In the last few months, I’ve had a few anxiety/panic attacks. One happened just this morning. Fortunately, I have learned how to deal with them and, even though they are uncomfortable and, for those few minutes you feel like you'll die, they do pass rather quickly. Looking back I now know I've had anxiety my whole life, I just dealt with it by ignoring it, hiding it and compensating until I have sent it deep and far into the unconscious. But, about five years ago, the hidden came out with a vengeance and I have had my first full blown panic attack which was so severe I ended up in an emergency room. Since then they come and go, depending on what's going on in my life.
I see that moment as a blessing because, for one, I have learned I had a few medical conditions (auto-immune thyroid as well as adrenal fatigue) which might have triggered it, but I also knew that the root cause runs much deeper than that. So I put out the fire by taking care of my health first, then letting go of everything toxic in my life (things and relationships which were also a symptom rather than the root cause), and finally I bought a shovel and started digging deep. I started therapy and enrolled into Core Evolution - '‘body-centred and mindfulness orientated psychotherapy’ which literally changed my life.
But, going back to now…
I now know that my anxiety attacks are usually triggered by emotional and physical stressors, but the last ones I have tried to rationalise and blame on coffee, low sugar levels, my thyroid, a glass of wine too much the previous night, too much travel, being tired etc. Because what else could it be? My life right now is everything I could wish for, and I’m still walking in the direction of my dreams. But, even though the coffee, wine, tiredness etc can trigger various physical responses, I know they are not a root cause.
I would like to pretend I don’t, but I’m changing much in my life right now. With closing yoga studio I’ve had for 13 years, moving out of my apartment where I feel safe and content, I’m severing deep roots, and roots are important, they give us a sense of safety and connection. I have chosen this change myself and even though it's a change I not only embrace but have worked towards for years, weather I want it or not, it’s still emotional stress. To our body/mind emotional stress is neutral, physiologically there's no such thing as good or bad, it's just stress.
However, it’s not the first time I’m doing this; it should be something I’m used to. As a child, we moved six times before I was eight. I can’t even count the times I moved and completely changed my life as an adult, never was a problem, I always embraced it.
So, what’s different now?
I have worked hard to take down my strong walls of defence, the same wall which has helped me deal with many life's challenges and changes, but also the same wall which kept me separated from connecting and living my life to the fullest; within and not only without.
As children, we build coping mechanisms to deal with many of life's challenges. They become unconscious mechanisms we use later on in life as well, and even though they can be useful sometimes, they don't originate from our essence or our conscious self, they are an automatic, unconscious response. Like the fight and flight for example. In Core Evolution, we call them Personal Reaction Patterns - structural and behavioural patterns we use to react when under physical and emotional stress. These coping mechanisms are created and defined not only by the circumstances we find ourselves in as children but also by the energy information we bring into this life with us - our character and whatever else you believe affects us (past lives, stars we are born under etc.). So, two siblings, like my brother and I, for example, would structure different defences faced with the same challenges because we're different to start with. (As a side note, Personal Reaction Patterns are something we will learn about in Yoga, Somatic Awareness and Core Evolution - a new workshop/TTC module with Siegmar Gerken and myself).
We go through life unaware of these coping mechanisms and we unconsciously use them in many aspects of our lives and relationships, so much so that they often structure our lives. As children we develop them out of necessity, we depend on our environment so much we have no other means, but as grownups we do. Recognising our patterns, learning how to notice them and deal with them can help us live more from our essence and less from our defences.
You now must be wondering, if I know all this and have been through much therapy, how is it I still have panic attacks?
My anxiety attached to the emotional or physical stress is more real and more natural than my compensation ever was. The strong Nina who never falls apart, who charges boldly towards every challenge, and embraces every change, was as much compensation as was my true self. I still am a strong person not afraid of challenge or change, but I also sometimes doubt myself, I sometimes fall apart, I suffer under emotional stress and am anxious about big changes in life.
So, before I plant my roots elsewhere, now in this in-between, I am giving myself the permission to feel anything I need to feel and be anything I need to be. Happy, sad, excited, terrified, anxious. When you replant a tree, it takes a while for it to re-root and finds the balance again.
Change is challenging for all of us and, faced with its many layers and faces, we should embrace them all. The ‘good’ and ‘bad’. That’s what unconditional love is. Today, I will show myself that love by crossing a few things I can’t deal with today off my to-do list and give myself time to just be.