“To that one soul reading this: I know you’re tired, you’re fed up, you’re close to breaking, but there’s strength within you even when you feel weak. Keep fighting.”
~ from thehealthyplace.com
If you saw my Wednesday Wisdom letter from a couple weeks ago, you know I’m just coming out of a 6 month battle with severe anxiety and panic.
A combination of business issues, financial issues, and an “I’ve finally had it” moment that topped off 30 years of dealing with a family trauma, and the entangled web of dynamics that were created from that tragedy, all came together to drown me in a perfect storm.
If you’ve dealt with severe anxiety and panic attacks, then you know just how dark, terrifying, and all-consuming it is.
If you haven’t experienced it, the best way I can describe it is this:
Imagine you wake up startled in the middle of the night to find a shadowy stranger looming over you while you lay in your bed.
In your mind’s eye, sink into the terror you’d feel, and imagine your body’s “fight or flight” response seizing your insides.
Now take away the part about waking up to a stranger looming over your bed.
You’re just left with the overwhelming fear and the “fight or flight” thermostat cranked over to “high” for no apparent reason.
That’s been my life for the last 6 months.
Add in moments of crying uncontrollably because I didn’t know what was wrong with me…
…weeks of pure exhaustion, yet not being able to sleep without medication…
…moments of rage that left me scared of myself…
…days of not having the soundness of mind to work…
…and regular physical symptoms, like chest pains and numbness in my face, back, and arms, that left me constantly worrying whether or not I was having a heart attack or a stroke, even though I’d been cleared by a doctor more than once.
While this letter isn’t about the problem, I did want to mention the dirty details of my experience because, if you’ve gone through it, too…
…or if you’re going through it right now…
…or you go through it sometime in the future…
…or you’ve experienced a mental health issue that’s different but equally terrifying…
…then I want you to know I get it.
I see you, my kindred soul, and my heart goes out to you.
You’re not crazy and you’re not alone.
What you are is someone who deserves healing.
And that’s what this letter, and the next few are about…
…sharing ideas about healing, and how to get back on your feet when it feels like you’ve been cut off at the knees.
Because life offers enough pitfalls in its own right, but when you’re an entrepreneur, you opt for the Japanese game show version of this obstacle course we call living.
(Don’t get the reference? Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB1BVM288Xc)
I’ve broken this down into a 4-part series to keep these letters relatively short and I’ll just share part 1 today.
I call it my 4-pronged attack against debilitating anxiety, because for me, I needed to attack this thing at four different levels of my body:
- My psychological body
- My energetic body
- My spiritual body
- My physical body
I didn’t plan it this way; I just started doing things I hoped would help.
But looking back over the last 6 months, I can see that all the things I did (and still do) fall into one of those categories.
Here’s the first one…
My Psychological Body:
To heal myself at the psychological level, I’ve spent hours and hours in therapy, mainly using EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).
(Hat tip to my mom who spent a week and did 8 ½ hours of counseling with me in 5 days. If you look up “strength” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of her.)
EMDR is a form of therapy used to help people process traumatic memories and other troubling life experiences.
Basically, it helps desensitize you to former triggers, it helps you process out the anger and other emotions associated with the experience(s), and it helps you form new beliefs about yourself that support a healthy mental state going forward.
The classic EMDR example is the domestic abuse victim who goes from feeling powerless and worthless to feeling empowered by her strength for surviving the trauma and getting out of the situation.
However, I think my therapist said it best when she said, “EMDR is used for processing trauma, and isn’t it all trauma?”
What she meant was that we can experience trauma from that thing our gym teacher said to us in 6th grade…
…or the embarrassment we suffered in that meeting in our first real job…
…or ongoing family dynamics where everyone has the best intentions, but the actions still end up hurtful.
It’s from these experiences that we form our limiting beliefs…
…beliefs, like “I’m not good enough”…“I’m a bad person”…“I don’t matter”…”I’m ugly”…“I need to constantly prove myself”…”I’m weak”…”people with money are evil”…“I need to dim my light to make his/hers shine brighter”…or “I’m not lovable unless I (fill in the blank)”.
The list goes on and on.
The problem is, these beliefs sit in our subconscious and direct our thoughts, beliefs, and actions without us even knowing.
And once the belief is formed, all of our experiences are interpreted through that lens.
Like, if you hold the belief, “I’m not good enough”, then that’s what you’ll believe even when you win awards, make money, enjoy success, and have other people tell you you’re amazing.
None of it matters because you believe you’re not good enough.
But you don’t even know it. You probably just recognize you’re stuck somehow.
It’s only by peeling away the onion of our life experiences and traumas that we uncover what’s driving us at the core.
And let me tell you, when you hit upon those beliefs, it’s like a truth bomb goes off in your chest…
…like, “oh my GAWD, I didn’t even know I believed that!”
But you can feel the honesty of it like it walked up to you and smacked you right in the face.
The good news is that once you discover these limiting beliefs, how they got formed, and drain the emotion from the experience, you can start to change them and move toward the life you want.
In my experience, it takes time (and more therapy) to get there.
After all, you’ve spent the last 10, 20, 30 years or more living a certain way. Old habits die hard and new patterns take time to lay their tracks, so be patient and give yourself a break.
You’re literally dealing with brain synapses.
You’ve got a super highway that takes messages and interprets them through your limiting belief in nanoseconds, and now you’re trying to build a new road to your new belief.
It doesn’t happen overnight…but it does happen if you keep fighting.
And even if some beliefs take a lifetime to change, it’s worth it because it’s your life.
I’m still in therapy, though my sessions have gone from 2-3 per week, to once a week, to now every other week. And I think I’ll be down to once a month soon.
Therapy may not be the answer for you…
…but whether it’s through the help of a coach, a personal development program, or even your own journaling…
…if you’re dealing with anxiety, or a similar mental health condition, then I encourage you to find a path to the core beliefs that are stealthily running your operating system.
And most importantly, find someone or something that can help you develop the empowering truths you need to believe in to live the life your soul so desperately wants.
Now it’s your turn 🙂
Have you found a method that worked for you (or is working) to heal your psychological body?
I’d love to collect a host of ideas and share them in my next letter for the people where therapy just isn’t the right fit.
Let me know if I can use your name, or you’d rather keep it anonymous. If you just want to share it privately with me, I welcome that, too 🙂
P.S. In my next letter, I’ll cover what I did (and am doing) to heal on an energetic level.
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