January 24, 2019 by Sara Redman
It is mid-January as I write this now and I woke up this morning to return to work with genuine fire in my belly. I noticed in my morning meditation that I actually feel lighter and more centred than I have in years….and of course it is a truly welcome, blissful feeling. I was curious about how this has come to be, seriously, why do I feel so much lighter? And the honest, vulnerable answer is that I have finally tackled the monkey on my shoulder – my anxiety.
It was about 4 years ago when I watched myself start to unravel mentally and emotionally, manifested in deep exhaustion, and a lack of a will to do all that I love doing. To say this was tough is an understatement, as it has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, and it took a lot of courage to uncover and acknowledge that I have actually had a lifelong ‘high functioning’ anxiety at the core of what was my ‘normal way of thinking and being’. I worked out that I had even created a positive mask for my anxiety and fondly packaged it up as optimism, drive and enthusiasm. I suppose this package is partly representative of who I really am in terms of my natural mindset, however it became clear to me through therapy that it is in fact NOT normal to be constantly optimistic and driven every moment but quite unnatural, and deeply unhealthy. How can my body and mind recover if my brain is constantly firing, thinking, scheming and creating and rarely resting or just be-ing? The result of this pattern of anxious thinking meant that I was more often in the stress ‘fight or flight’ state than in the relaxed, parasympathetic state that my body requires to recover and maintain health and wellbeing.
So in a nutshell, once I was brave enough to admit to myself what was going on for me, I started to do the work to recover. My recovery ingredients are exercise, yoga, meditation, space in my diary for just for ‘me time’, and therapy with an exceptional psychologist. She has helped me understand how I got to be where I was, and helped me implement practical strategies to first recover and ultimately prevent me hitting a wall again in the future. I am still in stage 1 – recovery – but as I said I am noticeably lighter and feel as if a stifling weight has been lifted off my shoulders physically, but I know it is mostly mental and emotional weight that has shifted. I don’t know about you, but I am very partial to DEcluttering my physical environment, and only recently I have extended this practice to my mind and heart. Clearing out the old, unhelpful patterns that have become automatic is positively rejuvenating, and recognising, really ‘seeing’, what you have been doing and choosing to change it for the better is absolutely liberating. I am not kidding myself and don’t think I am there yet.
Not coincidentally I am sure, I am days away from my 50th Birthday. This feels like part of the mix. I am aware that I could approach this milestone birthday with love in my heart or trepidation….and luckily I was able to choose the former, mostly J. I genuinely see my 50th as a new beginning rather than a point of closure or an end point.
In reality, it will probably be a lifelong journey for me, but my gut tells me that coming clean on this publicly for the first time will be another way of shedding more of that emotional weight. This shedding will allow me to become lighter, clearer and more centred so I can better engage with all the people and things that really matter to me in this moment of my life.