...and I love to make you freak out about everything.
When I was young I used to suffer from panic attacks in the night. I would hide under my covers and hyperventilate until I had almost no oxygen left and I was drenched in sweat. Then, I would expose JUST my mouth to the side edge of the comforter so my face was still covered and try to breath normally until I fell asleep. On nights like these, which were frequent, I would wake up hours later in a pool of my own urine, shivering, and exhausted. Words can't describe how horrible that was. And it happened well into my adolescent years.
I never told anyone that, until fairly recently. Probably because I had forgotten the details. The bed wetting was widely known, but not the anxiety or panic attacks. But after 3 months of life coaching, having a heart-to-heart conversation with one family member, and writing a 10-page letter to another...it all came back to me. And that's when I realized that I have been dealing with anxiety my whole life.
It's nice to put a name to a face. I see her around often but didn't know who she was.
There have been stages in my life when she follows me every where I go, and other times she just kinda hangs out...waiting. About 5 years ago I started working at a gym in Oakland and I was super duper excited about the job and the doors it would open for me. I ignored several red flags from the start and dove in head first giving it all I had. Soon I realized I was in deep shit. I loved my role, I loved the people I was meeting, training, and helping, but I was very unhappy with the inner workings of the gym, and the person running it. The situation got worse and worse over time and my anxiety levels were through the roof because I didn't know how to quit. I wanted to. Badly. For a long time. But I stayed. Probably out of fear of being without a job and losing that "security" but also largely because I absolutely loved my clients. I lost sleep and I became irritable and easily agitated. Everyone noticed; including my partner. It affected our relationship. I was mean. I was snappy. I was unhappy.
The emotions and stress built up inside of me until the universe decided that if I wasn't going to take action, it would do it for me. One day, after a long double shift at work I came home and started rummaging through my things cleaning out my closet and other pointless tasks (which was therapeutic at the time). That's when I had my first seizure. You should know that I have ZERO history of seizures, blackouts, or head trauma. Nothing in my family history either. All of my gazillion tests came back normal. My doctor and my neurologist agreed that I was healthy as could be and there was no explanation for it.
But I knew that wasn't true. I felt it. And sure enough, 3 days later I had another one. And guess what I was doing when I had that 2nd one? Getting ready to go to work.
I immediately switched doctors and found an Ayurvedic practitioner. He read my chart and asked me about my life and lifestyle. I told him everything. We did more blood tests just in case it was diet related. During our next visit he asked me about stress and anxiety. I told him about the stresses in my life and how I am up all night and sometimes jolt awake all sweaty, heart racing, and gasping for air. He looked concerned. "That sounds like anxiety," he said.
So ever since then I have been on a mission to try to find healthy ways to cope with it. I thought it was a new thing for me until, like I mentioned before, I started seeing my life coach and put the pieces of my life together like a puzzle. I know I will never be completely rid of anxiety. She purchased real estate in my mind long ago so my only option is to work on our relationship.
One thing that's VERY helpful to me is to not let things fester. I used to keep my feelings to myself, which is very unhealthy. Now, if I have something to say to someone, I tell them as soon as possible. If I have a looming task, I complete it first. Procrastination and anxiety are ultimate BFFs. They have an unbreakable bond. The longer you let something go on, the worse your anxiety will be over it. Another helpful tool is accountability. I am fortunate to have a solid handful of close friends who know and understand me well enough to help me when I need to combat my anxiety with greater force. Communicating feelings and talking through your thoughts with a person whom you trust and can actually listen is highly effective.
Let me give you a recent example...
While I was traveling around Europe last month, I started to feel a little anxiety brewing the closer it got to my departure date. I was anxious to come home. Normal stuff, right? I mean, I had been away for 4 weeks! I didn't think much of it. But, then I realized that the anxiety was mainly centered around my training and getting back into it. Although I exercised almost everyday while I was on vacation (because I enjoy it, and it's an important and normal part of my lifestyle, not because I forced myself to) I was not training like I normally do, 5x per week. I guess I was anxious about not being as strong or as fast as I was before my trip. I tried not to let it bother me, but it did. It bothered me a lot. That's when I realized that maybe I was too obsessive about my training. Don't get me wrong...I absolutely love CrossFit. I love my gym, I love my coach(es), I love my fellow athletes, and I love the way it makes me look and feel. But perhaps I put too much pressure on myself to fulfill a certain status or perform a certain way. I don't care to be a competing athlete, to win titles or awards, or to be ranked in any way. I just want to feel strong, able-bodied, and healthy. CrossFit does that for me. But I don't need it to run my life. My vacation showed me that I was scheduling my life according to my training program, instead of scheduling my training program around my life. I don't know how it got to be that way, but that wasn't my intention. I don't live to train. Yet I was dedicating my time and energy to it like I do. I decided that when I got home, that was going to change.
So when I arrived back in the states, I did not obsess about when I was going to get back into the gym. In fact, I allowed a full 10 days to go by before I decided to return. Was this easy? Hell no. I had some major anxiety about it. But that was part of the challenge for me. Not to give in and force myself to do something that I didn't want to just because I felt the pressure. I still took care of myself, physically. I will never give that up. But I'd like to OK myself to explore other ways of moving my body, and make those equally important. I met my good friend, Mel, for lunch and told her everything. She didn't judge me, or tell me I should go to the gym, or add to the pressure or anxiety at all. She just listened. When I got home later that day I decided I would hit the gym the next day, no matter what. The next morning, I texted Mel to let her know I was on my way...(WARNING: graphic language not suitable for children or sensitive folks follows)
And here are the photos I sent her, and a photo of the workout which did indeed nearly kill me.
This was a proud moment for me for many reasons:
- I was vulnerable and I was OK with it.
- I admitted to someone else that I was vulnerable.
- I did not allow external forces to pressure me into making decisions.
- I was successful in initiating this very difficult, new change in my lifestyle.
- I started with a smile, a positive attitude, and the outcome was perfect.
And I'm sharing this experience and personal details of my past to let you know that I KNOW. And to remind you that I'm a human being just like you. A lot of people look at leaders and role models as superhuman or exempt from the trials and tribulations of life. That couldn't be more inaccurate. I know what makes me a good role model is that I practice what I preach. My coaching is centered on my personal experiences. That makes me relatable. It also makes me trustworthy and honest. I don't just say things because I think they sound good. I say what I mean, as cliche as that sounds. And I say it with conviction because I know it to be true. If you've been going back and forth about some decision to be made, or action to be taken, or words to be spoken...DO NOT WAIT any longer. Decide now. Act now. Say it NOW!
P.S. I did end up quitting my job at the gym. I would have been crazy to ignore the signs. And now I'm happily 100% self-employed, growing my own business.
P.P.S. This is my friend Mel. I thought I should include some photos of her so you can see just how special she really is....