Yesterday was a rollercoaster. It started off not so bad, quickly became super bad, then became an uphill battle and finally stabilized with an inkling of a feeling of victory and control. It didn’t come without its lessons though.
I won’t get into the gory details of everything but I’ll mention the important bits that led up to my anxiety attack yesterday morning. The biggest thing was that I have, in the past few days, become very aware of
a) how isolated I’ve let myself become
b) how scared I’ve become of putting myself out there and the risk of rejection when trying to connect with people and
c) how badly I actually want to make that connection.
With that awareness, and that acknowledged desire to connect… I suddenly began feeling like I was trapped in a cage. Actually, the analogy I used with my friend, Elizabeth, was that I felt like Ariel in that scene in the Little Mermaid when Ursula has gotten really big and huge and she’s created that whirlpool in the ocean, and you see Ariel sitting on a rock in the middle of it, staring up helpless and scared… trapped and immobile.
The next thing that happened was that it was my first solo store opening as a shift manager. Being the opener has proven to be something rather stressful for me. I don’t have a good rhythm down just yet and there’s a lot to do and depending on the day, you just never know how busy it’s going to be and how easily you’ll be able to get the procedural stuff done. I was anxious already and I knew it by 5:30 a.m. yesterday.
Suffice it to say, I was set up for what could happen and it did.
Work got sort of busy, no one had time to breathe really, and for me that meant a tailspin. All of a sudden I was plunged into the bottom of that oceanic whirlpool of self-doubt and self-loathing. I was seized by my feeling of fear and utter failure. The night before, I had wanted to call someone and hang out but I was so paralyzed by fear of rejection that I didn’t, which left me at home by myself and lonely. The memory of this came bursting in with the rest of the anxiety and by 11 am I had to leave for my lunch break or else I felt I’d go into a full on anxiety attack in front of my coworkers and our customers. My first thought was that I wanted cigarettes. I’d go to the gas station. But as I got in the car and drove, this teeny tiny voice broke through the screams of anxiety and said to me: “That’s a rather addictive and behavioral response you’re having right now. Don’t be reactive. Be active.” So, instead, I drove past the gas station to my yoga studio. No one was there, so I let myself in and just sat in quiet and breathed for a bit.
I calmed down and was able to make it through the rest of my shift (thankfully I was only there til 1 yesterday). But then there was the aftermath with which I had to deal once I was free for the afternoon. I felt overwhelmed by the weight of all the emotion. I wasn’t sure how to carry it, how to sort through it. I talked to my mom for a bit. Lots of word vomit and bad phrasing on my part and things coming out in ways that I didn’t mean. It was like unpacking a box that was not packed in an organized way. Just sifting through and tossing things out haphazardly. You see… when you’re cleaning and organizing things, it usually has to get worse before it gets better. You have to lay it all out there and see what’s before you. Then you can start putting it back in an orderly manner.
I suddenly felt like I would wake up one day and be crippled with regret that I’d wasted so much of my life hiding from people and not making connections. Then suddenly something in me woke up. The fear of that regret was greater than the fear of rejection. I made the call I’d not made the night before. I got a voicemail, so I left a message. But just doing that gave me an ounce of courage. I realized I wasn’t out of the battle yet. I felt my true defenses stand up, battered and bruised but determined as hell. I could turn this around. I could manage the victory if I tried. I realized how mad my ED voice was over the victory I’d gained on Saturday. It wanted to even the score.
I had been ready to skip yoga and mope all night but I decided I’d give my tired defenses some energy and go. I recently bought my [amazing, wonderful, generous, kind] friend Nancy and I some leg warmers for our yoga practice when we get together in CT this Christmas, and so in what seemed like a very trivial event, I decided that maybe putting on legwarmers for yoga yesterday might make me feel a little spunky. And if I knew anything it was that I needed some spunk to stay in this fight.
When I got there on my mat and started moving, with me in my yoga tights and leg warmers, the image flashed before me of myself as a ballerina. It sounds silly but it’s what happened. And then my whole practice felt transformed. Suddenly I felt, for the first time in months, graceful, pretty and, dare I say it, a little light hearted. This ballet, it still felt a little tragic, but it was delicate and poetic and full of grace. It occurred to me that my yoga mat is often the only place where I feel this way. I feel confident on my yoga mat. I feel like I float with the current. I never feel this way off my mat. After class, I let this realization settle a bit. I felt like I had a little more clarity into my issues. I simply HAVE to do something about my self-esteem, I have to build myself up.
In a rare moment of softness towards myself, I realized something else. Something very important. So… when you agree to fight anorexia you aren’t just agreeing to eat food again. You’re agreeing to feel again. I’ve said this before, I know. But what occurred to me is that in all my time avoiding feeling, I’ve never learned how to deal with what comes up. So I’ve agreed to let the feelings in but I’ve no idea how to treat this new company. That being said, it’s not going to be graceful and easy at first. It’s going to be just as I feel off my mat: hyper sensitive, clumsy, awkward and uncomfortable. But I just have to keep practicing. (I realized too that this is not unique to me… EVERYONE is trying to get through life in the same way.) All of the common yoga sayings popped into my head: “Practice and all is coming” (Patthabi Jois), “Open to grace,” (John Friend/Anusara), etc.
In my attempts at getting organized, things are probably going to get really messy before they get cleaned up. (For the love of pete, let me be in the middle of the biggest mess right now, though…) Sure, it’s overwhelming when it’s all laid before me, but there’s only one thing to do and that’s to dive in head on. I’ve got to throw out the trash, I’ve got to be awkward and I’ve got to feel my way through this. But if I keep fighting, if I keep practicing, if I keep cleaning I know in my heart of hearts that one day I’ll look up and realize that there’s no more mess about me and that things are in order.
I just know it.