In my 26 years on this planet there is nothing more important that I’ve learnt than to feel healthy. It’s not an easy feat to constantly and consistently put your health, both physical, mental and emotional, ahead of other aspects like relationships, work, friendships and family but I always have to remind myself and others that without your own health how can you be a colleague, friend, relative or partner to anyone else?
What’s incredible however is that as a human race we tend to want to be ‘healthy’ but always struggle to truly listen to what we need from within and explore the truths to what our psyche (spirit) and our soma (body) are actually telling us. I learnt this truth the hard way in April and May 2015 when I really started to tune in and realise that the stomach and digestion problems I was constantly battling with should not have been something I had to live with.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t life threatening, I was not diseased or ill in the sense that I couldn’t live my everyday ‘normal’ life, although sometimes I wanted it to be that simple, something easily diagnosed. The fact I had to face was that I was stressed. Utterly, deeply stressed.
There was so much happening in my life, so many big decisions, I felt on the edge constantly and my reprieve, yoga, only lasted so long. Back to reality I went, my stomach growling at me, my belly feeling constantly bloated and gassy, even when I hadn’t eaten in 5 or more hours and my mind and body without any energy. I know this is not a great place to be, I felt inspired to be better, I wanted to feel healthy, I knew what it felt like to be healthy (my version anyway) and this certainly wasn’t it. But what could I do? I tried to clear my mind, keep focussing on what I loved, I let stuff go because it didn’t’ serve me, I focussed on the things and people that made me happy and I tried to give myself a little bit of me time (I was definitely unsuccessful at that). And for all of my ‘trying’, I still felt exhausted. Maybe I was trying too hard.
The signs of stress are often mixed up with or end up in mental ill health. If untreated, our body can start to shut down, or speed up from the constant state of being on edge, or in fight / flight mode, we can then start to enter the spectrum of anxiety.
For some of us it doesn’t take much, it’s not that we’re any weaker than anyone else, it’s simply who we are and our lesson in life is to listen to that and to make sure we look after ourselves, even more so than those who don’t find themselves that close to the edge. Stress and ‘busyness’ is quite common, and it’s something that a lot of people in this world are open to owning, but it’s when it starts verging on anxiety that we shut down, we pretend it’s not the case – but what’s the difference? If anything, admitting that something needs to change can bring a huge amount of relief, and when you realise exactly what’s happening and that you are most definitely NOT alone you open up a world of possibilities to support you to move back towards the well side of the scale.
So when I found myself on the verge of my anxiety, my stress levels peaking, and my main physical signs being a lack of energy, constantly irritated and bloated bowels and a lack of lustre for the day to day and those around me I decided to tackle the physical realm and see what happened.
Various tests didn’t really show too much, well not the clear-cut diagnosis I was hoping for anyways, the merely picked up that I was severely B12 deficient which indicates a potential auto-immune disease amongst other things, but nothing formally confirmed. Finally, after a couple of months and being inspired by meridians and chi in my Yin Teacher Training (Joe Barnett is amazing by the way), I decided acupuncture what was I needed, I needed to get my chi in order and figure out what was going on.
I don’t know what worked better, the needles themselves or the 30 minutes each session where I couldn’t move (well I tried not to, I know you probably can), which forced me to face my demons and truly quieten my mind. The time was bliss. In the first session I realised just how much I really struggled to not create to do lists in my mind, the second session I actually chose to catch the train part way and walk from the station for some added movement and found it a little easier to relax, the third time I finally started to find some true peace, stillness and as each session came and went I found that my mind was slower, my decisions more rational, my demeanour more lively.
Yes, all of this coincided with the final stages of planning and putting together my work and play trip overseas for my yoga career, it was a trying time making things fit, starting to transition towards my passion and walking away from what I had always known, so you could say I had a light at the end of the tunnel. But it wasn’t the light that I needed, it was the time to get my head space right. Because what kind of yogi would I be if I couldn’t be still and allow myself to find a place of calm and peace from within?
But I am real, I face the same ups and downs inside out and one thing that I often tell people at yoga and in my ‘day’ job is that it’s how we choose to look at our situation, and the choices we then make that matter. I chose to listen to what was happening within, and within a few months I was feeling relatively normal again. But the damage I had done in being too ‘busy’ had taken its toll and it took me around 4 months to feel ‘normal’ again, and I’m still working on it.
The truth of the matter is that I didn’t listen, I wanted to be strong, to not let ‘it’, whatever it was, get on top of me and what I really needed to do was stop.
It’s time that we all start to listen, that we don’t underestimate what our bodies and minds are telling us, that we take the time to be mindful and to find out what healthy actually is for us.
We should not accept or live with mediocre, we should feel great, at least 90% of the time, and the other 10% we are allowed to wallow, to slow down to contemplate and to consider what’s truly happening within and around us because if we don’t stop every now and then to do this we might miss our opportunity for wellness. There should be no disappointment, disapproval or discontentment from owning up to how you are feeling, we are human beings, we are not made to be perfect but we have sophisticated brains and bodies that we can learn from.
I read a great article tonight, written by James Bailey and it said, “…as unpleasant as they may seem, you were meant to have difficult experiences so that you can grow. The challenges do not go away when we change our name or who we think we are. They just dig in deeper. The greatest form of yoga is a life lived in balance. Should you run into your shadow along the way, know that you’re definitely on the right path. Work with the shadow fearlessly and compassionately; with your eyes wide open. The only faith required is in yourself, for the divine is only as beautiful as you feel you are...”
So find yourself, accept this life as an opportunity and choose wisely in how you treat yourself. You do not have to live every day in stress, or fear or anxiety, you can seek help in conventional and unconventional ways and the only thing that you truly need to understand is the needs from deep within you. The rest of the world can wait.
Stay tuned to my social media or my newsletter for the rest of my #RealWomen blog series... I'll be sharing a REAL story with you, that hopefully you can relate to from people who I've met along my travels both in Australia and overseas.
If you need more support in living with mental ill health, please make sure to contact lifeline if you’re in Australia on 13 11 14.