"B" is For Breakdown
When anxiety has taken over your life and your body has existed in a constant state of sickness from worrying and living in fear, it can’t sustain itself. I learned this the hard way. I kept busy to keep my churning thoughts at bay and to avoid dealing with the many reasons I had anxiety. The Universe sent me many signals that I needed to make changes in my life, but I ignored them all. There were health scares, for me, deaths of loved ones, so many events causing so many emotions that it was no longer possible for me to keep them under control. Life threw its wake-up bombs at me and I ignored them, pushing them down and hoping it would all just go away. By this point my stomach was so tight and clenched from stress that I could no longer eat solid foods. I became more anxious and depressed, which I didn’t think was possible. I felt the world was working against me at every turn and life was quickly slipping from my grasp. I had always prided myself on being strong and independent, never needing help, but some part of me knew that I was in a dire state and I couldn’t manage my life on my own any longer.
One day I took a chance and did something I’d never done before. I begrudgingly asked for help. The person I asked for help was a therapist and her first question to me was, “Why do you think you have anxiety?” It was a good question that I struggled to answer. “Because it’s hereditary?” I offered. It’s true I had inherited anxiety, but that wasn’t really the root cause of the swell of uncontrollable fear I lived with daily. I had worked hard to shut down every painful emotion I had ever had because they were too much for me to handle. Once I started examining my past, out came the feelings that I had pushed down for so long; slowly at first and then rapidly until it felt as though I was reliving every emotion I had ever pushed down. I cried incessantly. I cried for the little girl that lived with all of that fear and insecurity. I raged against the world that was so cruel and didn’t allow for complex feelings to be on display. The Universe forced me to confront every painful event and emotion from my past that I pushed deep down inside of me, so that it seemed I’d never stop feeling raw and exposed, and never stop being in pain. It was discombobulating and terrifying. I had no control after so thoroughly controlling everything that happened to that point in my life. My body knew what I’d suppressed and had kept careful tally all along, despite my belief that I had everything under control. My body waited for me patiently for over 40 years, storing my pain in every fiber of my being so that it could be released later.
I began to see myself in pieces crumbled around me and I held onto the hope that one day I could be whole again, but not knowing how, when or if it would ever happen. I had a sense that I’d never be put back together in the same way. The unexpressed pain poured out of me, moving my body closer toward the rest it had needed for so long. I moved slowly, became easily exhausted and couldn’t focus my mind. I couldn’t complete a simple task like making a grocery list. I couldn’t eat, sleep or walk without pain and then one day, I couldn’t do any of those things no matter how much I wanted to. My body said “no more,” but only at the point when it knew I could climb my way back up even though I doubted that I ever could. It knew of my strength long before I did and then rather abruptly, my life slowed to a speed I could tolerate in this state.
I fully bought into the stigma around mental health and kept my shattered self hidden from everyone for as long as I could, in fact this post will be the first time many people in my life will learn of this experience. I had long lived with shame and this was just another shameful part of my life to keep hidden. I cancelled plans to go out with friends and family, and didn’t make any future plans for fear people would know that I couldn’t function as I’d used to. I existed in a still state of mental and physical collapse for months and I couldn’t see any end in sight. Everything sounded so exhausting, going to the store or taking a shower were too much to imagine in this state of mind. I couldn’t even imagine myself walking around the block in the next year because my body was so exhausted.
Because my body and mind gave in, I was forced to as well. I rested curled up on the couch or in bed and slept as if I hadn’t slept in months. I granted myself the grace of doing things the easy way for the first time in my life. I ordered food online, I let laundry and the dishes pile up and I started to put my health first. As the days passed I gained more strength and eventually I was able to walk to the end of the driveway, then to the end of the block and around the trail at the local park. The park became my refuge as I soaked in the life of the trees, plants and animals around me, again seeing them as if for the first time. My soul knew what I needed and it led me to nature. Once I had the strength, I walked in the park everyday letting the life around me soak into my body and soul. The lessons I learned in the park stayed with me and I started to rebuild my life in a healthy way that centered hope, love and truth instead of fear, shame and doubt.
It wasn’t easy to climb out of this deep hole of disconnection and disarray I found myself in, but I eventually did and it was the hardest undertaking of my life. It took every bit of resilience I could muster. My journey out of that darkness and into the light of my true self is where my story will continue next time.