March 5, 2020
Mental Health | Wellness
– Writers Note –
I wrote this blog post 1.5 hours before the tornado swept through Nashville on March 3rd. The devastation that this tornado has caused for our beloved community has left many of us heartbroken and continues to put things into perspective. While this ‘setback’ I talk about in this blog is miniscule compared to what so many are going through right now, I still wanted to share because it is a reminder that no matter how big or small your feelings are right now and always, that they are valid. That you can’t heal without feeling them in their entirety. That you can’t heal without looking them in the face and asking some questions. Maybe those questions are what do I need to be supported right now? Who can I lean on for support right now? How can I support others while still caring for myself right now? Or maybe the starting point is simply asking, how am I feeling right now?
Whether the unimaginable happened and you lost a home or loved one; you experienced extreme terror while holding your babies tight as the destructive winds whipped by you, and are now reliving the “what ifs,”; or you are bearing witness to your beloved community try to rebuild what has been broken, your feelings are yours, they are valid, and they are important.
It finally happened – the dreaded set back. I debated whether to share this piece of my journey with you because if you’ve found a nugget of inspiration somewhere along the way, I don’t want you to lose motivation. Then I realized that this actually may be the most crucial part of the journey to publish. Why? Because not only can life take a zig or a zag, but it will. Looking back on it, these bumps have so clearly been part of the path that was meant for me. But that’s the thing I’ve learned about your ‘path’ lately, is that if you can see it perfectly laid out in front of you, it’s not for you.
Things had felt so good since I started to really get curious, and open myself to creativity, authenticity, and in a word, spirituality. The rewards had been incredible, and I thought I had this spirituality thing down-pat. Then, one Saturday morning, my old friend fear knocked on the door and barged back into my life. I’m happy to say its stay was short, but definitely not without hardship.
Life had been especially hectic for a few weeks, and after having been pretty proud of how gracefully I was handling it, I finally cracked. I finally stopped trying too hard to do “the work” because I was so.damn.tired. I just let myself feel grumpy, I took off my kindness filter when speaking to my loved ones, and was simply not anywhere close to the best version of myself. I felt it, I knew it, but I couldn’t stop it. I was just too tired.
As a result, I took one too many verbal jabs towards my husband and lost my cool with my kids, who had been trading back and forth colds for a month that finally turned into ear infections (sick kids = no sleep). It’s not like they wanted any of that, but at one point in the midst of echoing screams from both kids, I sat down on the floor, plugged my ears, and I too, screamed. I completely lost my patience, my compassion, and my gratitude. This angry, annoyed feeling lingered throughout the whole weekend. And it scared the shit out of me.
Yes I didn’t like that I was acting like a child, but worse was thinking that maybe I was a fake. Or maybe this amazing connection and gratitude had only been fleeting. I had been reaping so many rewards from my spiritual journey, and sharing them publicly! And there I was on the bathroom floor screaming, so that I couldn’t hear my kids melting down. Where was my angel then? Had I made the whole thing up? Would that amazing feeling ever come back?
I briefly lost trust in myself and what I’d been feeling so strongly. I longed desperately for the peace and calm that I had felt for the past couple months. Now that I knew what it felt like, I missed it deeply.
The thing that I’m learning about fear is that when you let it in without putting it in its place, it can spiral into something even bigger. In addition to being scared about being a spiritual imposter, there was an even bigger fear lurking in the background. Something I hadn’t been the slightest bit worried about in months, but once I opened the door to misalignment and worry, this even bigger fear came waltzing right in. Something I haven’t yet talked about yet in this forum, but here goes.
Shortly after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. The scariest part about that diagnosis for me was that I had no idea. I spend my life helping people work on their mental health, and I didn’t know what was going on with my own for that time. I hadn’t felt quite right, but I went to the doctor for follow ups and because the computerized test that screens for PPD didn’t flag me as having it, I just assumed I had the “Baby Blues,” though I’m not sure there’s really a difference. As my therapist put it, they’re all along the same spectrum. Long story short, after following a combination of self-care methods, I felt like myself again consistently for 4 months or so. And even more recently, not just ‘like myself,’ but really really amazing.
Having been on the other side of this set back for a couple weeks, it was so much smaller than I made it out to be. I was exhausted and lost my cool for a few days, but when you’re exhausted and losing your shit, it’s really hard to realize that.
On the fourth night or so of feeling like this I was laying in bed exhausted, but my mind was racing too quickly to sleep. Ugh, back to my old ways again. The thought of that just made my mind race even faster! I composed myself and made a mental list out what was going on inside of me. I realized that all of my actions were stemming from fear. I just started a blog called “Turning Fear into Curiosity,” I am so full of it…wait, actually, I have an idea, let’s try something.
I got out of bed and did what I had just told people helped me so much – I started writing. I wrote out my feelings, my fears, all of it. Half way through the page I decided to make things a bit more literal, and turn this thought process into a framework. You can take the girl out of corporate America, but the girl will still be obsessed with frameworks.
I created a table with four columns: “Fear,” “→,” “Curiosity,” “Takeaway”. It wasn’t perfect or pretty, but it made sense to me. And damn did it feel good. Putting my fear down on paper, giving it a name, and asking it and myself a question or two made everything feel manageable. And best of all, in a quick 10 minutes, I let go of all the fear I had been feeling about being a fraud, my spirituality being gone, and my PPD coming back. Just by turning my fear into curiosity, instead of combativeness, I was able to make the fear so miniscule that I laid my head down on the pillow afterwards and went right to sleep. Holy cow, the mind is so powerful.
Below is an example of what I wrote. I invite you to use this simple framework, change it up how it works for you, but most importantly maybe try asking your fear some questions. I’m curious to see what happens.
Full disclosure, there were more fears filling out the table in the actual one, some things are just TMI, sorry.
At the end of this exercise I came to the conclusion this was all a test, a part of my journey, me making my path. It was also a reminder not to put too much pressure on any one thing. Life gets messy at times, and sometimes you have to sit in the icky feelings until you’re ready to ask them the right questions. Prior to this I had a hard time figuring out what it was about this spirituality that I loved so much. Was I in love with the idea of it? When I felt the brief absence of it, I could so easily describe what it was that I was missing: peace, security, gratitude, connection. This setback only strengthened my commitment to this never-ending journey, and I’m happy to report that this phase has in-fact passed, and I am not a spiritual fraud.