Passing the Test and Sitting with Feedback

My solo journey was a test; I wanted to see if I could take care of myself, and if by doing so I could gain confidence and prove that I could be the dragon all by myself out in the big scary world.

Quite frankly I would have been proud of myself if I had managed to drive and stay in the hotel in Portland for a couple days. What I did was far beyond that. I didn’t just survive on my own, I thrived. I put myself in a situation where I was constantly pushing my boundaries and challenging myself to go outside way outside my comfort zone. I was stronger and braver than I knew I could be. And I even enjoyed it.

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I did have moments of panic, self-doubt, and times where I was absolutely sure I made the wrong decision. Overall these moments were a mere blip in the whole experience, and overcoming them felt more like a victory then had they not occurred at all. I realize I cannot escape from myself, no matter how far I travel, but I can handle it and hold myself with compassion as I continue to live my values. Therefore, I will say I aced the test.

I feel like it’s given me confidence I can apply to other areas. That it has shown me what I can do and that knowledge will make it more difficult to stay small and hold back. I’ve seen first hand what I am capable of so it’s pretty difficult to deny. Even if I choose to stay in the cell, I’ll know that I am capable of running free -it will be a choice. I know the secret now… the door isn’t locked.

“This is a place of beauty. A place for me to find out who I am. I’m free to explore and be whoever I want. But am I not free anywhere? Isn’t it only my own limitations that stop everywhere from being here?” ~Insight at Earthdance

Which brings me to the feedback. Being at earthdance was an eye-opening experience. I may have been on a trip to prove to myself that I could take care of my needs, but what was interesting was how much I discovered what those needs are. It made me very aware of a whole new realm of needs that need to be addressed. On one hand the trip made me more confident as a caretaker, but on the other hand it actually made that job more difficult.

I’ve been unsettled and uncomfortable since I returned “back to reality”. Awareness is a double-edged sword. I’m happy for the insight and excited to strive to fill those needs, but the reality of living with unmet needs is frustrating. I got a taste and now the cravings are relentless, but I don’t know how to feed myself, and I’m starving.

“As I walked through the woods I could feel my perception change. I was concentrating on the trunks like i usually do, but then I noticed the branches. Once I focused on the branches they were all I could see, everywhere. Like a cat’s whiskers. They are always there yet somehow invisible. And then there’s a shift, a change in light, and you notice them. They aren’t just there, they’re overpowering. You can’t believe you couldn’t see them before. You wonder if there’s a time when they will fade out of your awareness again.” ~Insight at Earthdance

As uncomfortable as I am, I hope it continues until I can make a change. I don’t want to lose this ambition for more, even though it’s making my skin crawl. I don’t want to feel restless or caged- but even more so I don’t want those feelings to become so normal I don’t even notice them. So normal it feels fine. Everything is fine. Everything is not fine. I hear Dr. Wilson’s voice clear in my head as validation to sit in this discomfort; when it comes to your life “‘good enough’ is not good enough”.

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This journey gave me a lot of insight into who I am, what I need, and what I’m capable of. At the same time it showed me what I don’t have, what I’m yearning for, and that change is paramount.

It’s a gift I’d never return, like a surprise puppy dog under the Christmas tree.

“I feel like I’m a different person here. Maybe I’m not a different person. Maybe I’m me – with less limitations.” ~Insight at Earthdance

Utterly Transformative

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Wow.. where the fuck do I even begin. I feel like one of those debit machines that just keeps flashing “processing..processing..”. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say later, and it may be premature to write about this before I’ve had a chance to truly reflect, but I feel compelled to share some of my raw, unrefined thoughts so please bear with me.

I spent the last four days at earthdance exploring free movement, sounding, contact improv dance, and much more with a group of wonderful, free-spirited people. I did things I never expected I would do; that actually make me laugh when I recall in my head because it’s so absurd that I actually did these things –ME!?!

To give you a taste of what I’m talking about – I participated in improv sounding and movement (one example being jumping up and down yelling “ka-kaw” pretending to be a crow), performing improv monologues and dances IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, literally hanging out with trees (I’m an actual tree-hugger now), as well as contact improv dancing (which is basically rolling and flipping over people..and those “people” being strangers on the first night). So yah, I did that.

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I dove in. I took risks. It’s not that my insecurities vanished as I arrived at this place, although it is magical. I felt my insecurities and inner bullies bubbling up, especially in moments of intense vulnerability.  At times I felt them tying me down like I was on a leash, and although I can’t say I fully broke it, I pulled it so taut that I was able to meet the challenge anyway.

I made many choices this week. The choice to go, the choice to keep going, the choice to participate, and the choice to seek out even more opportunities to participate. As I sit in my hotel room, half-way home, I am feeling proud and extremely empowered.

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One choice in particular is sticking out to me about this weekend. In this one workshop we had just finished our monologue performances and I was shaking with the shock of being so vulnerable and witnessed. It was time for the next activity, which was picking a “status” from 1-10 and acting it out. At this point, I was naturally feeling very 1ish and I felt compelled to write down a 1. I paused, staring at the paper with the 1 on it. That 1 stared back at me as if it was reprimanding me with a “you know what you need to do” snort of derision. That’s when I added the zero.

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I decided that what I really needed right then was a boost of confidence, even if I didn’t feel it. So I made my 1 a 10 and took it overboard- I decided I would not just be a super high class woman, I was going to be a superhero. So I proceeded to fly around the room with a huge smile, yelling “I’m awesome” “I can save you!”. It was just a silly exercise, a mere moment in the realm of the whole weekend, but it feels monumental in the grand scheme of my transformation journey.

 

 

 

The Beginning..and Dodgeball Apparently

The beginning. I guess it’s too early to say it was the hardest part, but deciding to go and actually leaving felt like a huge hurdle. And not a hurdle that was cleared gracefully like the skilled hurdle jumpers do, but rather one I was trying to climb with one leg still planted on the ground that I ended up straddling until I fell in a heap on the other side.

Leaving was painful; the voice that is all too good at convincing me to stay home in bed continued in full force long after pulling out of my driveway. The whole drive through Nova Scotia felt easily erasable, I was playing the indecisive game until I reached the half way point of tonight’s destination. Once I reached the point where going back home would have been as much, if not more difficult then continuing onward, it felt easier. There was a relief in it, a finality to the decision to actually go through with this plan, for better or worse.

IMG_1292I made myself a rear view mirror hangy-thing (if there’s a term for this I have no idea what it is, and google wasn’t fast enough for how tired I am). I like having my dragon girl with me; she’s right there reminding me what I want to be – what I can be.

To stay would have been to stay small, and that can’t be me anymore. Even though it’s familiar and still so ingrained that it’s formed a weave with my identity, I know it’s time to let that go.

While driving I had a flashback to playing dodgeball in grade school. There were a few boys in the class who threw the balls with such ferocity they would leave bruises, and had enough force behind them they’d knock over classmates who ran by. I was scared of getting hurt. I was afraid of them. In order to secure my safety I made a deal with these boys; whenever I caught a ball I’d hand it over to them, and in return they wouldn’t hit me.

Red Ball --- Image by © Lawrence Manning/Corbis

I sacrificed any chance of winning. My only goal was to keep the dodgeball bullies happy so I could be safe. I literally gave away my power. Driven by fear, I made myself small to survive gym class – I never won, I never really even played, I simply existed until the bell rang.

This pattern didn’t end with gym class. I’ve been perpetually making myself small, giving away my power to outer and inner bullies, so I can exist.

But what’s the point in just existing? Sure, I felt safe in my small role – at least at times, and the method of keeping others happy did seem to work. But what did it do to me? Putting on mouse suit over mouse suit for so long, it’s no wonder that after a certain amount of time I didn’t remember there’s a dragon under there.

I’m done. I no longer want to simply exist while waiting anxiously for the bell to ring. I can’t frantically scurry around chasing an elusive form of safety. I can’t give away my power.

It’s time I pick up the ball and throw it myself. I might get hurt but at least I’ll be playing, and who knows, maybe I’ll take out a few of those motherfucking bullies while I’m at it!

I’m off into the great unknown tomorrow, my only plan is to end up somewhere between here and my final destination in Massachusetts, everything else is up in the air.

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More inspiration on the dashboard. The pic on the right is the dragon and the little girl, and the yellow thing is my hook card 🙂

 

To Go or Not To Go

..that is the question that has been plaguing my psyche for weeks now.

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A few months back I discovered a three day dance/creativity workshop retreat. It takes place at the end of this month, a 12 hour drive away from here in another country. When I discovered the retreat my heart leapt out of my chest with excitement. I was intrigued and energized about the possibility of going. The idea of driving there alone, finding places to stay, experiencing the workshops and people put this huge dumb smile on my face. It felt right.

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The closer it gets the more that sense of “right” is turning into uncertainty, excitement into fear, and intrigue into wishing my passport would magically expire overnight.

I felt empowered about the idea of travelling solo and proving that I can take care of myself; showing myself that I am stronger, braver, and more capable than I think. The hope was that this trip would make me more connected with the dragon, but now I’m worried it’s going to do the exact opposite.

When I think about the trip, I honestly cannot even picture doing it. Maybe that’s perfectly fine, but for some reason it scares me. Maybe it means I’m not ready. Then again, maybe the only way you really get those clear pictures of yourself is by doing the things you are trying to imagine. I certainly have no issues imagining myself panicking 😉

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I haven’t felt particularly strong lately, certainly not as strong as I wanted to feel before taking this trip. I want this to be a good, healthy, empowering experience, and I’m worried that if I go and end up feeling like shit that it will only perpetuate the belief that I can’t do this. I’ll never be able to travel again. I’ll never be okay alone. I’ll never be able to take care of myself.

Is this just fear that I should push through or a sign that I’m truly not ready that shouldn’t be ignored?

Not To Go. What does that accomplish? As much as I can wish that I never found out about this retreat or had the idiotic idea to sign up for it, the reality is that it is already in my mind (and now you all know about it) so at this point it would really feel like I’m backing out of it. And doesn’t that also prove and perpetuate the belief that I can’t be alone/travel/all those things I’m worried might happen if I go and fail? Doesn’t backing out just mean I fail before I even try?

..or is it protecting me from a bigger fall?

This incessant game of mental pong is driving me mad. I don’t know what the right answer is, but it seems my only option at this point is to go.

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To Go.

Take the leap and see what happens.

 

 

Playing in Murky Water

I haven’t written in awhile; admittedly I’ve been pretty caught up in my inner world lately. Sometimes in a productive way, other times purely lost in the muck.

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I’ve been working hard on being a good protector for the Little Girl, and I’m proud to say I’m getting to be a much more reliable caregiver. Whenever I feel myself getting overwhelmed or feel a rush of anxiety, I give myself a time out. I try to get somewhere I can be alone, use self-soothing, positive self-talk (“I’ve got you” “You’re safe”), and do a calming activity (colouring, meditation, listening to calm music, etc). By responding with compassion and giving myself the attention and space I need, I find I can decompress and return to whatever I was doing in a much calmer state. On bad days it has also helped me realize when returning to the activity isn’t the best option. At these times I try not to beat myself up for failing to return, and instead acknowledge that I’ve had all I can handle right now and be proud that I am doing what is best for me in this moment.

Developing my self-compassion has proven to not only be helpful, but absolutely necessary for wading through life of late and allowing me to delve deeper.

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And deeper I’m starting to go. The “self-project” I’ve been trying to work on is addressing repressed emotions that I’ve been told could be destroying my life, as well as my intestines. Since I’m so beyond sick of being sick, I’m more than ready to try anything, including playing in the murky waters of my subconscious. It’s been slow going because I honestly wasn’t sure how to tackle this. I felt so oblivious I even resorted to googling it (hint; healthy tribe are much more helpful). I’m still not sure exactly what needs to happen to be successful in this endeavor, but I’ve started trying things anyway and it feels good to at least be taking a step.

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I’ve been having a rough time with the physical and mental effects of anxiety. Half the time I’m consumed by symptoms and stuck evaluating what they mean, and the other half is spent trying strategies to deal with them and address root causes.  In other words, it’s been murky.

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I can feel myself slipping back into that place, I picture it when I close my eyes. I’m inside a water slide, desperately trying to grasp the sides to keep from falling down. The water keeps rushing into me and my hands and feet keep slipping. All I can hear is that horrible noise that happens when you rub too hard against wet plastic.

My panic rises. I know I have to keep trying to grasp this impossibly slippery surface. The wall sends electric shocks as I get close, taunting me with the futile connection that exists between us. Each time I lose my grip I fall further into the darkness, closer to the water below.

Pleading that this water stops rushing into me, pleading that I come across a chip in the wall so I can get a better grip. But the water is relentless, and the inside of this tube so dark that even if there was a chip it’d be too dark to see. I keep slipping further down. And the scariest part is not that I’m falling, but knowing I can’t swim.

The scent of plastic and chlorine flood into my senses so vividly I close my mouth so I don’t choke. Right then I open my eyes and wonder, are the memories of drowning enough to prove that I can’t swim?

It’s those small moments I keep finding, those light bulbs that flicker in the darkness, shining clarity or beautiful doubt into my awareness.

They are the gems hiding in the murky water.

Ghost Ships and the Sand Beneath My Toes

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I’ve been thinking lately about how my life would be different had the children plan worked out, if I had made different choices, or had opportunities been open to me that never were. These lives that could have been, these are what Cheryl Strayed refers to as “sister lives”. The lives that never became a reality; the possibilities of what our life could have been had we chose the alternative or had circumstances unfolded differently. She explains that we can never know what those lives hold, that there is no comparison between them because we only know what is held within our reality. There is nothing to do but accept that those lives were not ours and live the life we have.

“We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” Cheryl Strayed

What I’ve noticed is that my relationship with these “sister lives” has changed significantly over the last year. I still have moments where I compare to what I imagine life would be like on those ghost ships, but I no longer live every moment peering into the horizon, seeing my entire life through the lens of “what-could-have-been”s. I’ve come to accept that those were the lives that will never be mine. They will always linger in the mist off the shores of my real life, always exist within my imagination just outside the perimeter of reality. I can acknowledge their presence as i bury my feet within the sands of my reality.

As I let myself sink into everything this life is, feeling the warmth and grittiness of the sand beneath my toes, a sense of peace washes over me. In this moment of clarity I realize that this is acceptance, and raise my hand effortlessly to salute the ships on my horizon.

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The Dragon and the Little Girl

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There’s a little girl inside me; she’s petrified and desperate to be comforted.

It’s become clear to me that the dragon has to fiercely protect this little girl.

So I’ve been trying to be better, making sure I’m responding to my own needs so that little girl feels safe. Being compassionate, patient, and comforting. Making the commitment to her over and over, and keeping my promise by protecting her from bullies (most of whom live within my head). It hasn’t been easy, I’m far from a consistent guardian yet. I often get caught up in old habits, going along with the bully as she beats on the little girl. Or I end up fusing with the little girl’s fears to a point where I find myself joining the petrified child under the covers where we try to hide from monsters. I forget that I’m a dragon. I forget that I should be protecting her. I forget that I even can.

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I’ve said before how committed I am to be the dragon, but what I’ve come to realize lately is that in order to be the dragon, I have to pay attention to the little girl. She needs to feel safe. This has to be my first priority.

The problem is that she doesn’t believe the dragon has her, and she is convinced she needs other people to take care of her. I don’t blame her of course, I don’t have a good track record of taking care of her. In fact, it’s a pretty shitty record. It’s no wonder she feels so strongly that she needs someone to nurture her, someone outside to protect her. It makes perfect sense to me, so I understand how I got here, and why she’s putting up such a fight to convince me that we’re not strong enough to cope. It’s hard not to believe her. It’s hard not to crawl back under the covers and wait for someone to come turn on the light and settle my fears. But I know that game, I’ve played that game my whole life, and it’s never gotten me out of the bed.

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I know I have to be the dragon even when the little girl doesn’t think I can. I understand now that a big part of making her feel safe is going to be building trust. It sounds funny to have to build trust with yourself, but there’s certainly no one in this world whose trust I’ve damaged more than my own, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

I’ve started by acknowledging when the little girl gets overwhelmed; placing my hand on my chest and saying “I’ve got you”. Though, like any trust building rebuilding, you can’t just say things and expect the other person to believe it. You have to do things that prove you mean what you say. This is where being mindful of how I respond to her fears come into play. Responding to myself with compassion and giving myself whatever I need to feel safe.

I’ve also started a notebook of “Dragon Tales” where I write down everything I’ve managed to do on my own – all the times I’ve been my own hero. I’m hoping this will act as concrete evidence that “I, do in fact, got this” when I doubt my own resilience.

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One thing I have been trying to work out is how “I got my own back” fits with our very real need of healthy tribe. When I think about the importance of tribe it’s difficult for me to grasp why it’s so important that I learn to stand alone. I don’t quite have it all figured out, but what I keep coming back to is love versus fear. Am I living out of love, or living out of fear?

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Am I in this relationship out of fear of being alone, fear that I can’t survive without you? To me this place of fear rings true when I feel like I need others, as if our connection is serving a purpose of survival. Having you in my life because my safety depends on it. This isn’t where I want to be.

I want to connect out of love. I want to connect with others based on want. I want to want you in my life, not because I feel I need you.

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It seems to me that if I felt stable enough on my own two feet, if I was able to ensure my own safety, that it would open up much more room for me to live out of love. To connect with others out of love. Connecting even more genuinely because there wouldn’t be this angst underlining (or upholding) our bond; it would be purely from a place of genuine desire to connect with one another. And isn’t that kind of connection actually what we mean when we talk about needing tribe?

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It’s time to stop living out of fear. It’s time to prove to the little girl that she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. That she doesn’t have to depend on others to turn on the light. It’s time I tear off the covers and meet those monsters head on, showing that little girl the dragon can kick some serious ass, even in the dark.

 

 

I’m just going to put this here..

youI’m not sure this is the right place for this, but I felt a need to share this to mark what a meaningful day this is to me, and didn’t know where else to put it.

It’s been a long day of ploughing through with a fake smile, hiding what today really means to me. To share this is to honour the very one its about.

Kept up with a heavy heart I typed away in the darkness of my bedroom. This is what my heart had to say..

June 4th

Two years ago today was the day the stick turned from reading positive to negative. I lost you.

I was devastated. But it sickens me when I look back and know that the only baby that will ever grow inside me -even for the short time it was- wasn’t fully appreciated, never truly grieved. I was devastated, torn apart, but there was a part of me that held this baby as a beacon of hope, that saw their worth as a sign of “better things to come”, as a stepping stone to being a mom someday. How little did I know that that baby was all there will ever be.

I regret that I couldn’t fully acknowledge your life and the loss of it as meaning everything, carrying its own worth, not as a means to an end. I lost you and comforted myself with the idea that the pain of losing you would be worth it someday because I’d have someone else. How horrible a thing to reduce my only to-be child’s life to. To act as though it did not have enough worth and love to simply let it stand alone. If I could go back, I would have let myself know the pain was actually not worth it because of something someday, but rather the pain was simply a true indication of my love for you and who you may have been. You were not a small glimpse into the motherhood I would fully experience someday, you were it. You gave me a few days of elation and excitement, a few days to breathe, to have my husband treat me as the future mother of his child, to caress my belly in wonderment as I had wished to do for so many years, to feel the sense of miracle, to feel as though possibility was true and not far away. You stopped my heart when “pregnant” stared back at me from the stick. You made me believe that the impossible may be possible. Losing you taught me a lot, it just wasn’t what I thought at the time I lost you.

You weren’t insignificant. You weren’t a means to an end.

There are no stepping stones to your life, there is only life. Life is lived right there on the rocks. You can’t wait for a stick to stare back at you like a magic eight ball, you can’t put your life on hold until it’s time to start living. You are missing it. Living like this isn’t living at all..the way I grieved you wasn’t grieving at all. I have to accept what is for what it is. I have to lean into all of it. The bad things don’t have to have some greater meaning, the pain is meaningful all in itself. You didn’t need a silver lining to make you beautiful. I know now that you were not significant for any other reason than the fact that you were.

You taught me that letting go isn’t something you do to reach for something better. It’s fully accepting what is and grieving it with all of yourself. Moving on only comes from fully letting go, and to let go you have to fully know what you are letting go of. I didn’t know what that was at the time. I feel like I let go too quickly, except I realize I never actually let go until now because I failed to see you for what you were. You were there so short of a time that you were hardly living, but you taught me more about living than I learned in the 27 years before you.

I’m not letting go because I want to move on to better things. I’m letting go now because I know you now, and I love you for everything you are. I am so thankful for every ounce of pain I feel because that is my love for you. And without you I wouldn’t have had that either. I thought you were going to be the beginning of my life, and in a way you were.

 

Keeping a Steady Aim by Adjusting Targets

This week I’ve gained valuable insight into what I’m aiming for and why, and how to get there.. even when I can’t fully get there.

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I took up archery this week (hence the inspiration for the name of this post) and the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has nothing to do with my bow. New hobbies have a way of opening our minds to new ways of thinking and understanding. I’m just starting out with archery so it is easy for me not to expect myself to hit difficult targets, or any target at all for that matter (I’ve already somehow lost an arrow in the abyss of my backyard). Learning something new takes patience, understanding, and compassion. It’s easy when you are a beginner at something to accept that, and hand it over willingly. Unfortunately this willingness to accept where we are is not so forthcoming when it’s something that isn’t new to us.

The resistance we have to accept where we are is fueled by our good ol’ friend comparison. We compare to our own past performance, where others are, and where we think we should be. This leads to pushing ourselves too far, expecting too much, not giving ourselves what we really need, and ultimately setting ourselves up for failure. I have found this in many different aspects of my life.

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During yoga class I notice this when I automatically push myself to where I was able to get last class- without even paying attention to where my body is that day. I assume because I know where I was able to get last time, that I know where I should go this time. I’ve been mindful of this tendency over the last few days and instead try to approach it as though I’ve never done it before. It has been great practice for staying in the moment, honouring where I am, seeing the judgement that arises, and letting it go.

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Being mindful of where I am right now and responding to that non-judgmentally and with compassion is helping me with more than my downward facing dog.

I reached a low point this week after having a bad panic attack at ballet class, which forced me to leave early. I spent the rest of the night wallowing and beating myself up. I was extra frustrated with myself because ballet is one of my empowering activities, and now I’ve made myself afraid of it. I was petrified that this was the marker that the dragon is dead.

The next evening I was supposed to go to another dance class. All day I was anxious and contemplating whether to go. I was scared to go because I knew it was likely that I’d panic again. I questioned whether I should even go because if I had to leave again I’d only further perpetuate this panic response to dance. I almost had myself convinced that it would be healthier to avoid it. Thankfully that morning I had an eye-opening therapy session and the truth of how vital it is to my life to stay the dragon was clear in my mind.

My goal then was to figure out how I was still going to be a dragon, panicking or not. The first inclination was to set the target to where I was able to succeed before (go to class and don’t leave). Failing to be present and accepting of where I am was only digging the hole I’m in deeper. By looking at myself honestly and compassionately, I realized this was too much for where I am right now, so I adjusted the target.

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Just keep showing up. I decided that would be my mark of success. That will be how I’m still a dragon. I’ll measure my success by my perseverance in showing up. Not on if I panic, not on if I leave, just showing up.

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This was a light bulb moment for me. One thing about panic attacks is it feels like they control your actions. They feel debilitating because if you have a panic attack in one place, you will likely have one there the next time, and it becomes easy to assume you need to avoid these places in order to avoid the panic. This can feel like panic is forcing you to lose what you love, and can make your world very small. What I realized is with my “Show Up” rule I am taking control over my actions. Despite whether or not I have a panic attack, I am going to continue to show up. It also takes the pressure off my ability to not have a panic attack or to be able to control it once it happens. For now, I’ve decided I will just be in control of whether I show up. This felt doable and empowering.

Since establishing the “Show Up” rule I’ve managed to show up for another dance class and four yoga classes. As a bonus I was actually able to stay for all of them, but what I’m most proud of is showing up to them at all.

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I’m still aiming at targets, but now I’m being more mindful that they are targets I can hit.

I invite you all to try being mindful of where you are at any given moment and respond to that with compassion.

Are there targets in your life that may need adjustment?

Breaking the Silence

I’ve been quiet.

I want to be inspiring, I don’t want to be depressing.

So I’ve been quiet.

Silver linings and tales of courage are great to share, but thanks to my tribe I’ve been reminded that, above all my goal is to be authentic.

I’ve been judging where I am, and it’s been keeping me silent. If this blog is about my journey, then this is part of it. I can’t edit the scary parts out of life (though a girl can wish), so how dare I try to edit it out here. That clearly was not my intent when I started. I lost sight of that for awhile, but I see it clearly again now.

I understand if this sounds redundant, I’ve written about learning this lesson before. Apparently learning something once and writing it down doesn’t mean you will never forget or need to relearn it. From what I’ve been told this is a common trend, so I suppose there’s value in being openly repetitive.

I could chose not to share the darkness with you, stay silent, but this would only push me further from my values, and the more I think of why, the more important it becomes to speak up. If I give you half the story, cherry pick what truths to share, I might as well be writing a fairy tale, disguised as non fiction. And it makes me shudder at how harmful that could be. I know your story and my story will be different, but if there’s a part of you struggling, and my story depicts this rose-tinted view, it could leave you feeling more alone. Instead of pain, struggle, and setbacks simply being part of the journey, just how it is, we get the impression that they are indicators that we have failed.

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I think this happens far too often in society; where “I’m fine” is the only socially acceptable answer to “How are you?” and status updates and instagram photos show the bright shiny stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with sharing happy things – it’s just the other part, the stuff we don’t speak about or share – those missing details are distorting the picture. It’s an environment that fosters misconceptions of how life is; “Everyone else is doing great. Why can’t I be that put together? There must be something wrong with me”.

I realize now that my silence only perpetuates this and I regret it. I 100% believe that it’s perfectly okay for people to not be okay, which is why I’m finding my voice again.

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So, this isn’t going to be upbeat or particularly inspiring, it’s just going to be real.

Panic attacks ruled my life in my late teens/early twenties. I couldn’t go into stores, I was afraid to leave my home, to eat, to socialize, I was even scared to fall asleep – I wasn’t living, I was existing- and I was hardly doing that. Though anxiety and the occasional panic attack have stuck around over the years, I have not experienced the all-consuming debilitating panic since then – until this past month, that is. I feel like I’m stuck in a nightmare, being visited by the ghost of panic past, and I can’t wake up.

If you know me well, you will know that illness is a huge panic trigger for me. I panic about getting sick, I feel sick from panicking, and feeling sick makes me panic more. Lately I seem to always be sick or and panicking. I feel stuck in a vicious cycle of panic and illness and it’s leaving me drained and hopeless.

I feel myself slipping into old habits and mindsets, and even though I can see it, it’s hard to stop. I feel stuck. I try to reason with myself, but the fear that this will never pass is overwhelming and way too convincing in my heightened state.

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At these most desperate times I am grateful for my tribe.

I can’t stress enough how much difference healthy tribe makes. Having people who support you, whole-heartedly and non-judgmentally. They offer much needed understanding and compassion, “me too”s, as well as insight and encouragement. They help light up the darkness. No matter how weak I feel, I always feel stronger after connecting with healthy tribe.

There’s a resistance I feel at these times though; this belief that I should only connect with others when I can at least end my story with “but I’m okay” or “I know I’ll be okay”. I don’t think I’m the only one that feels compelled to end things on a high note; we’ve become accustomed to this. Is it pride, not wanting others to feel uncomfortable, fear of rejection, fear of being a burden, not feeling worthy of compassion? My guess is that all of those play a role. The problem of course is that the times when it’s the hardest to reach out is when you need people the most. We need to push past those fears at times like this, because our tribe is there for us, but we have to be brave enough to let them in.

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The dragon is an anchor that keeps me steady through storms; but my tribe are lifesavers in the stormy waters, for the times when my anchor slips and I find myself drowning.

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I’m treading water, I’m not okay, but I am still kicking.