Someone very dear to me asked me the other day “how do you stay so positive all of the time?” I smiled back, and said "I don't know.”
The truth is, I do know. Here is the real, deep, messy and beautiful truth. For that is all I really know.
For years I was stuck in what I would call ‘survival mode’. In a state of hyper-vigilance, on alert, and bracing against life. I vividly remember telling my life coach,
“I FEEL LIFELESS, LIKE I'm drowning in a dark ocean.”
Flash back to life in 2012, I had no idea the level of stress I was under. I was doing a really good job (so I thought) of “keeping my schtuff together.” I walked around powerfully in my high heel shoes and custom suit determined to show everyone how ‘okay’ I really was (if power walking in heels and a pencil skirt was an Olympic sport, I'm pretty sure I could’ve, at least, qualified to compete). Yes life was tough, but I was determined to be tougher. So I hardened, braced against whatever was coming next, and did what I could to keep my head above water and, at all cost, appearing to be cool, calm and collected.
My husband, son and I had all managed to survive a year filled with more ambulance rides, emergency surgeries and hospitalizations than we could keep track of. At one point, I remember soothing one of the nurse’s as she apologetically fretted beside me while the team prepared another ambulance for my son... I forced a smile through my dried tears and reassured her, “this too shall pass.”
I found out in that year that I was beautifully wired for emergencies. My inner warrior would come out, my mind would clear, my instincts would sharpen and I knew just what to do without stopping to think. After months of this, we were encouraged to consider an experimental liver transplant for our son. He was on the top on the donor list and we could get a call any day.
For the months that followed, the sound of our home phone ringing would trigger my “inner emergency protocol response” (also known as the fight or flight response). This was particularly annoying at 8:00 p.m. when automated messages from the hospital would call to confirm our son’s upcoming appointments.
We have been told by several healthcare professionals that it was our attentiveness, alertness, and instincts that kept our son alive. This same level of alertness and arousal was honestly killing me.
I was killing myself trying to keep my son alive.
I hit a breaking point and realized that I needed to find a way to manage this stress response. I needed to somehow dig myself out of survival mode.
With help from my life coach and relentless support from my husband, I dove into myself, extensively studying my own mind, body, mindfulness techniques, and stress release practices. I learned TRE (Tension and Release Exercise) to help my body release the patterns of stress and trauma it was holding on to. I learned the power of breathing and feeling.
I was re-learning how to live. To truly be alive in my own life. This work, became my life’s work. I became a TRE practitioner and studied to become a Life Coach. Since 2015 I have been helping other people live and work from a place of presence, power and authenticity.
Life is still stressful. Just a few weeks ago I lost myself in the stress again. I stopped truly tending to myself, stopped doing the ‘basics’ and went back to hustling, grinding, and forcing my way through life. After all, the stakes only get higher. The stresses only get bigger. Within just a few days of this, my body responded with severe and nauseating pain.
I had lost myself again, and I knew how to get back. Life was shaking me awake again and this time I knew exactly what to do.
I know there are so many women and men who are hustling to make it through their day in this same state of stress and hyper-vigilance. Relying on fear to motivate and 'energize' them, they are exhausted, depleted and numb. Bogged down by an endless loop of thought, worry and fears, it feels as if they can never get a break. Physically exhausted. Mentally tired, and emotionally worn. Bracing against the life as it flies at them. It’s hard to know where to start.
The world of self-care is laughable when you are in this state. We think we need to work out more, lose weight, work harder, gain weight, learn a new hobby, make new friends or read more books to feel better.
The work is simpler and deeper than any of those things.
To find our way back to ourselves we must be willing to start creating space for ourselves in our own lives. Space to breathe, space to feel, space to let go of the controlling, managing and fixing and truly tend to our selves. The connection we crave starts with reconnecting with ourselves.
Only then can we really start living.