Well, well, well: A situation I had hoped never to experience again rose up and caught me square on the chin a couple of days ago. First, the back story…
After encountering extreme anxiety in my 20s, my subsequent foray into the professional world of yoga and massage therapy filled the “doctor’s bag” from which I pulled for myself and others: In order to counteract an “anxiety disorder,” I would not only unearth the experiential, biochemical, and psychological components, I would temper them with spiritual devotion and alternative healing modalities.
I began to move along more confidently, more freely and lightly. One episode cropped up again about 10 years ago when I was not looking. I had entered a prestigious academic scenario, and with the confidence and encouragement of my professors, I plowed forward. The problem was that I had never intended—I actually said I had no interest—in obtaining a Ph.D., or in pursuing a career in academia. But I stopped listening to myself: I stopped hearing and seeing the signs that were subtly shining all around me; and I wound up without any sense of spiritual, mental, or emotional foundation.
I have spent the last decade renewing my devotion to the divine ways of the Universe. Much of what I write in this forum is a reflection of and testament to how one can eek her way back from the edge of whatever potential abyss lies in wait. For each of us undoubtedly has imagined (or fallen into) a possibly terrifying pit around which we we wend our way as we plod through this lifetime.
What made my recent stumble along the edge of that darn pit most perplexing is that the situation was part of my work, which I have modestly, mindfully built and maintained. But this particular gig… I had an “off” feeling about it from the very start: However, because the referral came from other clients—and because this is a “slow” time in the year—I convinced myself to commit.
The details of the anxiety attack that gripped me only hours into the job are less important than my response to it. The physical symptoms were unmistakable and unshakable in the moment; and the trigger was a surprise, but on a spectrum of similar unwelcome stimuli. I had, however, learned and practiced how to meet the physical, mental upheaval with whatever strength I could summon: My “will and determination” tend to be present in most challenges, but this circumstance demanded a mightier force.
I became my own Care Quartet: psychiatrist, healer, yoga teacher, and friend. Each of these aspects of myself were guided fully by divine grace, courage, and wisdom: I held my connection to these wondrous gifts with the grip of one clinging to a rooted vine at the precipice of that ol’ pit. I recognized that I could feel my whole body, as stricken by shaking and tension as it was; I could feel my feet on the ground, which had not been the case in prior episodes; and I was present enough to harness the healing effect of each deep breath that moved me from one moment to the next.
Fast-forward 18 hours: After a nearly sleepless night during which I began to assess my dilemma (a 4-day dog-sitting job in which the pooch had a significant behavior issue that was my unexpected trigger), I began to climb my way up from my dangling sway in the mouth of the pit. With my previous bouts of anxiety, I had felt ashamed of what I perceived to be a deep failing or flaw: What informed and astute yogi can not keep herself calm? I would relate the episodes with indignation that I had “been placed” in the situation, or I would blame the environment as the culprit.
This time, however, as I wrangled with my quandary through the night, I simultaneously was calling upon the Universe, and deeply listening for instructions from the divine. Eventually a plan became clear. What an outrageous plan: Be honest.
And that is what I did. Upon rising, I stayed calm and proceeded as consistently with the dog as possible, yet with each unpredictable growl and bark, my body reminded me that the Plan was necessary. That morning, I wrote, messaged, and spoke with the three people who needed to know that I was in a bind that would not end without my leaving the situation. By being honest, my need for help was met with kindness and swift action.
Now, back home, I recognize that although, yes, anxiety swept through me at a shocking rate, the situation was novel in its brevity, in my handling of it, and in others’ response to it. This morning, I sent off a note to one of the three people I contacted for help. In the closing, I wrote what I share with you now: “I am back on track, with more insight, gratitude, and peace than ever…”