My high anxiety life, tempered with codependency, created a storm that rivals recent hurricanes and left a path of ‘not readily obvious’ destruction behind it – anger, binge drinking, false control and more. Fortunately, my unhealthy ability to put the best foot forward while freaking out on the inside kept the external damage to my children and friends minimized or hidden. “You Always Have It together” was no longer a compliment. I deserved an Academy Award, as kindly offered by my counselor, for keeping a limping household – oh h*ll, several households over time – on track.
My body was indeed keeping score and the physical toll was beginning to seep through the cracks. I was seen for a variety of physical symptoms over time didn’t go away – because there was another underlying issue. (Note: Over 30% of adults experiencing physical symptoms have an underlying brain or nervous system challenge.) My professional focus seemed to lose impact. Basically, I was swimming in a cesspool of unhealthy physiological and behavioral patterns.
My mantra became, ‘I just want peace, I just want peace …’ I made the risky decision to take some funds from my limited retirement and participated in an extensively self-researched, life changing recovery retreat. This fueled me to dig deep with the help of several talented wellness practitioners, observe and own my issues without shame or guilt, and finally understand that putting my oxygen mask on first is the only way to help yourself and then support others.
I’m an academic at heart. My personal work was not to be left to the therapists and doctors but also directed by my own research. I know that you must be your own health advocate – every day in every way. I questioned, asked and pushed. I began studying how our nervous system and brain become prewired by our life experiences. The brain literally follows certain electrical pathways once they are taught and reinforced. The experience of anxiety, depression, PTSD and ADHD are very good teachers.
I knew our culture overmedicates and treats the presenting symptoms. I knew when I was on medication (and there is a time and place for medication) I felt numb. When I was off it, I felt worse. I knew there HAD to be other alternatives than the merry-go-round of what I knew and the hook that medication can unwittingly create.
Enter a chance encounter that redefined my life professionally and personally at the very right time …
PART 3 – Getting Level Headed