Search

Just Breathe

Category

mental illness

When life gives you Monday…

Today did NOT go like this. There was no sparkling to be had, no glitter left lying around.

Anxiety comes and goes in waves. Sometimes they’re just creeping up on the sand enough to touch your feet, making sure you know the ocean of fear is still right there. Other times it’s a bigger wave that catches you at the knee and pushes you over. And sometime it’s a massive wave, one that pulls you under tumbling around, unsure which way is up.

Today is a massive wave.

Even when I’m feeling so anxious that I can’t talk on the phone, I still resist taking calming medication, and I resist changing anything for or because of the anxiety. This isn’t always healthy though, and today I had to push my competitive instincts and pride aside to not only take that extra help from medication but also to call in sick to work.

I had a really great day on Saturday with some people I am so thankful to call best friends, and some others that I’m really excited and happy to call new friends. If anyone had met me for the first time on Saturday, they would have no idea anything else is going on inside that brain of mine, aside from a normal, fun, 26 year old’s thoughts.

But then Sunday rolled around and I was hungover in the morning. Whenever I’m sick, hungover, injured – anything that makes my body vulnerable – anxiety creeps in. As if vulnerability is a crack in the ceiling, allowing water to seep in, allowing waves to form and knock me over.

On Sunday I couldn’t talk to anyone. My own mother called me and I rejected the call, texting her instead to say “I’m ok but I’m super anxious, I’ll probably call you back tomorrow.” – luckily I have an amazing mother who completely understands. Or at least really tries to.

One of the hardest things is that “completely understanding” would mean having the same diagnosis with similar triggers and reacting in the same ways. Unfortunately to find someone like this is near impossible. I understand it’s a foreign world to many, but I’m always so appreciative when people try. Ask me questions, try to understand my thought process, lack thereof, or intense fear and worry.

Today though. Today is Monday. When I went to bed anxious last night I decided that tomorrow would be a new day and I would be productive at work. Well, I ended up going to babysit before work, forced some cereal down my throat and realized that I am 100% not okay. When my favourite little kid can’t make me laugh, I know I’m not okay. I dropped him off for a day of fun with friends and he gave me such a long, warm, loving hug which made me truly smile for the first time all morning.

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favourite things on this planet is hugs. You can say so much in a hug. Language doesn’t matter. You just close your eyes and connect with another person in an intimate, vulnerable way. You can tell a lot about a person from their hug, and you can create a lot of smiles giving them. My little friend who still counts his age in single digits knows this without me telling him anything, and boy oh boy his hugs are the best!

I decided I wasn’t in a state of mind where I could accomplish anything at work today, never mind answering a phone, or even driving there, so I emailed my bosses and told them I wasn’t going to make it in. But what do you say? I’m not physically sick, I don’t have anything that I can get a doctor’s note for – in fact going to a doctor may trigger everything further. It’s my first time ever staying home from work solely due to anxiety but I’ve certainly left work because of it, countless times. I’m starting to get better at knowing when to push my pride aside and giving in to not being mentally okay every single day.

It’s hard not to hate Generalized Anxiety Disorder with every part of my being, and in other posts I’ve mentioned some great positives that I’m fortunate enough to have received, learned, or realized due to my diagnosis and struggles. However today I write honestly in my present (frustrated) feelings.

It’s exhausting being anxious all the time – physically exhausting because your emotions and sometimes your physical body have gone into overdrive. I imagine most people with anxiety are the same in the sense that even though I might go to bed smiling tonight, it doesn’t mean I’ll wake up smiling tomorrow. I will likely be anxious again tomorrow but the waves will be smaller than today. Each day this will progress until they’re just touching my toes. And that’s where it will stay until the next wave breaks.

Today a wave knocked me down and pulled me under. I couldn’t just get up, and swim away – I was caught underneath, spinning around, helpless. I needed helping hands, understanding hands, loving hands, to help pull me out of the water. And for all those hands, I am absolutely grateful.

Advertisements

Let me tell you a story

I usually live an extremely busy life. I love it and I know it will never change. It’s part of my personality; who I am. I get restless quickly and keeping busy is fun to me. However, it’s only natural that every once in a while I need to take some time for myself and just be. I don’t usually realize how busy I am until someone points it out to me. I also don’t do it on purpose – I just love using all of my non-working time to do things that I love. This to me is living life to the fullest. But it’s not always so easy.

When I take time for myself it gives a chance for some weird emotions to surface. It’s also when I’m even more hard on myself than normal. I’m sitting here writing this in what feels like a super weird emotional state – almost ready to cry, a little inspired, angry at myself, laughing at myself, but also relaxed and a little anxious.
When I have “lazy” days, evenings, afternoons, or mornings, I get really anxious even if there are no apparent triggers. Aside from being a very energetic person, this is a huge reason why I stay busy – as much as I want to, I won’t pretend it isn’t. But it also makes sense, think about it: when you go through something traumatic like a break up, or death, advice that’s almost always given is to stay busy and it will help you get through. This is true. It works. But only temporarily. It only works until you need that few hours of chilling on the couch – and then your brain has the opportunity to go nuts!
I’m sure we all know by now that anxiety is a daily struggle for me. It’s part of who I am, and I accepted that a long, long time ago. But this doesn’t make it any easier to deal with or handle. Much of what makes me anxious is a mystery, but a major trigger for me is relationships. Because boys are dumb.

Ha! I wish that was why. The real reason is that I’m terrified. I’m terrified all the time about a lot of things. Like relationships – mainly with potential boyfriends, but also with friends and family members.

Let me tell you a story. About three years ago, I was talking with this guy online (from one of those many apps we all know of). We talked for a while and I avoided meeting up with him twice. My anxiety was so bad that when I even thought about meeting him I couldn’t eat, and I felt like I was going to throw up. I gave in on the third ask to go out, and my thoughts going into it were this: “This guy seems like someone I would like. He’s athletic, smart, seems potentially funny, and he’s cute too! I’m going to make myself go on this date with him so I can prove my anxiety wrong, and win.” I’m not sure trying to beat my anxiety like it was a game was such a great approach, but to this day I’m proud of myself for following through.

On the day of, we were to meet at a restaurant at 2pm and I was great with this time knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to eat, so I could say I already had lunch and wasn’t hungry. Already planning and worrying ahead. I stayed in bed all morning because my anxiety levels had shot through the roof. The date was fine, nothing amazing and nothing awful – and it turns out I wasn’t really attracted to him after all. However, mid-date he asked if I wanted to walk around… I said “Sure” – no emotion because moving sounded like an awful idea to me since I had JUST shaken my nausea. Not for long though! We proceeded onto the escalator and along came a huge wave of nausea. As if it were in slow motion I had this full vision in my head of me throwing up right on him, in front of tons of other people and being completely mortified. I stepped into the escalator, stepped off, and when he asked if I was ok, I stepped back on and said “yeah!”. We both (I’m sure) knew I wasn’t exactly ok. I immediately asked where the washroom was and beelined to it as soon as I stepped off the escalator.

Well, it was a good thing I didn’t have an appetite earlier because I threw up the contents of my stomach and then some, and came out pretending to be freshly powdered, if that’s a thing. To this day I have no idea if he thinks I was running away from him, if he knows I threw up, or if he thinks I took a poop.

I couldn’t handle any more of this and after another 10 minutes I (more bluntly than it sounded in my head) asked where he parked. And thus ended the first date I ever puked on.

Maybe you relate. Maybe you’ve been through this exact thing. Maybe you think this is hilarious.

I’ve told this story plenty of times before and every time without fail it comes out like I’m a comedian standing on stage telling a funny story to the crowd. That’s how I want it to sound. Might as well make it funny, right? I truly do believe that laughter is the best medicine, but this digs a little deeper than that. So this version is more matter-of-fact than funny.

I joke all the time that I’ll just be a crazy dog lady and travel the world whenever I can, and eventually build a life with adopted kids. In all truthfulness, this is the worst case scenario of my future that runs through my head to make myself feel better when I’m feeling down or off or out of sorts. It rolls off my tongue like a well-oiled joke when I say it out loud, but in reality I’ve thought this through and come up with the idea that this wouldn’t be such an awful life so I need to chill out and stop worrying that I’ll puke on every potential suitor. Easier said than done.

I share this because I was just sitting here thinking pretty negatively about myself and then the angel on my other shoulder chimed in and said “Hey! There’s NO WAY you’re the only one who is a) going through what you’re going through, and b) struggling in the same areas of life.” And I think the angel has a point here. So rather than sitting here dwelling on things that I wish I could be courageous enough to do, I choose to share my thoughts, feelings, and struggles with the hope that someone reading this will relate. And whether you relate with a grin and a nod as you exit this webpage, or whether you relate with a message to me, it is a relation nonetheless – and that is two thirds of ‘relationships’.

At the least, enjoy the things you may find easy or stress free. These are the things we take for granted and it may not be so easy for others.

Welcome to the World, Just Breathe Yoga

ForOneMinute

I went to the University of Ottawa for 4 years after high school. I loved everything about Ottawa and still do – I love visiting those places that carry memories in a way that put a smile on your face before you even realize you look like a happy goof to the world around you. Those are the places I miss, but I suppose it’s really the memories from those places that I miss.

University is certainly no walk in the park – growing from a teenager to a young adult is not an easy feat, and though I’m now 25 and perhaps considered a “real” adult, I am still growing and always will be.

In my second year of university I couldn’t do a lot of things I wanted to. Nothing was physically holding me back, except that it was. I was diagnosed with Anxiety when I was 11 years old. Though it’s considered a mental illness, I don’t consider it as such. Anxiety is not an illness to me, but a part of of who I am. Having anxiety is technically something off kilter with chemicals in my brain, and let me tell you it is certainly a struggle to live with. But you do. You just do.

In my second year of university my anxiety was the most intense it had ever been up until that point. I had my first panic attack and I am forever grateful for my darling roommate at the time for spooning me that night until I stopped crying, fell asleep, and as my alarm went off the next morning.

But there is so much more than just the bad stuff. The personality traits that I love most about myself come from my anxiety – my outrageous sense of humour, my unbelievably realistic ability to stand in anyone else’s shoes and feel with my whole heart and soul what they’re feeling, my uncanny ability to observe and respond to people’s feelings without their saying anything at all, and my ability to feel and explore every feeling of my own, to live every moment, and to appreciate the simplest things – such as waking up in the morning and feeling normal rather than feeling as though I will vomit at any moment, or waking up and actually vomiting.

Yes, life is tough – and don’t we all know it! But we find ways to get through. And for me anxiety has been, and most likely always will be, my hardest battle.

 

MomandS
My beautiful, supportive mother with my fluffy sister.

So – in my second year of university my beautiful, supportive mother gifted me a yoga mat during the holidays that came with a miniature DVD which had an extremely basic 20 minute yoga practice on it. As cheesy and drastic as I know this will sound, this little DVD and yoga mat changed my life.

I used to squeeze the mat diagonally in the small space between my bed, door, and desk, and I would place my laptop on the end of my bed for optimal viewing. I went through the practice and felt more calm than I had in months. I decided in that moment that I would do this 20 minute yoga practice every night before I went to bed. I promised myself that even if it was too late to function anymore, I could certainly spare 20 more minutes of sleep to feel this sense of calm.

 

Grad
Graduating from the University of Ottawa – my favourite picture which happens to have been taken by my spooning roommate’s mother. 

A couple months later the panic attacks had subsided, I was less of a hermit and able to enjoy social gatherings again. As a bonus, as I resurfaced in my friend groups people were complementing my physical appearance left and right. I felt better than ever.

And thus began my yoga addiction.

Two years after graduating, and having caught the travel bug, I ventured off on the trip of a lifetime (though I didn’t know it until I came home) to Montezuma, Costa Rica where I lived for one month among the most amazing group of women, and the most knowledgeable, inspirational, energetic, determined yoga instructor and teacher I have ever had.

Every single one of those people left a beautiful mark on my life, and after gaining many friendships, a ton of knowledge, a certified yoga teacher certificate, and an appreciation for the talent monkeys have for stealing objects from humans, I was off galavanting the Pacific coast for a couple more weeks before I returned home.

FirstClass
The first yoga class I ever taught. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to teach these two beautiful humans, and I’m so lucky to have shared this accomplishment with them. They are in Savasana after a successful 2 hour yoga practice.  

Everyone said I would come back to Canada and be “all zen-ed out”. In fact I felt a little bit sick of yoga, having done it for at least 6 hours a day for 4 weeks straight. I went back home and went wholeheartedly back into the exercise routine I had left behind – CrossFit and boxing. After about a month I started going to yoga classes again and that’s when I realized how well yoga co-exists with life. Rather than returning home in a zen state, I came home changed. I had found an even deeper appreciation for the practice, and had such a full brain but I didn’t know where I wanted to go with everything just yet.

Another year and a half later, I am now living in a different city than the one I grew up in, I have new friends, a new community, a completely different job, there have been changes within my family, I have more experiences under my belt, and I am finally really excited to announce that I will be a regular, 3-days-a-week yoga teacher. As I continue to explore life as a 25 year-old woman with much behind me and even more in front of me, I look forward to sharing my story with strangers and friends, and strangers who become friends, in my own yoga classes.

Crow pose

My main goal in life is to help people in any way possible; to be part of the reason someone’s smile appears on their face. Through Just Breathe yoga I intend to do so as often as possible. And who knows, maybe even be an inspiration to someone out there!

I hope to see you in my classes soon! Just Breathe.

From my mat to yours – Namaste.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑