Processing trauma is an invisible distraction.
To me, when a moment of anxiety or panic makes its approach, I can first feel all of my energy swirling into and around my heart and lungs, and I need to focus deeply on my breath. It instantly steals all of my vigor, and I need to sit or lay down before my appendages go completely numb. It is hard to breathe, but focusing on the steadiness of my breath helps calm my brain: I breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7, breathe out for 8, hold for 8. My fingers and toes are tingling, and my face starts to feel like it is being stretched from every angle. I widen my eyes and stretch my jaw to relieve the pressure, and take another deep breath. Then it all itches. But it is a subtle itch that I don’t have to scratch. As long as I don’t have to do anything.
I am now safe. It is my shield. Which often paralyzes me temporarily. Like my brain isn’t communicating right now. I can feel that it is still on, it just needs a second to gather itself and then restart sending all of the signals back out to my body. Right now it has one goal.
In those moments, I have an invisible layer of protection, a sensation of a layer, against the outside world. And all I can do is breathe until it passes.
This is what was happening to me right before and at the beginning of last Saturday’s class, again at one point during my workout, and then again the second I finished my last rep.
Whitney and Megan, I could hear you talking to me, but I was under my shield at the time. xo
When it is especially terrifying, I need to repeatedly verbalize to myself that I am safe in my body, and that I am surrounded by people I have sought out in life who love and support me. That typically happens when I am in an unfamiliar location.
But I felt incredibly safe, laying there on my red mat with one hand on my heart and the other on my abdomen, at Heirloom. Thank you all.
With lack of any real knowledge about how to talk about this crap, I thought it might be useful to share these 5 strategies that are currently saving my life at this incredibly challenging time.
#5 You Must Stop Judging Yourself to Enable You to Stop Judging Others
All of the fears that I had around business ownership, when I was deciding if I was actually going to go through with this crazy Heirloom idea, turned out to be just judgements I had. About myself, and others.
Enter your life with your eyes wide open, with intention and discernment. And when you see that you’re on a road that no longer leads in the right direction, be brave enough to change direction, even without the guarantee of anyone coming with you.
#4 The Full or Whole Body Yes
The magic is, trauma has taught my body what a complete body can feel like: all of the sensations from every last nerve ending. If my body doesn’t respond in that same manner, in a positive way, when presented with an opportunity/idea/offer/you name it, my answer is no.
If it’s not worth it to you to put in the effort to make it a yes, that is also fine. Your full body yeses are not always going to align with mine.
Either way, if it is not a full body YES, then it is a definite NO from me.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this 8 minute exercise might be useful.
#3 I Will Always Disappoint Someone Else Before I Disappoint Myself
If I can’t rely on myself, I really don’t have any right to try to rely on someone else. The more energy I put into making sure I am making myself the happiest, best possible self I have, the easier this strategy becomes. This is a repeatable mantra, great bathroom post-it reminder, and a great response to anyone who expresses turmoil over a decision they need to make that will also impact others: I will always disappoint someone else before I disappoint myself. Repeat.
Be warned, the audacity it takes to be your own El Numero Uno and the humility it takes to not have that behavior alienate you from your peers, is not for the faint of heart.
# 2 Have More Questions Than Answers
Don’t assume you know. Don’t interject your expectations onto my experience. Don’t hold your beliefs so tight they strangle you. Don’t enter a conversation with a solution. Don’t respond to feelings with logic. Don’t displace my lived experience with yours.
Seek more. Know less. Be infinitely curious.
And the number one thing that is keeping me alive right now:
#1 Radical Acceptance of What IS
Acceptance without understanding is a human kindness not often enough deployed.
Healing wears many hats. Help comes in many packages. Pity isn’t compassion.
Our ability, or lack there of, to radically accept what IS, will pave the path of our journey.
I KNOW that I feel the best possible, when I’ve had at least 4 intentional workouts in a week. It doesn’t matter the intensity, and I always end up doing more than I expected I would, when I workout in a class at Heirloom.
Today’s workout is 100 squats. Vague enough for anything to work, designed to encourage everyone to learn how to challenge your movement in the ways that lead you in the most direct path to your goals.
I did sets of 5 each of overhead, front then back squats. So, 15 reps per set, at a very light weight, alternating between paused positions and banded at the ankles and knees.
It elevated my heartrate, challenged some muscle groups that I’m often lifting too heavy or fast to engage, and had me participating in a group class of people that had no idea I had another panic attack around 9.38am.
I’m totally fine. Also, read this.