Awakening.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I went in to see my doc, (ahem, twice) terrified about all I was experiencing, requesting the gamut of blood tests, per my usual (gently) assertive way. 
"You're going to do this now, please."
Painstakingly seeking answers to my endless questions and bewildering feelings,
without stopping to take a breath, calm down like a rational, mature human being and just chill for a second.
I have no idea what that looks like.  Thinking rationally.  (I'm learning this now.)

"Oh for the love, is this Menopause?  Is THAT what's happening?  Am I going through "The CHANGE?"  At what point does my uterus fall out?  And then my sanity?  And then a strong urge to run away with the 23-year-old hipster with tatt sleeves that stocks shelves at the co-op?"

She smiled sweetly like she does, "Oh, Honey.  You're crazy, but that's not what this is."  
Although she didn't say that.  (She knows my propensity for anxiety.  I think she might've rolled her eyes too.)
"Let's just give this some more time" as she patted me on my arm lovingly and walked out of the room, 
leaving me sweating in my hospital gown, grasping at the paper shield draped over the exam table.

So here I am, at a nice little crossroads in life, another "moment" of serious growth,
on the precipice of deciding if how I was living before was working, or if continuing to embark on a new path of a life that isn't filled with fear, would be the smarter way to go?

(I am much better at explaining myself in written, rather than spoken words, so here goes.)

I was broadsided by a lil' "titch" of anxiety at the turn of the New Year (and by titch I mean tsunami,) followed by some nice depression unlike I've ever experienced before.)
And if I'm being TOTALLY honest here, we're never "broadsided" with this stuff.
You can see it coming a mile away and the stage for any emotional/physical/mental upheaval is usually set up quite nicely for us, over time.

I won't get in to the why and how so much, 
but know in hindsight, it was not out of the blue.
For me, it was the culmination of months of running, fighting, chasing, seeking, judging, over-analyzing, obsessing, perfecting. . .all the things that can exhaust a mind and body.
That shit adds up.

Mental and emotional exhaustion, if not kept in check, depletes those sweet, little adrenals and nervous system like it's nobody's business.
When it can't take anymore it shuts you down, but not first without bringing on the symptoms of anxiety, to attempt to wake you up first, to the way you're taxing yourself,
to either get you to #1.  Stop doing that.
And if you don't?  Or allow yourself to get swept up in it?
#2.  It forces you to sit by bringing on exhaustion, depletion, depression.
(Listen, I've been studying and researching and getting to know this inside and out for years.  I'm seeing how it works.)

Everyone suffers at different levels throughout their life, whether brought on by an outside devastating event, or again, self-inflicted from over-doing life and not taking time to rest, 
or by simply being a feeling human being, sensitive to the hardships of living coupled with fears of the unknown.
It can be SUCH a hard thing to surrender to.

Again, regardless of the specifics of how or why, it is human.  It is suffering at it's finest.
And man, there's nothing uglier.
(And unless you've experienced this personally, this will all seem totally whack and dramatic to you, and as a dear friend says, "like a game of double dutch.)  
Two ropes rotating in to one another over and over, all self-propelled.

But know to the sufferer, it is a personal, living hell.  And it is real.  
(BUT is not a disease that can't be fixed.)
Rather, an illness of the way you THINK. 

But these raw feelings of fear, then dread, then despair combined, is quite something.
Add in the physical symptoms that constant fear and tension brings and you have quite the nice, debilitating little combo. . .
Allow me to enlighten a bit more. . .

What anxiety, constant obsessing and the dark hole of despair can bring to the mind and body, seems to know no limits. 

So depleted physically, so worn down by your own mind, that to get up and take a shower feels like a marathon.   

How our mind, left unsupervised, can make our muscles and bones feel like they are not connected, that sheer will and force seems to be required to move them just to walk up stairs.  

To be SO totally disconnected from the world around you, to feel nothing for those you love even though you know you should yet are too tired to care. 

To feel physical pain, aches and sensitivity so intense, it's as if you have the flu, day after day after day.

To feel heart palpitations to trembling limbs to nausea, sore joints, chest tightness, messed up vision, tingling all over (not the good kind,) you name it.  

All brought on by fearful thinking and an exhausted nervous system.  Mind-boggling.

To feel like your body is failing you, but over what? 

To be so sensitized, making eye contact or sitting up feels impossible.  

To feel so alone (even though you're not,) so nauseous, so desperate, that your world is caving in on you, but for no apparent, measurable reason.

To be so low, so unattached, that you have an understanding, (not a feeling to act,) but a true understanding as to why people in this state, decide it's too much.  
That the weight of their suffering is too unbearable.  

I understand completely and will offer only my utmost compassion for anyone who makes that choice.  
Those who allow their voice of doubt (not because they are legitametly mentally ill,) but that weird, dark part of ALL our human minds that can usher in fearful, obsessive thoughts when we are at our lowest,
to overtake them and convince them that their suffering is beyond them.

They don't act because they want to die and they want their life to end.  They want their suffering to end.
It can feel to be, too much.   

The mind is a tricky thing.  And the body responds to it so well in order to protect us.  
But without the right tools or coping mechanisms, it overwhelms and makes you feel as if you are in the depths of this deep, dark hole you can't find your way out of. 

For me, as if I was rotting from the inside out.

I have been a devoted Yogi for some time,
with a nice amount of training and experience on breathing and postures and energy and mindfulness. 
Oils and Ayurvedic practices and healthy eating.

But NONE of that is any match on its own, for the beast that is anxiety and depression.

(Don't get me wrong, I still believe in it and it's a nice "side dish" to better mental/physical health,)
but unless being an extra "sensitive" person you are dealing with your THOUGHTS in a healthy way, in and outside of a Yoga studio?
You're up the creek without a paddle.

Now that I've painted such a rosy picture, let me just say I got to know God a little better:)

I had no choice.  I've apologized profusely for my poor attendance at church, but I sense He's okay with that.
As long as I communicate with Him daily.

(Don't lose me here because I'm starting to talk about God and refer to Him with a capital "H."  I know that gives people the heebie jeebies.  Just hang with me.)

But I can't even tell you the number of times I laid on my bedroom floor, either so full of panic and adrenaline, a body riddled with pins and needles across every square inch of skin, 
or in total despair at the bewilderment and confusion of this state, 
over nothing concrete other than not knowing how to deal with myself or my thoughts and unrelenting fear, praying for reprieve to my ceiling fan.
When real people are dying and suffering from REAL things, REAL illnesses and REAL heartache.

The fan never answered, but God did.

"Trust me.  Just trust me.  And keep going."

Fuck.  Alright.  I'll keep going.  Although I don't know if I can.

"Trust me.  You can.  Just keep, going.
Oh, and pay no mind to tomorrow.  I've got tomorrow covered.  Just be where you are right now."

Ugh.  Fine. 

I awoke one morning with this intense pain in the palm of my right hand. . .just the palm, so intense.  Like it was being squeezed in a vice-like grip from an overly-aggressive business man, only really painful. 

Well, of course my mind started racing, as it woke me out of sleep and was so strong and my mind had a hay day with that pain.

I tried to shake it off and while doing so, opened up my God-send, God book from a cherished friend I've never met in person.  I read the passage of the day, in the wee hours of this cold, winter morning.

"Waves of adversity are washing over you, and you feel tempted to give up.  As your circumstances consume more and more of your attention, you are losing sight of Me.  

Yet I am with you always, holding your RIGHT hand.  I am fully aware of your situation, and I will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear."

Random?  Coincidence?  Did I just sleep on my hand wrong?  Maybe.

All I know, is I felt pinned down until I was finally ready to practice surrendering and trusting something. . .some ONE bigger than me and with more control than I have.
And leave behind layer upon layer of past beliefs, attitudes, judgements, fears, and that self I "thought" was me.
One of the most painful processes I've ever gone through.  

This is where I'm finally understanding the meaning of TRUE ACCEPTANCE (still learning.)
It's very easy to SAY we're accepting a situation, when in fact, we're treading quickly under the surface, you know, like ducks do.)  While we portray to the outside world we're skimming gracefully across the surface.
That doesn't count.

I've learned what it means to truly SAG in to panic, then fatigue, then despair. . .feel it all and not try do a thing about it.  Again and again and again, until the momentum behind the wheel finally starts to slow it down.
To not RUN to a therapist, RUN to medication, but go deeper in to the soul and sit there (nothing of which I am against, by the way,) but to be okay with ALL of it.  
Sweet Jesus, exhausting and lonely work when everyone around you takes a totally different, seemingly "easier" path.

But I learned some other things, that AREN'T quite so frightening.

I didn't know it was actually OKAY to sit in those dark voids of despair and not try to fight my way out or distract myself or try to fix it with a pill or a new therapy or maybe a night out with the girls will do the trick?
Yes, those things can help for a moment or help bring us back to reality.
 
But that by surrendering to it, stepping out of its way and letting it do it's thing without running or fighting, is where REAL change and growth happens and is EQUALLY as beneficial.
We are so quick to cover up, deny and try to outrun our suffering.
To take something, ANYTHING to make it stop or go away or distract ourselves.
I spent a good month doing that. 

Trust me, I totally get this natural inclination to react this way, because sometimes the pain and exhaustion and fear are just too damn much to take and there doesn't seem to be any light ahead when you seem to be so far below the surface or dreadfully afraid of your own shadow.
BUT.
If you can at least try to ALLOW yourself to SIT in it and keep letting time pass, with as much patience as you can muster (and I'm not talking giving it a week. . .it could take months. . .and months for you to learn what you need to learn and allow your mind to refresh itself,)
you will begin to move forward with lasting, solid, acceptance and trust.
(P.S.  I'm not there yet.)

"There were defenses I thought I needed in order to become a better version of me, a person strong and competent enough not only to cope with life, but to excel at it. . .the great surprise of growing older, it turns out, is not great certainty about these things, but less."  -Katrina Kenison.


So I'm getting that.  And this knowledge doesn't come easy.  Learning that certainty and security and stability is an illusion. 
I have shuffled and shuffled and dragged with this idea in tow.  That I'm actually not really in control at all.
Sweet, baby Jesus, that's a terrifying thought.
I walked the streets of my town, contemplating it all.  Lit by soft street lights and snow and living room lamps, blustery winds that bit my cheeks and stung my eyes,
to now green grass and buds on trees, a little more go in my step and a little more understanding.
I have forced myself to swim half a lap, then maybe another, in the depths of this hard sought-after knowledge.
Some times with a deep inner peace, knowing and trusting I'm safe and being guided and all will be okay, God holding my hand along the way.
Other times, terrified beyond belief and in tears and praying to the darkness to just end this, please.  That I'm okay with that as long as I don't have to hurt and be so terrified of everything anymore.

I'm getting that sometimes the well-defined, perfectly organized planet of our little personal worlds we create, 
is anything but.  
When you realize how small and short this life is, how thin the veil between this world and the next,
how all we THINK we control, is really completely out of our hands and in the fate of something bigger?
For me, it's been the catapult towards an undoing I couldn't prepare for but could only wade through.

And yet in this space, you learn your body is capable of sustaining blow after blow and somehow survives, 
and then you start to let go even more, in to the darkness and depletion that follows.  
The weight of that entire city landscape that rested so heavily on your fragile little chest and shoulders, starts to lift.

I had planned to ski away each day of winter on beautifully groomed trails, under deep blue skies.  To continue on my many hobbies and projects that not only excite me but make me feel like I am "more than," only to have had to strip them from my life completely (partly by choice, partly due to complete lack of energy or interest,) 
to rest.  
My past endeavors were quite the idol, I see now.

Me, engaging fearlessly but at the same time running from stagnancy and a fear of not being enough or having enough to show for myself beyond motherhood.
I had to REALLY get to know myself apart from all my "attachments," all the "successes" I've been working towards, hobbies I was hoping to "master." 
All removed in order for me to see what REALLY matters.
So frightening and so necessary.

There is nothing like a little anxiety, depression close on its heels, to remind you of your humanness.
To take you to such great depths, that the only way to move up and out, is to move through, that beautiful cliche that is so dead on.

Soul work, people.  Or as my sister so aptly put it, "My patience journey."

It is teaching you humility and the ability to ask for help, that you don't have to get out of, learn or move through everything by the strength of your own hands and the skin of your own teeth. 

It is allowing yourself to be seen, just as you are in these moments of overwhelming weakness, giving way to the arms and hands of others, of God, so that you may be held and learn to trust.

"I've never been good at asking for help; it seems risky; but at some point when things are really dicey, your stubbornness gives way to a certain form of humility, that, after you get over yourself, feels liberating."  -Dee Williams

What continues to surface is acceptance.  
Such a nice word but one of the hardest to internalize and make part of your life, whether it's learning to accept a little mental "blip" such as this, real physical illness, loss or grief.  But what choice do we have, other than to accept the best we can?

The journey is not all suffering.
I experience(d) moments of great peace.  Great presence along the way.
I am shocked by what I was and am able to do, despite how I feel on any given day, giving mad props to the power of the human body and the unfailing strength of the mind, if we give it space and allow it to just be without force or fight.

I hauled (literally,) hauled myself to a few restorative Yoga classes, flopping down heavily among the other 60-something's and their Fibromyalgia, arthritis and bursitis and Menopausal symptoms.
I had to chuckle a few times at the scenario.
But I embraced every second, you know, back to that whole "acceptance" thing.
"Ok!  This is where I'm at.  There's nothing I can do about it.  My body craves a rest from my mind.  Bring on Yoga and walks and days on the couch so boringly simple and quiet and. . .quiet. . .my 98-year-old Grandma would get antsy."

Despite the temporary veil over my eyes, I was able to be see some really beautiful things, little lights to keep me moving forward.

The way sunlight streams across Charlie's nose when he's getting in to the car after school.
Despite his inability to express himself (yet,) and his true feelings or get emotional, Jack's innate awareness.  
I don't have to (nor do I,) share with him my current mental state, but he knows.
He asks for and offers hugs multiple times a day.  He climbs in to the car every day after school, genuinely interested in my day and what I did.  Even if it's the same thing as the day before. 
"Well?  I went for a walk.  Did some laundry.  Cleaned a little.  Took a little nap.  Read some.  Not much:)"
"Sounds like a good mom day," he replies.

Grace's true compassion and ability to nurture with humor and no nonsense.  
"You know, you can't predict the weather.  You can try, but it doesn't always turn out like you think."
And "sometimes you gotta' just deal with stuff."

It is beyond humbling to be and feel "weak" and small in front of your even smaller children.
Yet don't have the strength or where-with-all to remedy, or shall we say, "suck it up" so readily,
no viable source of energy to draw from to give something, anything.
Adding to the overwhelming guilt and shame of not being enough for them.

BUT.  It is such a gift to learn the art of surrender.  To learn to let go.
To show them even as adults WE are not always strong and don't always do everything right.
That, yes, it's okay to slow down and ask for help.  In fact, it's necessary.
My TWO pairs of sweatpants are shredded on the bottom, having worn them to a single layer of string over the recent winter months from the aimless shuffling. 
My hair is covered in grey.
My body much softer.
But I deeply and completely love and accept myself.  
I am enough as I am now.  And anything I want to venture in to from here on out, will come from a place of genuine joy and interest instead of endeavor and conquer and ego.

I still am not sure what all this means, if anything.  
I read a quote somewhere though that makes some sense, "God often uses our deepest pain as a launching pad for our greatest calling." 
My conversation with God continues and it is good.
(To a few close family members and friends who check in and with whom I've shared small glimpses of my struggles, thank you.  You know who you are and I love you and greatly appreciate your patience with the idiosyncrasies of my annoying self.) 

I am eternally indebted and grateful to my comrades who walk with me, and hold my LEFT hand on this journey:)
Rose, Roger, Cheryl, Sheila, Carl, Sandy, Ali, Julie, Julia, Lucy, Joe, Sam, David, Dottie, Gunhild, Warren, everyone else.
You are all a blessing. 
David-David-David.  A true angel on this earth.  Helping those who get in their own way. 
PLEASE don't let me forget how this all works and help to keep me grounded in the truth and faith in practice.

To my mom, who will still hold my 36-year-old body in her arms if I need it.  
To my sister, who commiserates and relates and offer an outlook on this stuff with a more simple and healthy attitude.
To my husband.
My husband.
His unwavering patience for me, my sweatpants, my distance, at times,
and my endless self-preoccupation.  Giving me the space and time to work through and figure things out.

{On a side note, if you're reading this and you have more questions or are or have been "stuck" yourself, or have no clue what I'm talking about, don't hesitate to send me a note.
ewesterhaus@gmail.com 

Everyone is on their own spiritual journey.   
No matter how ridiculous or wasteful it may seem to YOU, from an outside perspective.
Fellow humans either awake to the calling of their purpose here, no matter how challenging, or in denial of what life has or has been trying to show them. 
Regardless, be kind.  Everyone is fighting their own battle.

More to come:)
Love,
Liz



 

1 comments:

Sara said...

Oh my goodness Liz. I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face. I follow you on Instagram. A fellow Minnesotan. A complete stranger. Your words hit home. Thank you for sharing your journey. From a mama of four and a police officer that sees too much misery, the weight often feels like it is crushing me. I get by somehow. I'm not sure how-but your story is evident that you are not alone. Thank you.

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