knew I needed help.
Rewiring an operating system of self hatred is not an easy task. I’ve been at it consciously for over 20 years now. Most recently it looked like removing a long time abusive nuclear family member from my life and meeting fully the intense grief associated with this decision. Standing for myself in this powerful decision had my body really believing that I am here for her in a big and lasting way. I am returning to self trust utilizing my original instincts of self care and self preservation. As the closest witness to the abuse of my mother, I inherited an operating system that’s primary functional pathway was toughness rather than tenderness. Tough is how we survived the abuse together. This discovery of the root language of my operating system was a keystone to unraveling my anxiety disorder. Even writing about this here on the blog feels like a betrayal to my mother’s secrecy and I now know that particular feeling of betrayal is deadly to us both.
My experience of what happened/what is happening is valid.
Knowing this one line holds a huge key to soothing the waves of my anxiety.
Life will always present difficulties. That is never going to change. What has changed is how I show up for MYSELF when life does get hard. When it becomes hard for me to get a deep breath I stop and start looking for ways to support myself in the space. I allow myself to back off, to sit one out, to rest, to ask for support etc. I no longer think things such as: What the F is wrong with me? That line is the perfect recipe for more anxiety. Or my other survival trick was to simply speed up and do more meeting the activation of my nervous system with more activation utilizing adrenaline to survive as my body was accustomed to. Reading this I am certain you can see the problems this could cause my physical and mental health.
The truth is and ALWAYS has been there is nothing wrong with me. My body is responding how it needs to be responding to whatever the situation is. And YASSSSS my trauma informs how I respond to tough situations in the present and I hold rich tenderness and kindness around that knowledge as well. Sounds so simple and yet this practice continues at a very conscious level in me today. So yeah I could definitely still be seen as anxious from the outside. Sensations are my teachers. Each sensation is another indicator light on the dashboard of the vehicle I have learned to love and care for. So when it flashes red, you better believe I am pulling right over and providing myself all the care/breath/attention I need. After much dismantling, I have rebuilt an operating system based on trusting myself, my body, my instincts over the past 20 YEARS and I truly believe this is why I do not experience disordered anxiety any longer.
I trust my sensations and I know that they move and change. And by God if I get stuck, I know where to go for help. I have a team of treasured therapists, coaches, loved ones that know how to be with me when I need them. I practice SLOWING down and listening to my body through dance and meditation study. All of this supports me when the sensations get intense. My body knew life threatening fear during the formative years of my life. This of course affects how scary is processed in me. As an adult, I hold awareness and a whole lot of tenderness around this fact. The result of living in this clarity is quite different than the years I spent telling myself how other people had it much worse.
Also it is important to realize that for some of us the ability to get out and away from the scary has not yet arrived. This is an excruciating place. I hold so much compassion for those trapped by abusers. If by some chance these words find you in that painful space, please know I see you. I honor your journey exactly as you need it to be. May profound and deep care find you.
And if the greatest abuser in your life is you, well there is great hope for you! It was me too!!!!!! The Clarity of Boundaries course gave me the missing tools I needed to really get deep into my operating systems and tune it up to exactly what I needed to thrive. Care, clarity, relief from blame/shame and guilt and so much more.
May my suffering serve the greatest good. May all of us know greater peace in our lifetimes.