Before and after my anxiety
Before and after my anxiety
For as long as I can remember, my anxiety has been part of me, my constant companion. I remember being very little, maybe 4 or 5, and feeling the anxiety land every time I woke up from sleep – a heavy weight that would stay with me all day.
When I was a teenager I remember vividly experiencing a moment when I realised that I didn’t know how to not have a worry running through my head; I didn’t know how to be settled, for even a moment. But other than those fleeting moments, I don’t think I thought much about my anxiety, that was just the way life was for me.
I assumed that was how life was for everyone, but that somehow I couldn’t deal with it like others apparently could. So I withdrew more and more from life in an attempt to rid myself of this constant fear that I would be exposed. I thought that by retreating I would find a refuge, a certain place that would make me feel safe where I would never need to be afraid again. But this place was elusive, and the more I retreated into myself, the less I actually felt able to cope.
As I moved into my 30’s and 40’s the anxiety seemed to get worse, not better. I developed irrational fears, and obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviours that would consume my days. I had bad periods of time that lasted for months where I had daily panic attacks, and several breakdowns. I started to think there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t ‘normal’. I felt ashamed of what I was experiencing and did my best to hide it. I was able to present myself as a ‘normal’, high-functioning adult – on the outside it looked like I had a great life and that I had it all together – so very few people knew what I was struggling with on the inside. But I didn’t know how I would continue to cope with life this way; it felt like I was on a runaway train, and I didn’t know where I would end up.
I sought help through various therapists and doctors and tried a bit of medication. The medication provided some relief, but I did not want to become dependent on it. I saw several therapists and practitioners (mainstream and alternative) but did not experience any true, lasting change.
It felt like my anxiety had such a hold on me that nothing could shift it, and after a while I despaired of ever finding help.
The turning point for me was coming to Universal Medicine. It wasn’t an overnight change. I had been a student of the teachings for about 4 years, and I loved what they taught me about life – it helped me understand so much more of the big picture. Before, life felt like a confusing puzzle, but with the understandings presented by Universal Medicine, the pieces fitted into a big picture that made sense. I was still a highly anxious person, but kept that part very hidden. People who met me thought I was so serene! Yet inside I hid a feeling that there was something wrong with me – that my compulsive, irrational fears just weren’t normal.
Then one day I had a session with an esoteric practitioner and something inside me told me that I should open up to him, that maybe he could help. I spilled out all the things about me that I thought made me ‘weird’, ‘damaged’, a ‘freak’. That session was the beginning of a path of true change for me. There was such a look of compassion in his eyes, and I got the sense that I was truly accepted, just as I was, that I wasn’t broken, and I just needed to find the true me that was underneath all this. I felt that somehow he knew me, and moreover that he had answers. I felt his compassion, and that ignited a tiny spark of compassion in me towards myself, where previously I had none. I felt a glimmer of hope, a possibility of change.
Since that day I have worked with several different practitioners and they have each brought such important insights for me. I have come a long way with my anxiety. It was such a part of my identity that I didn’t know if it was possible for me to let it go, I thought it was who I was. But I’m realising now that not only is it possible, but so much more than that is possible.
Part of my process has been about healing childhood hurts. I am also relearning how to allow myself to feel what I feel. I recall being a very young child, feeling the sadness and suffering of the human condition and deciding that I couldn’t bear to be here in this world. I have been trying to escape from life ever since. I’m now slowly allowing myself to feel more of life, to be in the world, which isn’t easy. I’ve kept myself numb for so long, not wanting to feel the sadness and the pain, but this also meant missing the good parts of life, the joy and love that we can experience. My anxiety was a way of pushing away what I didn’t want to feel – I was afraid my feelings and emotions would overwhelm me, afraid that they would kill me. Now I’m learning to just be with my body when feelings come up – to be with myself and to allow them.
I’m learning to develop resources to support myself. Learning to develop conscious presence, and to be with my body has been a huge revelation. Being with my body, moment by moment, means that the anxiety has less space to take hold. I’m starting to see my anxiety as a habitual pattern, a sort of addiction, that I am working on changing. Amongst other things, my anxiety was a form of self-hatred and self-abuse, a way to keep myself small and unable to feel any of the love, lightness and joyfulness of myself and of life. Developing kindness towards myself has been instrumental in making true change. Simply reminding myself to be kinder and gentler to myself can help ease the anxiety when I’m caught up in it.
I wouldn’t say that my anxiety is now ‘gone’, but I realise now that I’m the one that chooses it (even when it doesn’t feel like a choice, it’s actually a choice). I’m taking more responsibility for my state of being, which isn’t always easy, but is definitely empowering. More and more I’m allowing myself to settle deeply into myself. I can’t tell you how exquisite that feels, having kept myself in constant fight-or-flight mode for so long. It feels like I’m on a journey of exploration and I’m just taking little steps.
Sometimes when I feel particularly settled I ask myself if I can stay with that, and maybe even go a little deeper. Sometimes I can, and when I do it feels like I reach a space inside me that I can only call home.