I know this is supposed to be a blog about writing and my progress with my writing, but I also want it to be a place where I can share things. Things like life changes and challenges and everything in between.
For the last 54 days I have been participating in a morning meditation practice called 30 Days To Grace. I first learned about this from my therapist. Let me pause here and back up…
Last year when Fishubby and I were in Paris, I had what I refer to as a nervous breakdown. Really, it was an intense anxiety attack. I could not, would not leave the hotel to go out to dinner. I couldn’t. I physically felt like if I left the hotel, something horrible would happen.
I sent Fishubby out to eat without me (he ended up bringing back a pizza to share — pizza in Paris is DELICIOUS) and I went into the hotel room and cried and cried. Bawled my eyes out, had thoughts of suicide (you know, “he’d be better off without me” and “I’m holding him back” type thoughts)… it was a breaking point. When we got back from our trip, I fell into a deep depression.
Over the years I have learned to put on a happy front in the face of fear, depression, whatever. I’m the type of person who laughs at nearly everything and is quick to smile. It’s easy for me to hide the inner turmoils churning within my mind. I wasn’t eating. I lost about five pounds in a week. Anyone who knows me in real life knows I really don’t have five extra pounds hanging around to lose. At that time, I didn’t do anything about it. I knew I’d eventually snap out of it, and I did. But the anxiety I’d lived with my entire life was still there, lurking in the shadows.
February this year I decided to start seeing a therapist to get some help in managing the anxiety. You see, Fishubby and I had made plans to go back to Europe this summer to Italy. The thought of going abroad again made me so nervous, I couldn’t even talk about the trip without my heart racing, my mouth drying up, my armpits sweating, and my intestines squealing with sudden gassy-ness (anxiety is so glamorous, isn’t it?)
I started seeing Lana Isaacson on February 5th. By April 7th I was able to tell her “this is my last session.”
I lived with anxiety for the majority of my life, and in 10 sessions I was able to learn to manage it. TEN SESSIONS!
One of the things Lana told me about in one of our first sessions was Diane Seig’s 30 Days to Grace. It is a thirty minute, daily practice that includes Pranayma (deep breathing), Yoga poses (which I do not do because I don’t like doing Yoga poses), Meditation, and journaling. You choose an “intention” to focus on for 30 days. My first intention was more an affirmation. It was “I am peaceful and calm and live life courageously.” Within the first few days of starting this practice, people around me noticed a change. A shift. I kept with it. I plan to keep with it for at least a year, changing my intention every 30 days.
During the course of my first 30 days, the Universe sent me articles from Tiny Buddha (well, Tiny Buddha sent them, really, but since I was open to accepting and trusting the Universe, I believe they were sent to me for a reason). Some of the articles were about dealing with anxiety. Some were about Worry (a form of anxiety). The one that hit home was one about Fear. It was entitled: Building Confidence to Face Fear Instead of Hiding From it. That article, in conjunction with a book Lana also recommended, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, helped me understand that most of the things I fear, most of the things that hold me back, are completely irrational.
The difference between Rational and Irrational fear is simple. If it is going to physically harm me or kill me (like a rabid bear with goat horns and glowing red eyes), it is Rational. If not, it is Irrational. It didn’t take me long to incorporate this simple “stop and check” into my daily life. “Is this going to kill me? No? Okay then, stop being afraid.”
Today, during the journaling portion of my daily practice (54 days!) I realized why I was able to learn to manage the anxiety so successfully this time around. There are a few factors that played into it this time.
1. I disowned the anxiety. You may see that I don’t write “my” anxiety. I write “the” anxiety. After my first session with Lana, I decided to let it go. I made the conscious decision to disown it. THE anxiety. It doesn’t belong to me anymore.
2. Commitment. Commitment is a huge part of learning to manage anxiety. I committed to getting up early every day to do my practice (54 days!!!). I committed to learning to belly breathe whenever I started to feel scared. I committed to being more mindful, more present, to not let my worries take control.
3. This is the big one: Willingness. A willingness to try different approaches. I meditate, I wear a protective amethyst pendant I programmed to keep me safe. I use lavender scents in my meditation space. Above all, though, willingness means a willingness to change. I was willing to make changes to myself and my life. I’d reached a breaking point. I felt trapped and like my life was going nowhere. I used to cling to the anxiety. It was a security blanket that kept me safe from harm. Being kept safe from harm meant not trying new things. Not taking opportunities because they were scary. I was in a safe place in my job and in every aspect of my life. But I still had to go to Italy. Fishubby bought the tickets. He paid deposits on lodging. The trip was real. I was terrified.
Now? At work I’m taking on more project management type work. I’m expanding my horizons. When my boss comes to me with an opportunity, I take it! No fear! Well, no irrational fear, anyway. When I think about our trip to Italy? I’m SUPER excited. I can’t wait to experience a place full of pasta and cheese and pizza! My three favorite food groups! AND WINE! My fourth favorite food group!
Yesterday, I listened to a tele-seminar that Diane Seig did a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t able to actually “attend” the seminar, but since I signed up I was able to download it and listen to it. It opened my eyes even wider to mindfulness and what that truly means. It is not quieting the mind. It is recognizing thoughts and letting them go. It is releasing the ruminations of the past and living in the present. It is not worrying about what may be. Being mindful, being present, you don’t miss out on opportunities. You don’t miss out on beauty in the world. You look up at the sky and you see what a beautiful day it is, and inside everything is beautiful, too, as long as you can let go.
The Universe sent me to Lana and Lana sent me to Diane. The majority of my ability to manage the anxiety is purely from doing the morning practice and changing the way I think about things. Being mindful. Stopping and thinking and letting go.
For that, THANK YOU to Lana and to Diane. And, of course, to the Universe!!!
I wanted to share this today in case there are any people out there who are living with the little monster called anxiety. I hope this helps you to seek guidance in managing it. The first step, disown that sucker! Send that little monster out into the cold and don’t let him back in.
If I can do it, you can do it.
Peace and Keep Writing,
Claire L. Fishback
P.S. If you have any questions about my journey, please let me know. I’d love to help.