“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
This last month has been a busy one, to say the least. It has been a month of highs and lows, moments of stress and moments of complete relaxation. Jordan and I received some difficult news about a family member’s health that was unexpected. I finally visited a doctor for excruciating menstrual cramps, and found out that I have a uterin cyst (not of concern right now), a bicornuate uterus, and suspected endometriosis. I scheduled an exploratory surgery to treat the possible endometriosis in early December. Thanksgiving and family gatherings also took a lot of my attention. Additionally, I made the decision to switch careers, taking the leap from sales to health care, and am currently residing in the “in between” of those jobs. Money is tight, but I am grateful for my extremely supportive family and know that great things follow times of struggle.
My yoga practice has been especially helpful during this time. It gives me a sense of routine while I feel routine-less. It reminds me that life is a balance of hard times and easy times, and that all times are opportunities to learn and appreciate. Stretching and breathing help to release the tension that can build up. The meditation and awareness that accompany yoga also reduce the anxiety that I am all too familiar with in times of change.
However, not too long ago, a month like this could spell disaster for me…
Early Experiences with Change
Ever since I was little, change has always been a source of anxiety for me. When I would rearrange my room as a little girl, I always had mixed emotions of anxiety and excitement. The summer before my freshman year of high school was my first experience with crippling anxiety. It affected everything from my diet, sleep habits, interactions with people, and my daily life. Things that used to bring me enjoyment now brought me fear. It was this summer, the summer of 2006, where I first felt the debilitating hold of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I had no idea what came over me. We went to see the midnight showing of Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest and everything was good, but by the end of the movie, I was experiencing (although I didn’t have a name for it at the time) an anxiety attack. The rest of the summer I spent extremely confused, scared and ashamed. I would often sit with a glazed over look in my eyes, half aware of my surroundings, while the other half of me was locked away in my mind, which was overrun with constant triggering thoughts that I felt I had no control over. I lived in fear of the near constant flush of cold and nausea that would rush over me, from the top of my head down to my toes. I began to see this feeling as an entity of its own, this dark matter that took me over and seemed to permeate all of my nerves. It wasn’t until my early twenties, while in the midst of another long term anxiety episode where I actually learned what this “entity” was. In fact, it was not any type of entity at all, but, as my therapist explained to me, was actually just a rush of cortisol from the adrenal glands, brought on by the body’s stress response.
Once I learned that all I was feeling was the physical effects of the hormone cortisol, my anxiety nearly disappeared. Additionally, once I was able to give the name to those obsessive, irrational thoughts as “OCD”, those dissipated as well. For years I had run from those parts of my mind and hid from them, only to have them return. But within nearly the same minute that I accepted them as a part of me and was able to name them, I was released from them. Acceptance is the only way to thrive in times of struggle.
“What you deny or ignore, you delay. What you accept and face, you conquer.”
There was a time when this particular month’s changes would have sent me into a deep tailspin of debilitating anxiety; I would have panicked at the first trigger thought that my mind produced. And although I would be lying if I said that I never have anxiety anymore, or that my OCD never pops up from time to time, I just now have the tools to deal with it. I choose to accept these moments, acknowledge them, and release them gently, putting me back in control of my mind and body.
Remember, living a life free of judgement includes judgement of self. Don’t be hard on yourself. Embrace your uniqueness and quirks.