From Anxiety to Grace

Anxiety impacts I in 3 women and 1 in 5 men in Australia today.  Seven people will commit suicide each day.  Everybody will have some experience of anxiety in their life at some stage.  Anxiety is the biggest mental health issue in Australia.  Anxiety is often connected with depression.

Are you gasping yet? Has anyone ever told you these statistics?

I believe anxiety is a serious epidemic today and when do we ever hear about it?

We are strung out, miserable, stressed, time-poor craving love, tired,  in crappy jobs, around people who have little care for our wellbeing and so far away from what our soul wants that we feel hopeless and lost.  Life has no meaning and purpose.  How awful.  Seriously, life is meant to be better these days, but we have made it so much more complicated.   We have trapped ourselves.

I was brought up in a family and world that was not only in denial of anxiety but had a shame relationship to it.  Only wimps and losers confessed they had anxiety and total losers got help for it.  The disturbing part is that my family was totally gripped by and run with it.  It was so stressful and dysfunctional for me that something in me had already given up on life.  I was 16.

I will never forget the day, sitting at boarding school in study hall, utterly exhausted and on edge.  It was like a switch went off and I sat and acknowledged that I no longer cared, and no longer had the energy for what was expected of me in life.  I knew deep down inside though that the world was full of s*** and there was another way, another perspective and it didn’t matter how long it took, I was going to find it.

What was different for me, though? The universe had given me a bit of grace, and it was a strong intuitive antenna.  At that time, the only knowledge I had was from a strange spontaneous awakening when I was 11 years old.  That awakening at least gave me a compass for grace and my curiosity and desire for love and wisdom was so strong that to my good fortune, it crossed my path and saved me from a life of total depression, drugs and maybe even suicide.  Seriously.

My parents and family loved me a lot; they were beautiful, successful people in their way, but they weren’t emotionally healthy.  The dynamic at home was a volatile one and on top of that, the way we were disciplined was inconsistent which was confusing, and we were kept in line by being belittled and bullied.  Maybe that happened to them.  Even worse, if you spoke up you were humiliated and taunted into shame and towing the line.  They, of course, are in denial of this, but the damage is done, and my journey became one of a long relationship with anxiety and PTSD. 

I would like to note here though, that the adrenalin constantly pulsing through my body was handy too.  I was accustomed to enormous levels of energy and could work hard play hard.  Is that you?  Please stop, you're on borrowed time.  

Naturally I had no idea.  Doctors had no training it seemed in this area.  My health issues took centre stage too; stress was something inconvenient in the background that I was pretty much in denial of, had little understanding.  I remember one doctor causally giving me a box of Zoloft, saying that will fix it.  Whatever it was.  I didn’t even know what Zoloft was back then (anti-depressant) but knew by the vibration of it in my hand, and my body was screaming at me that it’s not the way, to throw it in the bin on the way out the door and never to go back.  I get that Zoloft can save people who are really in an extreme place, but it needs monitoring and careful administration.  It can be quite dangerous if not used well and here’s a GP handing it out, with no instructions at all, like it’s paracetamol.  Scary. 

When I saw alternative practitioners, they would tell me I was stressed and needed to meditate.  Well, that was a better feeling and was the cause of me plunging into 20 years of profound and transformative spiritual work in an ashram.  I never lived in the ashram, but became a part of it, and it was a remarkable time.  It, however, wasn’t geared to handle specific issues, and my anxiety went under the radar, and I had experiences that were a direct result from the anxiety gremlin inside.

I was a terribly disempowered person that had no personal boundaries, no self-worth or love, low tolerance of anger and a high defense mechanism; a tragic desire of fitting in, being accepted and being loved by the family was paramount, so I moved heaven and earth to do what made them happy.  Crazy I know, but I have a feeling there’s many of us out there stuck in that.  The tribal code, even if we are aware deep down inside it’s not right, or it’s not nourishing, our identities seem to depend on it.  To top it off, I had a life of health problems that were impactful and painful from disabled dislocating knees to severe endometriosis.  The medication, the routine surgery, the pain was enough alone to send my nervous system into overdrive and self-esteem down the drain.  Awful disease.

At one stage someone finally told me I had high sustained elevated levels of cortisol that was dangerous.  I was in my 20s.  Their advice was to remove the thing causing the stress.  Really?  Is it one thing?  Is it that easy?  I had no idea what was causing the stress.  I left with what felt like an unsolvable enigma and ignored it.  What was cortisol? In my 30’s I had another healer tell me that at 16 my fight or flight system went into overdrive, and there it stayed and is now causing problems with my hormonal systems.  It was starting to show more physical symptoms. Again, no solution but I was getting a clearer picture. 

During this time, grace sustained me, from my commitment and participation in my spiritual practice and community.  Plus I was a painter and loved art which nourished my soul, that always helps.  It wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed with cancer at the time I was having my two babies that things started to get too much.  I was in an unhappy marriage with a beautiful guy who had a similar past to me and was incapable of emotional connection, and I was on edge and challenging.  My relationship with my mother was wrought with pain and complexity yet I decided to be there for her and made it my life’s work for those five years until she died. 

The stress, depression, anxiety was like a blanket suffocating me, and I couldn’t seem to find a way out, and no one appeared to understand or have any compassion or empathy for what I was going through.  I remember one day in the kitchen, mopping up toddler food from the floor and having a huge desire to scream.  I saw me as the painting“The Scream” by Edvard Munch and knew something was wrong. 

My doctor, a new one, handed me some valium which this time, I took to get through the funeral and was glad because three weeks later my husband left and I was momentarily broken, alone and had two small children and no idea of what the hell I was going to do.  My family was shattered after my mother’s death, and there was no energy for support.

No one knew. I was intense and suffering but always put on a happy face and tried to meet the world with positivity.  Even getting counseling and therapy at this time, no one talked about anxiety.  Nothing. Tell your story again.   I was a skilled meditator now.  There was nothing I couldn’t transcend but I tell you, what was missing was a translation of that into the world.  It was a concept to bring the ‘yoga’ to the world.  I found teachers talked about it but had no good strategies to do it. Oh my goodness, there’s so much spiritual B.S.  I can’t wait to tell you more on that soon.

I did everything I could to figure it out.  I went deeper into my practice, did personal development work, did everything and all that did was drive me over the edge.  Here I was, deeply spiritual, having tremendous experiences and yet life was a trial, and I was in denial of how much until one day I knew it had to change.  It had to be different.  The personal development work added to the stress, often it was high intensity and high pressure and pushy.  It became unhealthy for me.  As I had Developmental Trauma Disorder, my unconscious inner language to myself was violent.  I would beat myself up like a cruel boarding school mistress out of a Bronte book.  I had no idea on the surface, but it was a huge problem. 

I kept searching for peace and thinking it lay in others, in finding the right person. I had to ‘fix’ me to find the right person and had to find someone who was doing the amount of work I was willing to do.  So I met another and ......

Crash.  I mean, finally, massive crash.  Alarm bells, lights flashing, all of that.  It was a hard relationship, and they again were stressed themselves and super scared. I decided to stay in there not only because of the love I recognized especially in myself which I was liking, but because I could see it was a perfect situation for me to work things finally out. 

I went to a doctor who told me the crash was psychosomatic and gave me seven days off work.  Worst advice ever.  Seriously, don’t go to a regular doctor if you have a total breakdown unless they are remarkable, they don’t seem to be informed or up to speed on what it is or what to do.  Not meaning to be harsh but let's face it, they are in general one trick ponies who pull out the prescription pad and get you entangled into a bigger loop of denial and dependency.  The best help I ever got was from an Integrative Doctor.  Sought one of those out, they know what is going on.

Grace had now taken over.  I had now totally surrendered to the divine and let it lead the way.  Whatever I tried to do wasn’t working, so I got out of my way for a while. I ended up with a specialist in the city who said I had ‘sympathetic excess’ and told me, knowing I liked a broad spectrum approach, to take a year off, finally learn how to relax, get help for the traumas and look at seeing an Ayurvedic doctor for food and lifestyle advice.  Excellent advice.  When I asked him what do I tell people who want to know what’s happened, he to my astonishment, said 'say you have a post viral syndrome.'  There it was, the old association of shame with anxiety. 

Luckily now I was switched on and working with grace, my intuition said it’s time to find out what is really going on.  At that stage, I experimented with diet, took on daily spiritual practice in a new way and researched.  I even studied and became both a chef and a health coach to work it out.  The chef was to give my food knowledge and experience cred. I know, crazy.  Ok here I have to confess and admit, I was that girl who’d given up, but still somehow a high achiever and slightly Type A.  I never stopped.  I was a doer and this in itself was up for transformation. 

I eventually discovered adrenal fatigue and the role of cortisol in the body and its impact on other important hormones and took the time to make the changes in my life and slowly heal.  I was, however, still in a very complicated relationship that was unstable.  I’d somehow become dependent and more disempowered than ever before, and it was eating me up.  When I meditated and prayed, God made it clear my path was to be totally independent and to be creative and do something I love and trust I’m meant to, but in my desire for love and settling down, I ignored it.

The biggest mistake I ever made.  The inevitable happened.  Total and utter crash, upheaval, destruction, you name it.  Enough.  In a way, my prayers were answered. This was the only thing that would draw my attention enough really to cause some change. My whole modus operandi was to be the best me possible and to be the spiritual being grace was causing me to be so the crash that came, this time, was deeply mystical, and I had very intense mystical experiences.  I was in fact, altering and healing myself from my cells, my karmas.  Everything. 

To do that, I had to wipe the slate clean, well the universe did that for me - the relationship was gone, health was gone, the home was gone, even my spiritual community eventually was gone.  I was back in that place of total uncertainty with just me and my kids.  This time, I totally listened to the loud voice of God.  It wasn’t at all subtle; it was LOUD. I was being told by every means possible, and I was listening.  I knew to be ok with uncertainty, that the universe had my back, and this was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me so long as not for a moment I had doubt, blame, a victim mentality and self-hatred. 

It turns out I finally had a stage 3 adrenal breakdown. It was a total divine set up.  When I look back and see the steps that were taken to get me ready for it, it’s nothing short of incredible.  However you wish to view it, it was grace; it was love. Enough.  The ultimate electric fence, I couldn’t push anymore.  I turned it into a sabbatical and a time of deep work and reflection.  It took me to deeper levels of my being; it exposed me to new perspectives, and it gave me a clear purpose; one that I would never have had even though it was in my conscious awareness. Finally finding an excellent therapist on adrenal recovery and anxiety was such a huge relief.

When I was younger, if anyone had a breakdown, they were treated like they had some contagious disease.  We would talk about their weakness behind their back and view them harshly. That’s if there was a rare occasion where you met such a sensitive, hopeless being.  I did get some of that from people, but then what was starting to channel through me was so fantastic that I began to own what had happened.  Stigmas just perpetuate the cycle.  I’m brave enough to break that cycle. 

There is nothing wrong.  There is just so much trying, pushing, doing, fitting in, being good, being bad, working things out.

We don’t need to struggle.  Inside the anxiety, behind the story, there’s the most magnificent place of love and self-acceptance. Of freedom.  There’s even a purpose.  There is a soul’s calling that can heal if we follow it and move away from the should’s we and others place on us; the expectations and what’s seen as right and acceptable.

We need to be responsible for our anxious natures and be loving and kind to ourselves.  To have a routine that puts our wellbeing first and look at our boundaries and especially what our trip wires are.  The path to freedom is a beautiful one and the old mystical practices of love, grace and consciousness are the keys. 

We all have equal access, but only those with beginner’s mind and an open heart are ready to draw upon it and heal.  It’s a journey.  A healing journey. Being honest with ourselves, humble and raw and interestingly enough, living with uncertainty.  That would sound scary and nerve-wracking, but it’s so empowering and full of faith and trust that magically the universe has our back.  The place of miracles.

Anxiety is part of my personhood in this life.  It’s made me see universally and to trust myself and to be independent.  It is not my prisoner but my rescuer.  It’s not who I am at an essential nature; that is always whole, pure and untainted no matter what.  It’s not something that has to grip my life; it’s something I have come to respect. 

Are you ready for the journey home?  For that is all we are looking for and some of us more hardwired for that than others.  We only ever want to go home, to our self, to pure consciousness, grace, spirit.  The deal is to go home, recognize and become aware of who we then bring that back and transform it into our world.  In essence, we transcend them transform.  There’s the beginning of the healing, the rest is the permission and actualizing of our life’s purpose, what we are here to do and what lights us up.  That’s the stuff that flows and gives.  Heaven, here and now.