“Living Well” with Anxiety
(A Coming Out of the Closet Story)
I have had this phrase said to me more times than I can count: “You’re too sensitive.”
In fact, one of my earliest memories from childhood is of my dad (God bless him) saying this to me. I know he didn’t intend any harm by saying this. I imagine he was simply fit to be tied with yet one more episode of distress, my sensitivities being the root cause.
I was a rather nervous child. I had a lot of stomach aches at school, and often wanted to come home to the quiet of our house where I could rest and watch old black and white movies on television.
I was also very sensitive to noise and commotion. Too many people, too much going on, and I could easily find myself begging my parents to take me outside or home ... where I felt “safe.”
As you can imagine, over the years, a low level anxiety about life settled in to my infrastructure. In time, and due to a number of life crises (including health issues), my anxiety levels rose. Undiagnosed—simply believing I was just too sensitive and learning how to cope with that in my own unique way—anxiety peaked in the early 1990s and resulted in a year long journey through chronic fatigue.
Life had become “too much.” My body/mind response was to crash and burn. Exhaustion. Full-blown anxiety, even panic attacks, could only be dealt with by closing out the world, pulling the covers over my head, and sleeping for hours on end.
Though, ironically, at the time, I still didn’t know that what I was experiencing was textbook anxiety.
Thankfully—thankfully!—during that time, as I became dedicated to restoring my health as holistically as possible, I discovered “the Dharma” in the form of mindfulness, and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Mindfulness practices, I believe to this day, saved my life. Awareness by newfound awareness, practice by practice, my health and well-being were restored.
Anxiety would took a backseat as long as I was living mindfully. And when I wasn’t, when the pace of life picked up again, I’d tumble back into its throes. This ebb and flow of wellness/illness lasted for many years, though I disguised it very well.
Most of the people in my life did not know that anxiety was at the core of my struggle—the “too muchness” of life. I hid it well and put on a brave front. “She’s just a little too sensitive and she gets tired easily,” was their understanding of my plight.
Crashing and burning again, this time accompanied by heart-pounding, breath-sucking, body shaking anxiety, I spent a month navigating agoraphobia—a fear of leaving my house, a fear that I’d have a panic attack, pass out, and no one would find me, or I’d just die on the side of the road—at least that was my experience of it. Anxiety plays wicked tricks with your mind.
Thankfully—thankfully!—I was able to find my way back to center—on my own, still officially undiagnosed, with the use of mindfulness, breath-work, and self-soothing practices.
I basically taught myself how not to experience anxiety. By learning to listen deeply to my body/mind, I created my own personal plan of how to “live well” with this condition; one that would come and go depending on my life circumstances. And it worked, as long as I took my own advice.
As I became more self-aware, anxiety became a profound pathway to inner peace. Today, I am actually grateful for the anxiety I experienced in the past—and still experience slightly on occasion. I am grateful because it offered me a spiritual wake-up call; an opportunity to look at how I was living my life and how to live differently with true peace at my core.
I have not spoken this publicly about the anxiety I experienced until now. There has always been an overarching cloud of shame or embarrassment about it. There is for many of us. I’d often say to myself. ‘You are a well-educated and capable woman. How could you fall victim to something like this?’
Well, I did. In fact, 18 million other people just like me have. In that knowing— there are so many of us who have struggled with anxiety—I take comfort. And I am ready to speak out about it more.
My first step in being more vocal and, hopefully, helpful to others has been to create a short audio Seminar.
I’ve titled it, “The 7 Spiritual Secrets for Transforming Anxiety,” and it contains what I know about how to “live well” with anxiety; how to reframe anxiety and allow it to bring us the spiritual awareness we need to live an empowered life rooted in mindfulness and self-compassion.
I invite you to learn more about it HERE or share news of it with a friend who might be struggling.
If we are to heal (and to help others heal), we simply must move beyond the shame and embarrassment associated with this “dis-order.”
Though, I must say, today, I don’t really think of anxiety as a disorder, but as an opportunity to re-order our lives.
Anxiety appears as a Spiritual Invitation bearing the message: “It is time to live in alignment with your spiritual truths—to live from the fullness of your being, moment by blessed moment—with love and peace evermore.”
And when we can accept this Invitation, anxiety can be our gateway to long-lasting serenity. I know this to be true. It has been so for me.
May it be so for you. May it be so for all of us.
May peace of mind be yours this day ...