If you were to ask me my single biggest accomplishment in life, it would be learning how to help myself with anxiety and how to help myself with depression.
It wasn’t that long ago that I felt afraid of everything. It just felt like there was a constant tightness in my body. I was always braced and ready for something bad to happen. Like I was going to get attacked.
Before 2016, when I really started to suffer from anxiety and depression, I honestly don’t have many helpful memories. I remember events and things that happened, and I remember often feeling unhappy or bothered or like something was agitating me, but that’s it.
I’ve been in therapy pretty consistently since I was about 23 years old, but I can’t remember hardly anything we talked about in my 20s and early 30s. I also had a lot of deep conversations with friends (while drunk) and don’t remember much from those, either.
I now understand that I don’t remember much about my feelings because I didn’t want to—I was always wondering why can’t I be happy, but I didn’t think I was supposed to feel dissatisfied, so I succumbed to just trying to feel grateful for what I had.
Guess how that went? Spoiler alert—ignoring my feelings wound me up in the hospital.
When I started yoga teacher training, I learned that to figure out what was wrong with my life, I would need to learn how to listen to my body. Harder, though, the art of inner peace is learning to tolerate what our bodies tell us.
All day Saturday and Sunday, my fellow yogis met for yoga practice, and after, we discussed what our bodies were telling us. And for the first time ever, I saw that me and my hard feelings were far from alone in this world, and with this, my healing journey had officially started.
When we’re in our bodies and feel what’s happening, we open up to a whole new set of senses that help guide us to make decisions and learn what to veer toward and what to steer clear of.
You might have noticed by my photos, but for the past three weeks, I’ve been doing a 21-day yoga challenge. I’m not sure the word “challenge” appropriately depicts what the past 21 days have been for me so much as “reset,” but practicing yoga consistently for the past 21 days has definitely helped me identify what I want and need from life right now. And having not had alcohol or marijuana for the entire month of January (my first time as an adult, abstaining from alcohol for a whole month straight!), I have to say, I’ve never felt clearer or more confident in my ability to achieve whatever my body wants and needs.
I noticed that when I am doing things that make me feel good, like engaging in deep, authentic conversations, reading and learning, or activities like cooking and exercise, I feel completely at ease. I see that when I am writing, I’m a tiny bit less at ease because it’s challenging for me while I’m learning this new skill, but still, it feels good. Conversely, I’m noticing when I am in situations where I feel unappreciated, like my time is being wasted, or like I’m not being respected, I feel clear and confident that I need to run for the door quickly.
When we’ve spent too much of our lives pleasing others, living in fear of something or somebody, or with limiting beliefs that make us feel as though our hopes and wishes are too lofty and even greedy, we learn that to stay safe, we are better off burying or numbing our feelings than following them.
As I work with clients, it’s very important for me not to force them into things like yoga or meditation, which work well for me, but I need to teach what’s beneath those modalities, and it’s learning to be in and listen to our bodies.