Being Thankful No Matter What

I have already written a couple of posts about positive thinking and with Thanksgiving just having passed I find it appropriate to write another.

I can not stress enough the power of positive thinking.  It may sound cliché, but it is so important to grasp this concept when dealing with anxiety.  For years I kicked and screamed fighting this very idea.  Positive thinking my ass, I would think.  Like that would change how I felt.  Well let me tell you something, when I finally understood the power of my thoughts my recovery from anxiety took off.

With that, I of course want to share a story.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers.  I hope that everyone had a beautiful day filled with the company and love of your family and friends.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year.  I am thankful everyday, but on this one very special day it encourages everyone to stop what they are doing, cook up some delicious food and spend an entire day being thankful….together.  I love that.  I love walking into my mother in laws house as I am greeted by the most delicious smells.  I love sitting around a jam packed table as everyone shares what they are most thankful for.  I love rushing off to my parents to meet my sisters and their families for dessert.  I love picking at the leftovers or even making myself a second plate of dinner.  I love going to bed so filled with not food, but gratitude.

This Thanksgiving went a little differently.  It all started with my 8 month old getting the stomach virus this past Sunday.  The dreaded stomach virus!  Talk about anxiety, as soon as one of my kids throw up, my first reaction is, “We’re all going to get it, it’s going to be terrible, we’re all going to die!!!!”  Maybe not that last one, but it sure does feel that way.  I’m sure that’s most people’s reaction though.

We fortunately made it through my middle daughter’s birthday unscathed, until that night.  After all of my precious little babies were tucked into bed a knot planted in my stomach and I knew what was about to happen in my house.  I spent the next 24 hours with my face way too close to the toilet.  By the time I was feeling better the next night my husband had just enough time to pass the baby off to me before he spent the next 24 hours (all of Thanksgiving) with that very same toilet.  It was awful.

There was no Thanksgiving spent with family.  There was no lounging around the table while the kids played and the guys watched football.  There were no fancy dresses or excited little faces as we piled into the car to nana’s and then grandma’s.  Instead there was just me and my three little beauties having a regular day while daddy recovered in bed as we quarantined our family.  Not what I had pictured.

Now today, the day after Thanksgiving my husband is outside with my three year old putting up Christmas lights.  Just yesterday he could barely keep his head up and here he is determined to get our lights up.  As I opened the door to give him hot chocolate he says to me, “You know I kind of think it’s a blessing that we all got sick.  It forced us to slow down.”  Pow!  Just like that everything is okay.  He just spent two of his days off from work sick and taking care of his sick wife, missing Thanksgiving, and this is his conclusion of the situation.  What a beautiful thought and he is right.

That one simple moment is exactly what I am talking about.  Life is what you make it and for years I made myself anxious because of my thoughts.  At the end of this crazy holiday we ended up having a different, but very special Thanksgiving.  It was a day spent on the floor playing games with my daughters and watching movies.  It was a day for getting dressed up with no where to go, having amazing food delivered right to our door from my in-laws.  It was a day for after dinner shows performed by the cutest 3 and 4 year olds around.  It was a day for homemade pretzels and finding out that the baby LOVES stuffing and cranberry sauce.  It was a day for really slowing down and appreciating life.

Our day could have gone so much differently, but it went the way we ended up wanting it to be.  You can not always control life, but you can always control how you react to it.  Make your reaction a positive one.

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Finding Passion in what you do

You will often here people say that you should find things in life that you are passionate about.  If you could find a career that you are passionate about, work would be less stressful.  With passion comes purpose and I believe that having a purpose is the true meaning of life.  Now I agree with all of this.  I agree with every part of my soul, but in some cases this may not be possible.

For instance, a man may be passionate about baseball, but for him a career in the sport is unrealistic so instead he has to stick to his 9-5 corporate job that he finds much less exciting, but in the end supports his family and pays the bills.  This is the case for many people.  Our lives are stressful and busy.  Life can even be overwhelming at times.  There are moments in my life where multiple days will blend into one and I can’t remember if I took a shower or if I fed the dog.  Okay there are days where I have forgotten a meal for my kids.  These kind of days make my head spin.

In the past when I was overwhelmed I would think that I was doing all the wrong things.  I must not be chasing my dreams.  I must be in the wrong job or forgetting to fill my life with meaningful things.  I would often think that my like was lacking passion.  Well, actually it was, but not because it lacked things to be passionate about, I just wasn’t looking at the beautiful things in life that were right in front of me.

What if we stopped looking for outside things to be passionate about and instead started finding the passion in the things all around us?  Let me explain.

Most of you who read my posts know that I have three daughters.  My life is filled with alot of joy and love along with alot of poop and crying.  The other day I was changing the baby’s diaper in a rush because she was freaking out and noticed that there was a huge blob of poop on my hand, not the wipe, my hand.  UGH!  I wiped it off with an already dirty wipe and quickly ran out of the room to my middle child who was having a tantrum in the kitchen, while ransacking the cabinets, because I told her she couldn’t have gummies at 10 in the morning (yes, we have this fight a lot).  My oldest daughter enters the kitchen and starts whining because she has to go to the bathroom and she forgot how to wipe (I told her once that she has to wipe better after she poops and now she doesn’t remember how to wipe, great).

Now I love my girls, more than anything in the world, but in a day like this there is a lot of stress, with no praise and the rewards are camouflaged under poop stained wipes.  On days like this I have found myself daydreaming about my passions.  If I had time to write, I could write a book and that would be so rewarding and fulfilling.  If I had time to volunteer and help people in need that would be so rewarding and I could really have meaning in my life.  If, if, if……damn if’s.

I often have to remind myself to stop looking for things that I am passionate about, because everything I need and love is right in front of my face.  I may not love doing seven loads of laundry every three days, but I do love the bodies that the clothes I fold are going to cover.  I may not love constantly having to clean my floors, but I do love the feet that are going to walk all over them.  I may not love cleaning poop and spit up and God know what other bodily fluids come out of my kids, but God how I love those kids.

When we stop focusing on the hard stuff in our lives it is amazing how much more meaning we will find in everyday.  Whenever I am stressed I focus on something that I am excited about.  I could be crazy at work and then I will stop and think about the book that I am going to read to my girls at bedtime and suddenly my day just got better.  Something so simple will help me make it through a hard day.  There is something exciting about everyday, we just have to have our eyes open to see that.  As we get older for some of us it is harder to get excited over things.

The other day I was playing with my seven month old.  Every time I rolled a toy to her she got so excited that her whole entire body literally jerked.  Could you imagine that?  Could you imagine being so excited over something that you actually couldn’t control your body?  When was the last time you felt that?  Did you ever feel that?  I mean this toy was nothing special, but she went crazy every time it came near her.  It was such a beautiful and wonderful moment to witness pure joy over such simplicity.

Sometimes we are so focused on the hard things in our days that we forget about all the beautiful things in between.  The in between moments are the moments that count.  Take a look at your life, and what is in it right now.  Stop focusing on negative things and focus on the things that make your whole body jerk.  Just me, these things are there.  Be grateful for what you have and treasure the love and joy that surrounds you.  Be passionate about your life, because that is the greatest gift you will ever get.

Life is crazy

I laugh at myself for thinking that starting a blog right after giving birth to my third child would be a rational idea, but here I am with many posts in and although I may not write as much as I would like, I am trying my best and enjoying myself all the while.  Thank you for following me and looking forward to my posts even though there may be lengthy gaps in between.  Stick with me for there is a bigger plan in the works.

So my life right now is super crazy.  I am sure most of you can relate, but I am going through the most wonderful kind of crazy at the moment.  I have three kids, 4, 2 (3 next month) and 6 months old.  I will say that these three little beauties of mine have made me into a much better person all while testing every bit of my patience and sanity.  I swear that becoming a mom is one of life’s most wonderful gifts and as beautiful as motherhood is, it kind of makes you a little bipolar.

I will live through a day that is filled with so many different emotions, in the end it sometimes feels like a lifetime in one day and it blows my mind at times that I made it out alive and…..happy.  These kids are just so darn cute.

As a mother at one moment you are staring into the eyes of your child totally mesmerized and baffled by how good God is that he allowed you to have this little slice of heaven to hold and call yours, then the very next moment you find yourself breathing in the corner with your eyes closed counting slowly because if you don’t you may just starting screaming and kicking like a lunatic because for the third time today your little slice of heaven has fallen to the floor in a full out tantrum because you won’t let her have her gummy snacks as breakfast.  Before kids I would have never imagined that I can go from total euphoria to border line psychopath all in two short seconds.

Kids challenge every part of who you are and if you are not sure of who that person is, you may just lose yourself.  That is one of the very blessings that anxiety has given me.  Coming out of it I am very sure of who I am.  I have strong values and morals and most of all a solid faith.  I know who I am and I am very true to myself.  Because of this I am also much more understanding with myself.  As a person and as a mother I do not ever have to be perfect.  All I have to do is be true to myself and who I am and the rest will fall into place.

If I want to sit on the couch and polish off a bag of cookies because I NEEDED them after the kind of day I had, I will not beat myself up about it the next day.  I will simply smile and say, “today is going to be a better day.”  Everyday when I wake up my first thought is, “today is going to be a good day.”

Okay that last line was a lie, most days that is what I think, there are many days where I wake up and think, “Are you fricken kidding me right now, it’s 6 o’clock and my daughter has to pee and I’m going to screeeammm!!!!!!!!!!”  Then after I take her to the bathroom, try and get her back into bed, fight only to lose and then have all three kids up at now 6:30, then I will usually say, “now I am going to make this a good day.”  What can I say, no one should ever be up before 7 o’clock.

So this post was no where near what I imagined I was going to write, but you get the gist of things.  I have been very busy, but I am not gone and I have so much more to share.  Thank you for being here 🙂

What do you see?

I wanted to just write something quick tonight because it has been a while since I have written a post.  These three beautiful little girls of mine are keeping me very busy and lately by the time I have a moment to write I am finding it very hard to keep my eyes open.  I have not disappeared, I have just taken a step back to allow myself some time to slow down and relax.  It is very important for my mental health that I don’t push myself too far.  I am all for pushing myself and challenging myself, but I have limits and when it comes to my mental health, they need to be followed.  This is just a side note, but a life lesson that I find extremely important.

With this said I wanted to write about something I think about often.  What is it that you see when you look out into the world?  Do you see bad people, traffic, hunger, war, long lines at the store, and hardships?  Or do you see the good, loving hearts, opportunity and abundance of beauty in the world?  You see, there are all of the things that I mentioned, but it is up to you as to what you are choosing to focus your attention on.

As an anxiety sufferer all I saw was the darkness in life.  To me everything was hard, and each hard thing made the next thing harder.  It was a vicious cycle that left me waiting for a break.  The truth is life is hard, but how you handle it will determine whether each of life’s challenges will make you stronger, or if they will only beat you down even more.

For year’s I let life beat me down.  I was angry.  No one understood how I was feeling and no one was helping me.  I hated that there were thorns on rose bushes!

When I finally decided to focus on the good around me it was life changing.  I was overwhelmed by the good in the world.  That man that waved me on to go at the stop sign, the woman who complimented my well behaved children at the supermarket, that young boy who held the door for an older lady, the spectacular roses amongst the thorns, all of these little beautiful moments taking place right before my eyes.  They are incredible.

If you allow yourself to look for the good in life you won’t have to look long or far.  It is everywhere.  You want to make a quick change in your life today?  Look for 5 things that make you smile.  I guarantee it won’t take long.

1- Listening to the football game in my den where my husband is excitedly watching his favorite team play.

2- My playroom that I am sitting in is really clean right now, which is not always the case.

3- I just got off the phone with my very pregnant, very excited sister who I love talking to and whose baby I can’t wait to meet.

4- There is a picture on my desk of my middle daughter with my nephew sitting on the the creepiest Easter Bunny’s lap, and the picture makes me laugh.

5- The dishwasher has already been loaded so I can now go right to bed 🙂

The world is what you make it to be.  I choose beauty and I choose life.

 

Positive Thinking

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

-Abraham Lincoln

positivity

Your mind is such a powerful tool and the thoughts you put into it are what fuel your emotions so please, handle with care.

I like to think of myself as an optimist. I don’t like to complain and if you find me complaining then do understand that my mind is not in the right place and I need a quick tune up. I actually can’t stand when people complain. Just to clarify venting and complaining are two totally different things.

When a person vents they are usually clear of their situation and either looking for advice or just an empathetic ear to assure them that things will work out.

When a person complains, that’s it, they are just complaining. There is no optimism, no plan of resolve, no seeking of advice. For some reason in the moment for some people complaining just seems to come natural. Even as I am writing this I can feel my heart start to race a little bit faster because I hate complaining that much. I hate it because I know the kind of thoughts that feed a person’s need to complain.

During my anxiety I did a lot of complaining and for me with complaining came……are you ready for this??? Blaming. I did a lot of blaming. I complained about everything (usually to my poor hubby). I complained about the way that I felt, that my job was too difficult, that I hit too many red lights on my way to work, that I was too tired, that the gas pump I chose to use was too slow, that is was too hot or too cold out, too sunny or too gloomy and the list goes on. I complained a lot.

My complaints were almost always followed by blaming. I hit too many lights driving to work because my husband asked me to throw in a load of laundry, a guy cut me off pulling into the gas station causing me to go around to another pump, I felt awful because I wasn’t a good person and God was punishing me.

Now that last one is a little out there, but at the time it was my truth and just a glimpse of it.

My mind was in a negative downward spiral and all I wanted was for someone to pull me out of it and save me. When that didn’t happen I blamed other people or things in my life for the way I felt. My husband has taken the brunt of most of my blaming. I put so much on him, as if my emotional state rested solely on his behavior and actions. If he helped me more around the house I would be happy, if he complimented me more I would be happy. If I went on with this list I would be here all night, so you get the point.

The truth is that my mind was focusing on all the wrong things. I was focusing on all the negative things around me. What was really frustrating to me was that I am not a negative person. I am the glass if half full kind of person. I look for the good in people, the good in life. I am passionately empathetic and I am a lover, not a fighter. When I spend time with someone I want to laugh and enjoy myself. I don’t want to waste time complaining. When Nicole died it was as if I picked up someone else’s pair of glasses and put them on; and the glasses were dirty.

Through these glasses all I saw was the bad in the world and the bad in people. It frightened me to the core and it was all I could think about. The truth is that there is a lot of bad in the world. There is war, disease, hate and disasters, but with all of that there is good. There is a lot of good and an abundance of beauty. What are you choosing to see?

For so long I allowed myself to see the darkness in the world and it consumed my heart. It made me sad and depressed. It took my anxiety to a level so high that I didn’t think it was possible to come back from it. That was until I decided to retrain my brain.

Through a lot of my work with Carol I started to realize something. My brain had learned to think negatively so I wanted to train it to think positive again. I began focusing on the good things around me. I did this in baby steps. I would appreciate the wind across my face. I would revel in the moment as my daughter told me she loved me. I would be “present,” and allow myself to see the joy in things. I started to think about what I really liked and what made me happy and then I would make the effort to do those things.  I did little things for myself that I enjoyed each day and with each little step that I took a huge feeling of satisfaction eventually began to follow.

Practice makes perfect and at times it was really hard to be positive, but I would push myself to take off those dirty glasses and see the beauty that surrounds me.

Let me tell you something, when you really look, the beauty and the good that surrounds you is overwhelming. And just think, if I never took those glasses off I would be missing it all. These days there is very little that gets me worked up or upset. If something in my life goes wrong my thoughts are on how to fix it and move on. There is no sense in letting anything drag me down. I don’t have time for that because there is too much in this world to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Present

being present

Oh how I love these words. These are words that I spent over a decade desperately chasing after. To be present in whatever I was doing was what I wanted so badly, but instead I built up walls around my heart because if I was numb than I couldn’t feel the pain. To be present for me was to choose the difficult path, the one where old wounds were still open, the road where guilt consumed me and fear ran rampant. To be present meant that I had to face reality and in my reality Nicole was dead and the person I was and that I had become I hated.

Growing up I was very emotional. Everything I did in life I did leading with my heart. I felt everything and because of this my life was filled with a lot of tears. I would shed tears of sadness, but also tears of joy and empathy, tears of compassion. I am like a machine and for me you know that I am running well if I am able to cry. I don’t mean to sound like a cry baby because I’m not (my husband may tell you differently), but for me crying was my release. I could never bottle my emotions inside and the way for them to come out for me was through a good cry. I’m the person who buys the first card in a store that makes me cry. Yes, I’m the jerk getting all worked up over a beautiful card in CVS. I’ll bring that card right up to the cash register like I was just told my long lost sister was found and we are going to be reunited. Life was good.

When the movie PS I Love You came out on demand (if you have not seen it, kick out your hunny, grab some ice cream and a box of tissues and WATCH IT!), I was home alone and decided to watch it. This was during my anxiety and the movie caught me way off guard and for a moment all my walls were down.   When I tell you that I was sobbing, that is a huge understatement. I was crying to the point where I actually had to pause the movie so that I can really get into my cry. I was crying so hard that my face became ugly. We all know the ugly cry. It’s the one where your face contorts into the most ridiculous shapes and snots are dripping like a faucet down your face, dropping into your mouth, but you don’t care because you are just that out of control. Okay, now you may be thinking “This girl may be nuts,” and if that’s the case then I dare you to watch this movie alone and see what happens. I just love a good love story. Also at this point in my life I became emotionally attached to whatever I was watching, which I will get into another time. So you get it now, I was a crier, and after a brief hiatus I am still a crier and I am not ashamed. It is one of the things that I deeply love about myself.

Some people see crying as a weakness, but I see it as strength. When you can allow yourself to feel to the point of tears, you are strong. It is so much easier to keep our armor on and protect ourselves than to truly disarm yourself and just feel.

During my therapy sessions when I would leave Carol’s she would always say, “When you walk to your car really feel as your feet hit the ground and your body takes a step. Feel your hand on the door handle as you get into your car.” In the beginning she would say this and I would hastily say Okay back to her and then rush out the door, holding my breath while jumping into my car before speeding away. Needless to say I didn’t get it.  To be present felt so foreign and impossible to me despite having grown up this way.

lakegeorgeuidephoto

How often do you feel present? Have you ever stopped during your day and really thought about what you were doing? Have you taken the time to really feel your breath entering and leaving your body? Have you noticed the way your body and muscles relax when you are calm? Have you quieted your mind enough to look into the eyes of your children, husband or friend and truly see them and appreciate them? Did you ever slow down enough to feel the breeze on your face or the warmth of the sun as it hits your skin? Do you know what it is like to be fully present in life? When was the last time you can recall being in the moment, actually FEELING the moment?

Last year my answers to these questions would have been, no, and I can’t remember. But this year is different. It is so different.

I have been actively practicing being present for over a year now. It is hard work and I have to think about it every day, but I refuse to just exist; I want to live, I want to feel. Last week I was vacationing at a Lake house upstate with my family and it was the perfect time to just relax and be all there, living in the moment.

I was sitting outside on a swing with my oldest daughter and I had one of those moments where my mind was totally quiet and the only thing in the world I was thinking about was this sweet little angel who is mine. Nothing else mattered as I looked into her eyes. I saw her sweet sweet heart as she smiled that smile that could light up a room. It’s the smile that takes me all the way back to when she was just a baby teaching me how to be a mom and showing me the beauty of life. I saw the delicate little dimple in her round chin, the one that matches her daddy’s, the one that I can’t stop kissing. I saw how tall she has grown in what seems like the blink of an eye and my heart filled up with so much emotion that tears began filling up my eyes. I think about how blessed I am to be a mother, not only to one, but three beautiful girls. My heart is beating faster as I think about how much I love her, how much I love living in this very moment. The sun is shining and I notice the wind as it tickles my face. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Being present is the first thing that I think about each morning when my eyes open for the first time. It is the first thing that I strive for because if I am present then I am happy. If I am present and happy then I am open to receive the gifts that life has to offer. You can never truly live if you are not living in the moment. Life is about being awake in what we are doing. You are not awake if you are worrying about the past or anticipating the future. The only time you are awake is if you are in the “now” and that’s the greatest place to be.

Loving Yourself

Anxiety has a way of attacking a person’s self-esteem.  It leaves you feeling weak and incompetent.  It makes you feel worthless.  It literally sucks the life out of you, throwing you into a vicious cycle of self hatred and anger. How do you push yourself forward and overcome something so difficult when you don’t believe that you deserve to be happy? Where do you draw strength from?

Happiness means everything to a person. Without it we are just existing. Happiness is where life is lived and joy is birthed. I am not talking about superficial happiness, I am talking about the kind of happiness that brings peace to your very soul; but how can we truly be happy when we aren’t happy with ourselves?  The answer to this question is one that I have spent most of my journey trying to unearth.

For a long time I looked for outside things as well as other people to make me happy.  If I graduated college with good grades I would be happy.  If I lived with my boyfriend I would be happy.  If I got a job I would be happy.  If I got married I would be happy.  If my husband did what I asked of him I would be happy. If I had children, of course I would be happy.  All of these things I went on to do and they did indeed make me happy, but with each one of these milestone moments in my life taking place, I was always left feeling unsettled. The joy that I felt in each one of these moments was always followed by sadness and doubt.

I felt saddened by the fact that I was totally incapable of living in the moment and freeing my racing mind from the anxiety that consumed me. I doubted my ability to find peace.

I imagined on my wedding day as I took my vows, that in doing so my anxiety would be swept away with a simple “I do.”  I would be free from pain because I was making a loving commitment to God and my now husband.  I said “I do,” and cried tears of joy but as I walked down the aisle with my husband’s hand in mine, fear still followed.

I imagined that I would hear the sound of my daughter crying as she entered into the world, making me a mother for the first time, that on the tails of her cries my fear would be carried off into the past. Those cries instead awakened me to new fears that I had not known until I became a mom.

I had always expected some beautiful moment in my life to whisk away my anxiety the way a wave would pull a shell from shore burying it deep on the ocean’s floor leaving the sand smooth and untouched as if that shell never existed. I often looked to my husband to rid me of the storm that was constantly spinning through my body. I blamed people or events in my life for making my anxiety worse.

After years of searching I had found the answer and it was one that I didn’t like. The only thing that was making my anxiety worse was me. The only person that was going to rid myself of the anxiety that had taken over my life was me. I had to stop looking to other people and things, awaiting some miracle that would pull the turmoil from my mind and body. I had to do it myself. I couldn’t just pray anymore waiting for a magic fix from God. I needed to pray, but more importantly I needed to listen. Praying does you no good if your heart isn’t open and ready to receive the answers.

How do you move forward though when you don’t like the person you have become? When you come across a person that you don’t care for, or better yet that makes your skin crawl, you can always walk away. You can choose to not have that person be a part of your life. What happens when that person is you? There was a time in my life that I literally wanted to crawl out of my own skin and run away from myself because I couldn’t stand to be with me.

You are like a flower in the wind. The wind may bend you, but it will not break you.

The words of Carol echo in my mind. Something clicked inside of me when she spoke those words to me. My eyes were opened to the reality of who I had become.

I was a person who suffered from anxiety. I hated the way that I felt, but after a decade of suffering I was still here fighting. My determination to find answers and win the battle had never died. That had to say something about myself.

I began to look around at the life I had created. I was married to the most amazing man with two beautiful and healthy daughters. I owned my own house that I had turned into a home. I had great relationships with my family and friends. After graduating college with honors I had found work easily. I was coaching gymnastics at a level I never imagined possible. No matter how tired I was and how bad I felt I never gave up. I never gave in to any temptations or took the easy road. I never stopped trying to get better. I never settled and used my anxiety as an excuse.

Instead I was pushing forward trying my best to achieve the happiness that deep down inside I knew I deserved. This was a start, a slow one, but a really good one.

I always say that the brain is really easy at being tricked, and it is. It will believe the thoughts you put into it. Maybe not right away, but over time it will. I began to focus on the good qualities in myself that I was just beginning to allow myself to see. I gave myself permission to appreciate myself and how far I had come. I finally saw it. I was a flower in the wind and I will not be broken, ever.

Practice makes perfect and I made it a daily effort to look at the good in myself. There were days that it was really difficult to love myself, but sometimes you have to fake it until you make it right?

I was 19 when Nicole died and my world came undone. I am 32 now and I can honestly say that I love myself. I love who I have become and I am truly grateful for the path that God has lead me down. I am just thankful that my eyes were open and willing to see the way.

Letting Go

tattoo

 

Let Go, Let God.  This is a tattoo that I had gotten back in 2009 right before I had become pregnant with my first child.  This happens to be a tattoo that I wish I didn’t get, or at least that I had chosen a different spot to put it. Don’t tell my dad I said that. Out of the five tattoos I have this one is definitely the most inspiring. It beats out my Marilyn Manson album covers or even my way too bright orange tiger, but still I have a bit of regrets with it. I think that has to do with my choice for it’s location.  It is on my wrist and I am constantly catching sight of it out of the corner of my eye, thinking it’s a bug, causing me to swat at it. A little ridiculous, but nonetheless a positive mantra to live by.

I got this tattoo following my struggle to get pregnant. Throughout my battle with anxiety I was constantly repeating this in my head, “Let Go, Let God, Let Go, Let God.” Like most things this was so much easier said than done. This period in my life was a time where my anxiety was making appearances by the minute and I was constantly telling myself to let go and trust my faith in God.  I have joked more than once that this tattoo should have said, “Let Go, Let Renee,” because like most anxiety sufferers I was a serious control freak.  I needed to feel like I was always in control.  On the outside you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell I was this way, but it was a completely different story on the inside.

I wanted to be in control of everything down to how many breaths I took. While in a conversation with a friend I would mentally plan when I was going to take my next breath and when I was going to shift my weight. I would calculate each move in my day. I felt like a robot, literally. I moved like one, thought like one and felt numb on the inside, just like one. Well here’s the thing, in overcoming your anxiety you have to give up your need for control. Insert gasp here for all you control freaks out there.  Being in control was a false reality, one that I was gripping onto for dear life and yet to heal I needed to let go.

I am a big believer in God, but yet putting my whole heart into trusting him was a big challenge for me. What if I didn’t like his plan? What was I to do then? I had a plan in my head that I envisioned and I was going after that plan.

I was chasing after this “perfect” feeling. In my mind if I was anxiety free I would feel perfect. Yes really, I would feel perfect. My body would feel great and I would never get headaches. I would never feel sad or angry or disappointed. I would never feel anxious or on edge. I would never have a bad day. I would do everything right and no one would ever be upset with me. My heart rate would stay at a normal steady rate no matter what I was doing. I wouldn’t get sore after a good workout. I would never make any mistakes. I would be perfect.

Could you even imagine how exhausting it is to chase the feeling of perfection day after day? And then imagine the disappointment each day that perfection wasn’t reached. When you chase something that doesn’t exist it is like running on a hamster wheel. You are going nowhere and in the end you are exactly where you started, just now you are really tired and completely defeated.

Around the middle of 2012 I was home sitting on the couch. My oldest was at gymnastics and my youngest at the time was taking a nap, so I was trying to enjoy a rare moment to myself. I was reading through a few Psalms in the bible hoping that something would pop out and bring hope into my heart. Psalm after Psalm I read and felt nothing. I finally closed the bible and literally got down on my knees and prayed. I prayed to God asking for guidance and strength. I prayed that he would lead me down the path of healing. I began crying as I felt a weakness overcome my body. For so long I had tried to be strong and with each failed effort I was left feeling weak and worthless. I soon found myself begging God for an answer, for my heart to be healed. I had been suffering for so long and I didn’t know how much more I could take before I would break.

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I have this verse in my room and I have read it so many times. There would be days that I would read it over and over as it stood atop my jewelry box, but it never really made sense to me. On this day in my living room as I was down on my knees this verse came to life. For the first time in over a decade I felt a peace overcome me. For a brief moment my mind was quiet. In the stillness of my mind I had found the answer. I needed to let go. I needed to let go of the desire to do things my way. I had all the tools right in front of my face, I was just too stubborn and angry to use them the right way.  God had already shown me the way, I just needed to follow.

I needed to stop chasing after the perfect feeling because it didn’t exist.  I was human and in this beautiful world I was birthed with perfect imperfections.  Feeling wholeheartedly was the only way to really live and in doing so I had to open myself to all feelings, good and bad.

This was it, I put my boxing gloves down and declared mercy.  I couldn’t fight anymore.  My way was not the way.  I had tried it for too long and it clearly didn’t work.

Once I let go and stopped fighting the answers began to come in more clearly.  I was finally ready to let go.

The Epiphany

Fly

e·piph·a·ny: A sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

The end of 2012 was a very important time for me.  Something was brewing inside of me, but I didn’t yet understand what it was.  I had this strong feeling that 2013 was going to be a big year for me, but I just didn’t know how.  I was seeing my EFT therapis,t Carol, once again to try and get a grip on my anxiety.  I had just started reading an anxiety memoir as a part of my own therapy.  I was interested in seeing how someone else had handled their own experience with this debilitating disorder.  I won’t share the name of the book, but it was awful.

The book I chose actually gave me anxiety.  The author started out by saying, “this is not a book about overcoming anxiety, it is simply about my experience and how I still struggle today.”  Well, no anxious person wants to read about another anxious person’s struggle without being given some answers and guidance.  The book left me feeling dirty (the author’s anxiety was triggered right after his first sexual experience, one in which he goes into great detail on and then refers back to constantly….vomit) and on edge.  I could not make it through the entire book, but there was one thing the author said that literally jumped out of the book, smacked me in the face and changed my life.

I don’t remember what exactly was written to quote the author, but he said in summary, “you can not teach your children anything more than what you know.  You can try, but at the end of the day they will learn more from seeing what you do and what you know, then what you say.”  Upon reading this I was immediately stopped in my tracks.  I could not read a sentence more.  I had to really digest what I just read and process it.  Now I have heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words,” probably a million times just like the rest of us and this was no different, but for some reason reading it here in this anxiety memoir deeply effected me.  At the time I had two daughters (I now have three) and all I could think about was what I was going to teach them by my own examples.  I began the long list in my head of things my two sweet little angels would learn from me.

I avoided malls as if they were disease infested buildings that would kill me.  I felt disoriented and out of control every time I set foot in one.  Food shopping made my heart race and I would always feel as if I was going to pass out.  I wouldn’t dare venture out into a large crowded area without my husband whose arm I would hold onto tightly.  He was the only one who knew how I felt in crowds so I could use him as my crutch to lean on.  I had a long list of things I wanted to do and accomplish that was nothing more than just a list because I was too afraid to fail so I never started.  I was tired ALL THE TIME.  My playtime with my girls consisted of me laying on the floor with a toy while my girls ran around trying to get me to move with them.  My body always hurt and I would say things to my girls like, “mommy can’t hold you because my back hurts or I’m too tired.”  I was giving excuses left and right not to do things.  I would avoid taking them for walks by myself because I would get dizzy and feel faint.  Taking them to one store took me a week of mental preparation and afterwards I would need hours to recover.  I was so nervous in restaurants and would sit quietly trying to calm myself and keep myself from freaking out.

What the hell was I teaching my kids already???

In that very moment reading those words in that ever so awful book I made a decision, one that would deeply impact my life and my happiness.  In that moment I vowed to overcome my anxiety once and for all.  I knew that it was going to be very hard and it was going to make me extremely uncomfortable, but I was going to do it once and for all.  There was no other option other than succeeding.

During my struggle I had always wanted to overcome my anxiety, but just like a drug addict “wants” to be clean, wanting is never enough.  At this moment in my life I no longer wanted to be better, I “needed” to be better.  Nothing was going to stop me, not even my biggest obstacle, myself.  There was no way I was going to let my own anxiety infect my two daughters.  I was going to kick anxiety’s ass once and for all and be an inspiration to my girls.  I was going to lead my children by example.

Each time I had tried to get better I had failed, but there was always a common thought that led to my downfall.  Each time I had doubted myself.  I always had the “what if?” thought.  What if I couldn’t do it, what if I felt like this forever, what if the good feeling didn’t last, what if I got hurt again?  I always gave myself another option in my head, but this time there was no other option.  There were no “what if’s,” there was only recovery.  I didn’t care what it took, but I was going to do it.

Here’s the thing, when you suffer badly from anxiety it becomes easier to continue on feeling the way you do.  It is a great challenge to overcome it.  It is a challenge that too many people give up on, because giving up is easy.  I know this because I did it so many times.

Now I need to point out that I do say I overcame my anxiety, but I really like to look at it as I’m in recovery.  I believe that anxiety will always be something I have to be aware of.  I have to know my triggers and use my tools to keep it at bay.  When I do this I am in control and not my anxiety.  I am at peace and I am happy.

Following my “epiphany” were a chain of events that further pushed me down the path of recovery, events that I will of course share, but reading that one small passage in that awful book lit a fire in me.  This very fire would burn so hot, pushing me to be stronger than I could have ever imagined.  I was on a mission.  I was going to regain control of my life and my happiness.  I would be the mother that my girls could look up to and I would be an inspiration to anyone out there who suffered as well.  This was it.  There was no looking back, there was only looking forward.  Whatever I wanted in my future I had to go out and create.

Now began to process of letting go.  I had a lot of baggage that needed dumping.

Happiness #quote

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