NotSoZen YogaJen

Posts Tagged ‘anxiety attacks

It was bad.  It was by far the worst anxiety I’ve ever had in my life, and completely crippling.  If I could get down a cup of yogurt, take a few sips of water, and respond to one email, it was a good day.  And by that I mean a good bad, terrible, horrendous day.  It was so bad that I only made it to one yoga class this week, and I had to force myself to go so I could relax a little and do something other than panic.  And then I panicked through the entire class. So yeah, not relaxing at all.

While I was IN IT, the fear felt absolutely real and there was no doubt in my mind that I had every reason to be so terrified.  Now, on the other side of it (which, by the way, I thought I’d never get to), I can see clearly that it wasn’t, and was all made up in my mind.  Which just goes to show you how strong the mind and psyche are, and wouldn’t it be great to always be able to channel this powerhouse strength for good and hope and light instead of being tortured by its wretched darkness?

And this is why it came on when it did:  I had a great week last week!  I am taking MAJOR strides to break old destructive patterns!  I am living in NEW, EMPOWERED ways!  And somebody (my Ego maybe?, and yes, I realize that referring to different parts of myself in third person in the same post that I admit to barely being able to leave my apartment might make me seem a little…eccentric) didn’t like that very much.  And actually got really fucking pissed and launched a complete attack on me, pulling out all the stops.  I’ve often seen this pattern on a smaller and less paralyzing scale in my life, like, I’ll be moving forward taking these little steps, and these little fears come up along the way, and just as I’m on the verge of making some major breakthrough, ALL the scary demons come out to play.  And the bigger my dream/goal/life change, the bigger the fear guarding the gates to this new way of being.  That’s why it’s just safer and easier (you know, if you like being able to ingest food and feel the warmth of the sun of your skin) to let your life go on autopilot and hang out with your old, familiar, destructive patterns, even when they do nothing but hold you back and keep you far away from your dreams.

When I was IN IT, for not moments but DAYS, I thought that the panic would never end.  But it did.  I had to do that awful thing where there’s nothing to do, and even yoga and meditation and deep breathing don’t help because it is just so BEYOND that, and you just have to wait and ride it out.  So I rode.  And it passed.

On the other side, there are a couple of things waiting for me.  First of all, I feel like I have a whole new lease on life and a giant appreciation for the simplest pleasures.  Finishing a whole bowl of soup – incredible!  Enjoying a walk around the block – amazing!  Being able to focus on a task for longer than three seconds, like reading an article or a (gasp!) book – MIRACULOUS!

The other thing that happens is I feel super-strong and badass, like, “Dude, you do NOT know what I’ve just been through.  I just kicked fear’s ass!”  I feel like some kind of warrior hero who triumphed in this tremendous battle.  And like I want to share my war stories with the world.

And then there’s the weight-loss side effect.  But being on the Panic Attack Diet is just about as fun as being on the Food Poisoning Diet, though equally as effective.

I also remembered that John Mayer gets anxiety attacks, and that made me think that it would be fun to start a club for all of us peeps who get anxiety and panic attacks.  We can sit in a circle (but not too close to each other if we’re like, IN IT), and John can serenade us, and we can eat cupcakes.  That maybe have Xanax sprinkles.

So, here I am, on the other side at last.  I threw on some SPF 30 and am about to go outside to relax and bask in the sun (EXTRAORDINARY!).  I kicked fear’s ass.  This time.  I realize that there’s a good chance that it’s not done with me yet and will return for a rematch and kick my ass again.  Especially if I’m trying to change and grow.  But I’m a badass anxiety-battling warrior, and I’m not giving up the fight.

Do you ever have anxiety and panic attacks?  What brings them on?  Does overriding old patterns tend to stir them up?  What to you do to get through them?  And how do you feel when you’re on the other side?

Namaste!

YogaJen

Hi, my name’s Jen, and I’m a yoga-a-holic.

I have a highly addictive personality and I’ve always been grateful that this has manifested in relatively harmless soft addictions like coffee and email, and not hardcore drugs, alcohol, or even cigarettes. (Full disclosure: I smoked cigarettes in high school and college but I never got addicted and just stopped cold turkey when I wanted to.  Now I smoke approximately one-half of one cigarette every year and a half.  Usually this only happens when I’m really pissed off and I’ll call my friend Karen and say, “I’m so mad I want to blast gangsta rap and smoke half a cigarette!”)  ANYWAY, suffice it to say that I definitely lucked out with my addictions because given my, um, tendencies for being extreme, things could have gone in a whole different and much worse direction, addiction-speaking.

But lately I’ve developed an addiction that’s not only soft and relatively harmless, but dare I say, healthy.  I’ve become extra-addicted to yoga.  Over the past few weeks I had hardcore anxiety, and every day became mostly about just managing my anxiety.  I’d wake up and think, “OK, I have to get through this day, and I have X, Y, and Z to do, how can I do this given my anxiety?”  And the answer was usually, “Go to yoga.”  Make no mistake:  I’d be super-anxious regardless of if I did yoga or not, but if I did take a class it would bring my anxiety down a couple of notches to slightly-less-super-anxious so that I could do what I needed to do instead of curling up in a ball of anxiety and calling it a day.  At 8am. 

In yoga last week the teacher asked us to notice how we felt at the end of class, and then instructed us to let this be the motivation to bring us back to class.  I’d been noticing enough of a difference to motivate me to go to 5-6 classes a week and take 7:15am classes on many days, even though I am so NOT a morning person and when my alarm goes off at 6am I go through all five of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression, during which I hit the Snooze button and hard, and finally, as I drag myself out of bed and reach for my yoga mat, Acceptance.  There is an addictive edge to my yoga practice these days because going to class feels like a compulsion and like I don’t have a choice; I am addicted to how it makes me feel better, and also, sometimes, varying degrees of terrified of how I will feel if I don’t go.  But is this a bad thing?  If I’m going to have an addictive personality, it seems to me that the best thing I can do with that is channel it into healthy addictions.

At a yoga class I took years ago, the teacher talked about how we have these obsessive thought loops going all the time in our brains, but we can use that to our advantage.  Instead of just defaulting to the “I’m shit, I suck” thought mode and then hitting the repeat button and listening to that message day in and day out, we can plant an uplifting thought that makes us feel good and then obsessively repeat that.  I know, easier said than done.  But I love the idea of co-opting our obsessive tendencies for our own good, instead of letting them torture us with destructive thoughts and addictions.

On a side note, I accidentally didn’t have coffee yesterday because I was at an event all day, and this morning I had an excruciating headache, was nauseous, and had shakes.  I told the baristas at Starbucks about my withdrawal symptoms and one said, “This is a wake-up call,” and another one said, “Does this mean you’re going to stop drinking coffee?” to which I replied, “NO! It means I’m going to hook myself up an IV coffee drip and make sure I never have to go through withdrawal again!”

You won’t find me in coffee or yoga rehab anytime soon.

Do you think some addictions can be good for you?  What are your healthy addictions?

Namaste!

YogaJen

Postscript:  My massive anxiety passed, as it always does, and now I am happily back to my normal baseline level of regular anxiety.