We choose how we live our lives. Each day we make choices, some good and some not. Here's my personal story on how I became content with my life because of one simple decision.
I approach each day with a curious enthusiasm for how I can make the most of my life to find balance and contentment. In others words, finding ways to relax so I can gracefully handle anything that comes my way. This thought process is at the basis of how I offer my energy to each person who walks into my office.
However, my life wasn’t always balanced nor as relaxed. Not too long ago I was living in the depths of depression and anxiety. It took some time, but I crawled my way out of the chaos with a single decision that led to a domino effect of healing.
In my last blog post, I discussed the heart infection, open-heart surgery and physical changes I had post-surgery. Well, another considerable shift happened during my recovery – a wake-up call. I realized I wasn’t happy with my life and I hadn't been for some time. I knew why but was afraid to improve it because it involved a radical, life-altering change. Avoidance became the priority which led to a deep depression and extreme anxiety where I became frozen to any attempt or alteration.
About 18 months after my surgery, my worn mental state began to affect me physically. As stated in my previous newsletter, stress and living in constant sympathetic mode (Fight-Flight-Freeze response) can cause physical changes, some very dangerous and life-threatening.
Sleep became difficult; I woke up ill most mornings with little energy. I couldn't let anyone touch me as my skin felt electrified and my heart felt like it was going to beat out my chest. I had moments where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Full-on panic was the norm. Then there was the rapid weight loss (see photo to the right - 25lbs less than I weigh now). I was wasting away, literally.
The only thing keeping me afloat at that time were my dogs and writing about movies. They were my escape (distraction), but by then, I knew I was going to die if I didn’t seek some help, so I went to my parents who sent me to a doctor.
After a few weeks, I returned home numbed up on medication but no stronger. Still fearful of the consequences of change, I did nothing to help myself. The sympathetic mode had its hooks in deep. No relaxation in sight. Have you ever felt like this?
Fear kept me frozen for the next four years from making choices for my well-being. Feeling ashamed, I remained silent and never asked for help from anyone. And I will admit, there were some days I wish I no longer existed. True, this was no way to live, but I had lived so long in such a dark place that I couldn’t see the light anymore.
So, what changed? As I mentioned in one of my Instagram posts recently, a simple decision to see a play shifted my perspective and sometimes that is all you need. In early 2014, I was working on my movie reviews, and I read one of my favorite actors, Ewan McGregor, was making his Broadway debut. Having studied theatre in college and mixed with my admiration, without much thought, I decided to see the play.
What seems like a simple choice to most, turned out to be the genesis for my dramatic step back into the living. For years I kept my head above water, ready to let go. But that day I made a decision and looked to the future.
Honestly, I still lacked energy, but I kept going for the next ten months following through on small healthy decisions because I had something to look forward to, finally. By the week of the play, I searched for more resources to help me find strength and inner peace. With the frenetic vibes of NYC, I knew I needed to find something to help me combat my anxiety as I was still quite fragile.
Years ago, I practiced yoga and always felt calm by the end of class. So, not wanting to have an anxiety attack before stepping into the Roundabout Theatre, I went to a yoga class. It was hard – both physically and mentally, but I felt some peace by the end. A veil began to lift, so I came back the next day and the next until it was time to leave for the play.
Going to NYC gave me something I hadn’t had in a long time – Hope. Life can be different; you just have to work at it. Next step was to build strength, heal and find courage.
With yoga back in my life, I had a path that would guide me towards relaxation, and within two months I was in a yoga teacher training which strengthened the process of my curious enthusiasm on how to find my balance. By then, I was practicing yoga every day, got off all medications and within three months I was strong enough to finally make and follow through the big decision that was too hard prior.
Now three and a half years later, practicing yoga consistently, teaching yoga and working as a Massage Therapist, I am genuinely content, stronger and full of knowledge on how to find relaxation and help others find theirs. I continue to educate myself on what makes me happy and balanced.
Remember to remain curious about what makes you smile, calm. Don’t just sit in fear of change but permit yourself to take steps towards contentment.
I offer my story as a ray of hope to anyone who is struggling or afraid to make changes. I know it’s not easy, but you have the light within to find contentment…make a simple decision, look forward and follow your path towards relaxation. It is attainable. I am living proof!