Eight years ago I was a health education teacher.  That was not my original plan, to be a teacher.  My original plan was to own a successful gymnastics gym where I trained top notch athletes.  After Nicole died my path in life changed and I went on to graduate from college with a degree in Health Education.  I chose this subject because it was one that talked about life and the decisions that you made and how they affected your health and your well being.  I swore that Nicole’s life would not be lost in vain and that I would go on to make a difference in this world.  I thought that if I could become a teacher and make a difference in one child’s life than I would be honoring Nicole.

I taught for two shorts years before I voluntarily left teaching to work for my father.  My dad was going through some health issues at the time, along with dealing with a rough patch in his business and I wanted to help him.  I have been working for my dad for the past eight years and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  My dad is healthy and the business is doing great.  It has been a wild roller coaster ride working for him and I have loved “almost” every second of it, but tonight as I was going through boxes of my old teaching stuff, I couldn’t help but feel sad.

I loved teaching.  I taught with passion, sometimes too much.  I wanted to change the world.  As I sifted through my old binders of lesson plans and projects from old students I felt sad for how much pain I was in at that time in my life.  The amazing thing is though, that looking back on my past I not only felt sad, but I also felt victorious as I looked through old pictures of my colleagues and myself, along with many of my students.

Looking back at pictures of myself from eight years ago, I can remember vividly the emotional distress I was feeling.  I can remember how my body hurt, how painful it was to breathe.  I can remember the despair that I felt, how I couldn’t imagine ever feeling real joy again.  I can remember as if it were just yesterday, but what I also see in those old pictures was a fighter.  Even at my lowest I would never accept defeat.  Each time I was knocked down I got back up.  Sometimes it took me longer than others to get up, but I still got up.  I don’t mean to sound boastful because at that time in my life, when I was trying so hard to inspire the lives of others, I felt worthless.  I felt weak and insecure.  I felt alone.  When you are circling in the cloud of anxiety all you see is grey and it leaves you feeling dizzy.  You can only see clearly the reality of the situation when the cloud has lifted.  I was a flower in the wind, bendable, but never breakable.  I couldn’t see that then, but now it is oh so clear.

I had gone into the basement to look for a lesson I taught almost a decade ago.  It wasn’t really a lesson, but more of a personal moment where I shared with my students the story of Nicole.  I came across one of the newspaper articles from the accident, “Alleged DWI death shocks Marist College students.”  Sitting down on the cold concrete floor I read the article with tears instantly streaming down my face.

Nicole Avery, 19, of Suffolk County, died in a one-car accident.

She was pronounced dead about 7:30 a.m.

The driver of the car……….

It is like a knife going through my heart, even though this article is over 13 years old.  I could remember the 19 year old me holding this article and reading it over and over, praying to wake up from my nightmare.  I would stare at this article for hours, wishing that it said my name instead of Nicole’s.  It was a dark time in my life.

A lot has changed since then.  When you lose someone you love the pain never goes away, you just learn to deal with it in a way that it doesn’t hurt you so badly.  The 19 year old me would’ve never imagined that I would be where I am today.  I will never understand why Nicole’s life was cut so short, but I will always understand why I was put into her life.  She has changed me forever and even in revisiting my past I couldn’t be more grateful.


Anxiety can be good?

frustrated baby

Over the past few weeks I have spent my time writing for my book, working on a new project I would like to set in motion relatively soon and I have been spending a lot of time with my three precious babies, just watching them grow and trying to soak up every second with them.  My youngest daughter will be one next week and that just blows my mind.  Everyone says that once you have kids time’s pace starts to pick up, but what they don’t say is that with each kid you have the second hand on the clock only spins faster.  I feel as if I was holding my youngest daughter only yesterday in her newborn diapers, breathing in her baby smell as she slept peacefully in my arms.  Time flies when you are having fun, but it also flies when your hands are constantly moving, working endlessly to nurture and raise your family.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As my first daughter’s birthday approaches and I watch her tirelessly attempt to move around our house I can’t help but think about the blessings that anxiety has given me.  My little peanut is following in her oldest sisters footsteps.  She didn’t crawl until one week before her first birthday and was walking by fifteen months.  She was very content to sit and play with the toys around her and her baby sister has been no different.

Have you ever watched a baby attempt to crawl?  For some babies crawling and moving comes naturally, while for others it seems like the impossible.  Watching my daughter in her attempts have been humbling to say the least.  She is so determined, yet so frustrated by her futile attempts thus far, but imagine that her frustration was enough to stop her from trying?  Imagine that in her simple, while very complex little mind, she decided to give up and throw in the towel?  What if she said, “You know what, this crawling thing is just too hard, I’m not strong enough and my head feels like it weighs a ton and not to mention my poor little arms and hands can not possibly support the weight of this heavy body.” ?  You can laugh at that imaginary scenario because you know that it will never happen.  My little peanut will not give up.  No matter how hard it is she will eventually crawl.  She will use her frustration to get that toy mommy pushed far away from her and she will keep trying.  Because she is frustrated and because it’s preventing her from getting where she wants, she will keep on trying.  She will never give up and before long she will be cruising around the house and months from now her frustrations from crawling will all just be a memory as she runs around with her bigger sisters.

Anxiety and frustration is good because it pushes us to want something different, something better for ourselves.  When we were little babies and even young children, we used those negative feelings to push forward in life and then somewhere along the road our obstacles got bigger and those negative feelings that once helped motivate us, suddenly became an obstacle in itself.

Has your anxiety become your biggest obstacle?  Don’t fight the anxiety, use it.  That little baby trying to crawl never once fought the feelings of frustration, they used it to get where they wanted to go.

When I was struggling with my own anxiety I had this “warrior” mentality.  I thought that I could fight my anxiety and one day I would win and stand victorious over this horrible disorder.  If you choose to fight anxiety, you will always lose.  Anxiety is a normal feeling and if you allow yourself to feel it, you will eventually learn to use it the right way and when you do this, it no longer is an obstacle, it is suddenly just another feeling you have that helps to push you into achieving your goals.

In 2012 the United States girls gymnastics team won the Olympic team gold medal.  It was a truly amazing moment in woman’s gymnastics as this was only the second time that the women’s team had won the gold.  One of the members of the team was Aly Raisman.  She was a vital part of this American team and she even went on to win the individual gold medal on floor at the Olympics.  During an interview she had been asked if she got nervous when she competed and she said no.  NO, are you kidding?  How could she not be nervous to stand alone in the middle of an arena, where thousands are watching her live, along with millions watching her at home, while she stands atop a beam, 4 1/2 inches wide and four feet from the ground?  I can shake just thinking about walking onto the floor alone, let alone performing at a high level of gymnastics.

Aly went on to explain how she used her nerves to excite her.  Wow, just think about that for a second.  She has the same nervous feelings that her fellow teammates have, but she uses them differently.  Instead of fighting her feelings, she uses them to get where she wants.  She uses them to fuel her efforts.  She allows her head to remain clear and focused.  I have seen many gymnasts who cannot do this and it is always most obvious on the balance beam.  They shake like crazy.  They let their nerves and their anxiety get the best of them and most often they end up blowing their routine and dismounting feeling defeated and upset.  They have lost their own battle against their anxious feelings.

This was one of the hardest concepts for me to understand.  I didn’t want anxiety to be in my life, end of story.  I wanted it gone and to never come back.  I would cry and explain to my therapist, Carol, how much better I would be as a person if my anxiety would just go away, but that is completely unrealistic.  That same feeling I wanted so badly to disappear had helped me learn how to crawl and walk.  It taught me to never settle in life.  It helped me to learn new ways in overcoming obstacles in my life.  It got me through college and it even helped me to focus when I was in labor delivering my daughter naturally.  It helped me breathe and remain calm as I underwent two cesarean sections.  It has helped me to always want whats best for my husband and my children.  It has helped me to become who I am today.  As soon as I stopped fighting my anxiety, I started to heal.  It was not an easy process and it didn’t go away over night, but the first step is to stop fighting.  You have to learn to crawl before you can walk and that process takes time and patience.

Today is the day to stop fighting and start accepting.  You can do it!

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