Saturday, January 7, 2017

Love, Light and Panic Attacks

So here we are in 2017. Today is day 7 of the new year. General consensus seems to be 2016 sucked hard, and most are hoping and praying for a better 2017. I would agree that last year had it's challenges and disappointments (some of us here in the US ended November with a zinger, President Trump). That was a tough one to swallow. In my usual fashion, I also look back to parts of the year that were kind of amazing. Reflect over lessons learned, ideas brought to fruition, the growth and health of my self and my boys.

I can honestly say for me, I think the last few weeks of 2016 and this first week of 2017 have been the most difficult. Although the holidays brought lovely family time, especially some wonderful days with my Dad who I hadn't seen in a few years, it also brought chaos. The usual holiday hustle and bustle, but something more as well. Our winter here in California has been really cold and wet. I know, that sounds fricken' ridiculous to those of you living places where it is under 50 degrees and covered in snow. I don't know how you guys do it! You are like some kind of super humans. I am struggling hard with the lack of sunlight, being indoors all time, and being constantly bundled in sweater and blankets. How badly I long for the warmth and light of the sun.

I had someone very close to me struggling for a while, mentally. Something that had been working it's way to the surface for a while that chose the week before Christmas to show it's face. Not great timing on the surface huh? But gotta have faith that the timing is always right. Being there for her wasn't hard, it was second nature, but I guess, it did effect me, as now I seem to be struggling a bit as well.

The kids have been home from school for going on three weeks. I love my babies to teeny tiny pieces. Spending time with them is a gift. AND, it's flippin' not easy either. The said weather is keeping us cooped up and a bit stir crazy. Our usual beach trips and hikes have not been happening. It's been a lot more electronics, board games (that too often end in arguments), and 2 young boys needing to get their willies out, which turns into fighting and whining over in here. Not gonna lie and say it's been dreamy and cozy people. It has had it's moments, even days, and it's also been stressful and stifling.

So I've been trying to get my head above the clouds here. Trying to get in the flow. I've been wanting to meditate on 2017, and my hopes and dreams for the new year. I've been wanting to talk with the boys about what they are hoping to become in this next 365. I've got the books out, the journal out, crystals, oils, incense. I've jotted down things here and there. Not resolutions, not promises...wishes and intentions. Knowing things will start moving forward next week as we get back into the swing of "regular life" (school, work, schedules).

I haven't been stressed or unhappy, just a little heavy I guess. Not so much my light and love, glitter and rainbows version. Then a couple of nights ago, I woke in the night to a full blown panic attack. Now, it's been yeeearrs since I've had one of these babies. Like maybe a decade or so. And yet, as it flooded over me, it was like it had been no time at all.

The fire rose from my belly up through my chest, and then through my arms. My legs went fuzzy like they were asleep. I was sweating but clammy. My head was swimming, my breath rapid an shallow. I was petrified. The terrifying thoughts started banging around in my head like grenades going off. "Am I going crazy? Am I loosing control? Am I dangerous?" I sat up in bed and looked through the darkness. I knew what this was, but why?! Why, after so long had I allowed this to happen? All of these years of recovery, of healing, of therapy. Years of learning to breathe through it, to refocus, to live in the moment. What the fuck? I thought I was stronger than this. Healthier than this. More full of light than this. How could this happen? Of course, this wasn't my fault. It wasn't due to a lack of trying, and lack of light, a lack of health, nor a lack of strength.

I breathed slowly, deeply and well. Filling my belly, then up behind my ribs, then my chest. I got a drink of water. Started visualizing the healing light filling my body, oh.... and then I got up and took a pill. I still have a stash of anxiety medication. Something I usually dig out of the back of the medicine cabinet for when a friend is in need. This time, it was for me. I was disappointed and scared. "Shit, is this the beginning of daily panic attacks and anxiety?" I lived that for years, and don't want to go back. Found a part of myself feeling defeated for going to the medication. Like I was giving up and taking the easy way out.

I cuddled up next to the hubs. And I fell asleep. It didn't last long, maybe 15 minutes. The next morning I woke up, still concerned. Not knowing why it happened, where it came form, what it meant for today. The few days that followed, there were fleeting moments of a feeling. Like a physical buzz accompanied by fear, that told me it was still in  my system, but I breathed right through those and reminded myself about who I was, my strength and wellness. Then I started to look at the situation again, differently. Although I knew there was some worry inside of me, I decided to reflect on the stuff that I did that worked. The choices I made that were healthy and right when the panic attack came. Although it's called a panic attack, I didn't panic. My body did. I felt the anxiety and fear flow through me, turning my belly inside out. But I did not allow my mind to panic. I focused and yet somehow I relaxed my mind. I breathed and visualized. I used the medication that was there for a purpose, even after all of those years. I did  everything I could do. I didn't let it take me by the hair and run me through the fire. I stayed grounded as much as possible.

I'm not certain why I had that panic attack. I suppose, even after all of the healing I've done, I have to make room for the fact that it can and will still happen. My physiology has this knack for fight or flight, for no real reason, at inappropriate times. And, anxiety doesn't always need a source or a trigger. It can just happen. It's tricky that way. I am a sensitive being (like so many of you reading this are). I feel things and absorb things, and yet, don't always consciously even realize it. That energy, good or not so good, builds up inside when I am not flowing creatively, or getting out into nature enough, it effects me. Apparently, it was time for a panic attack and the reminders and lessons that it brought.

So why tell everyone that I started the year with a yucky panic attack? Why not pretend it's all good, 2017 is here, and I am taking it by the whatevers and making shit happen? Well, I will be doing that, but it started with a little something else. And I share this with you, for a couple of reasons. One, mental health stigma has GOT TO STOP. We are all living in this fractured world together, most of us doing our best to contribute good things. There is no doubt in my mind, that every single person walking this planet struggles. Mentally, physically, spiritually. Some of us struggle in silence. Afraid of what others will think of us. Afraid of being seen as weak, or weird, broken, or ill...mentally ill. It's like a bad word that needs to be whispered. Some people reach out for help, for therapy, for medication, biofeedback, acupuncture, Reiki, whatever, but they don't share that either. They don't want people to think they are weak, or weird, broken, or ill. It's okay to have some sort of physical ailment, because people around you can see that. They can see your pain, and understand your burden. When it's in your mind, or even in your body (like so many autoimmune diseases) and can't been seen with the human eyes, the problem is looked at as something made up or over exaggerated.

I am here to say, I have been challenged in this life by anxiety disorders. I am not weak, not broken, not ill....maybe I am technically mentally ill. But I don't feel ill. And maybe a little weird, but that isn't because of anxiety. That is because I find weird beautiful :) I have been to therapy, have taken medication, have taken advantage of alternative therapies. They have all worked, and supported me in their own ways, at their own times. I am a Reiki practitioner and holder of space. I am honored to encourage others on the journey to wellness if they are called to utilize me for that purpose. Even those of us that are helping fellow beings through their struggle, are challenged ourselves. We are ALL challenged.

And, as it should be. We grow through the mud. We become strong and beautiful while breaking through the chrysalis. We are meant to learn it the hard way. We are meant to HEAL, to journey through brokenness and pain, to find faith and wholeness, strength and oneness. We are meant to hold our arms open for one another. To make it through our own hard times and then say to the one next to us...."We all have tough times. I'm sorry it hurts. I am here for you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE."

So here we are in 2017. I'll be busy this year, spreading bunches of love and light, glitter and healing energy, and maybe having a panic attack or two. And I want you to know, you are not alone.You are necessary. You are perfect. You are loved.


Happy New Year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Ebb and Flow

It keeps coming up for me. I am continually reminded lately how much of this dance of life is going along with the ebb AND the flow. We know about "going with the flow" right?  We know if we mean to be chill, to not stress, to just take it as it comes, we are gonna go with the flow. Going with the flow is kind of easy, like coasting on a bike. You don't have to do much, just put your arms out, lay back, take a breath and let the flow take you.

For some people, going with the flow is torture. Giving up control is the hardest part. They want to direct the flow. Letting it take them for a ride is very very scary. Where will it lead? They can't just willy nilly go with that flow. How do they know that flow is the right one for them? They could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. They have a plan, and said flow is not part of it.

A few years ago I would have found it difficult. I was beginning to realize control wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but letting go was still really tough. I definitely used to have a plan, or at least would get one together in a jiffy if need be, before I went flowin' anywhere. Thinking back to that version of me, I can actually feel my physical body tighten up. I can feel my breath become shallow. My neck and jaw stiffen. I was rigid and fearful, even though I never would have thought so at the time.

 Anyway back to the ebb and flow stuff. Ebb is defined as 1. The reflux of the tide toward the sea; the flowing back of the tide as the water returns to the sea. 2. A point or condition of decline; a flowing backward or away; a decline or decay.  So the ebb is probably seen as the not so fun and easy part of this whole deal right? Unless you have been practicing, you likely don't just "go with the ebb." The flow might be a little fast or windy, but the ebb is gonna pull you down. It's gonna yank you into the deep.

So why would we want to go with the ebb? Shouldn't we be avoiding the ebb at all costs? The control freaks are like..."okay okay, the flow isn't so bad...I can do the flow..just don't make me face the ebb!" And I use that term in jest, as I was one for a huge part of my life.

I've been in the ebb the last couple of months. Neither the ebb or the flow are necessarily swift. So how do I know I've been in the ebb? I haven't been flowing forward. My creative juices have been kind of still. I've been a little low (partially to blame on a cold gloomy winter when I am a totally solar powered sun worshiper). I've haven't been feeding myself the good stuff consistently. Meaning I haven't been practicing yoga or meditating daily. I haven't been spending enough time in nature. I haven't been creating. I have just kind of been living and sporadically caring for myself.

And as I begin to reach toward the shore now, coming closer to a point of flow, although not quite there yet, I can try to appreciate the ebb. I mean, I don't know that we are meant to be in the flow all the time. We are able to see the goodness in the flow, because we have experienced it's opposite. And, we have to be reminded now and then. Once we are more aware, and able to actually distinguish where we are, we can use that place for it's intended purpose, I can look at that definition of ebb and see some good stuff in it. Flowing backward isn't ideal, but maybe there are some things we need to look at before we continue to move forward. Decay and/or decline doesn't sound fun at all, but maybe there is something that needs to die in order for something new to grow in it's place. Maybe we need to have these times, these ebbs, so that when the tide comes in again, full of life and strength and beauty, we can be ready.

I look forward to the next flow. I feel it gearing up. I am excited to get in there and let it take me for a ride. I will celebrate my time in the flow. I won't take it for granted. I will move forward, and create, and heal, and grow. And when the ebb starts to reach for me again, I will go willingly knowing it too has it's purpose.