Do you ever feel defeated? Even when we feel this way, it doesn’t mean it’s true. I’m saying this for myself but if you need to hear it too, then go ahead & listen…
As you may know, I kind of took a short hiatus from reality last month when tragedy struck our family in a very permanent, unexplainable way. When things like this happen to us, it’s easy NOT to move forward.
That doesn’t mean staying right where we are is easy either because whatever it is you’re going through is still very real to you & most likely affecting the way you live your life at the moment. Sometimes it begins with the passing of a loved one, an overwhelming project at work, a bad week or even something that’s been there all along…
I’ll be honest, I’ve managed with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t say I’ve struggled with it, because I haven’t & to say that I have would diminish the real struggles of those that have. As a kid, I remember crying before school but not knowing why. I remember this heavy feeling in my chest but couldn’t tell you why I was in pain. I had seen a history of this in my family & when my mother took me to a doctor around the age of 12, he immediately prescribed me drugs. Shortly after, I decided that I would become my own advocate. That drugs were a temporary Band-Aid (for me personally) & that I would learn to manage this naturally.
As I developed over the years, I remained heavily dependent on counseling. This taught me that it was okay to talk about my feelings, be unsure & that it was normal to be afraid of the new & adapt to change. I began to realize that these feelings of anxiousness came most often at times of change. Moving, uncertain family relationships, peer pressure, wanting to try something new & being afraid to fail, those kinds of things…
I think a lot of you will understand what I mean when I say, I didn’t start figuring out who I was until I came face-to-face with the real world. You know the one that slaps you in the face after school is over & your expected to take care of yourself now…
Every once in a while that feeling would creep into my body; heavy breathing, heart beating fast, nausea in my stomach… I had to face my doubts & make decisions now. I was an “adult”. Ones like; where would I live? Is my relationship healthy? Can I afford to stay in college? What will I do for a career? What if I fail my state exam?
Some short years later, those doubts seemed so pitiful when the biggest question of all came to the table. Will I be a good mom? That’s when my whole world changed. This new chapter in my life brought an overwhelming sense of joy & peace. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but throughout my pregnancy & newborn days, I was comforted by the fact that my most important job now was to put this little human’s needs before my own. He needed me & in turn, I needed him to need me. I know it sounds a little like I might never let him leave home in 18 years but I don’t foresee that being an issue.
As I was learning to become a mother, I was also learning to become a single mother. After my short 8 week maternity leave, I returned to work, survived the initial “leaving my baby with a sitter” fears & thought that I had it all figured out. But, in the months to follow I found myself crying each night after laying my baby in his crib. I once threw away an entire sink full of bottles, not because I was incapable of washing dishes but because it was simply a metaphor for my feelings of being overwhelmed with life. I felt some of those old, familiar physical symptoms of distress. I would pace the hall for hours knowing I should sleep so that I could be prepared for his midnight wake-up call but remained restless. I even brought my baby to bed with me multiple times having no recollection of doing so when I woke up. Scary stuff… I was more than physically exhausted, I was also emotionally drained.
I have had people curiously ask me if I ever went through PPD (Postpartum depression) which is very common in women after birth but frankly, I hadn’t heard anything about it. The first time I was asked, I proudly said “thankfully, I didn’t”. It wasn’t until my life was in a much better place, that I thought back to those dark days & thought that I might had been ignoring a very real, very serious disorder.
Some way, some how, it all changed for me. I wish there was some magical answer for everyone going through tough times but there isn’t. One day, it just clicked that I needed to change. That I couldn’t be sad, scared & feeling alone forever. I picked up some incredibly inspiring books to pass time when my baby was sleeping, I began to practice yoga, put more effort into my overall health & I asked for help when I needed it.
When I look back, I can thankfully say that I have only had short periods of anxiousness in my life. So, I don’t believe I struggle with anxiety but have found ways to manage it when it sneaks into my life. I know this isn’t true for everyone. For a lot of people anxiety is an on-going disorder & living with it is not as simple as reading a best-selling book or venting to a good friend.
Last month, I experienced the worst panic attack I’ve ever had. Up until now, I’ve been predominantly in control of my life & what happens in it. When my relationship didn’t change, I moved on. When my job didn’t respect me, I got a new one. When something wasn’t going my way, I did something about it. For the most part, the only thing you can’t control is everyone else. When I realized that, I simply began to be more mindful of filtering out the negativity some people spilled into my life.
Our recent loss sent me into a state of shock at first. I was shaking uncontrollably & unable to sleep. I was nauseas & unable to eat. I went into a state of self-protection, simply ignoring that real life was still spinning around me, outside my little bubble. But again, I have thankfully gotten myself to a place where I don’t struggle with anxiety, I manage it & knowing I was capable of doing just that, I somehow knew the light was always there, it was just a matter of turning it on. Deep down, I knew this was just an attack on my mental state & it too, would pass. But, for the first time in so many years, these feelings were real & it scared me to have to face them…
I began to understand how easy it is to “lose yourself”. I began to see how the littlest of things can “set you off”. The woman who is intensely mad about the barista making her coffee wrong probably doesn’t even realize that it’s not the barista, but that it’s HER. The mom who goes off on her toddler in the store probably doesn’t even realize that it isn’t a behavior problem but that it’s HER. The snappy co-worker probably doesn’t realize that her teammate isn’t the problem, SHE IS.
Is this always the case? No, certainly not. We don’t have an explanation for everything but I can tell you from personal experience that my recent behavior makes a whole lot of sense. Does it make lashing out, being selfish & distant, excusable? No, it just means that I need to work that much harder at escaping the repercussions of this grief. It means I need to put in the work: to move forward, to not let it take over or define me.
I know I got a little carried away with my life’s rambling for a while there but what I’m really trying to get at, is that no matter who you are, we all have periods of time when we feel defeated. This means many different things to many different people. Sometimes we feel defeated because bad things seem to all happen at once. We might feel like we’re failing our kids. We might feel like no matter how hard we’ve tried to resolve something, there is no solution. We might blame ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. We might feel like we’ve done everything possible to reach a goal that isn’t attainable.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my young adult life is that our mentality is EVERYTHING. It wasn’t the books, yoga or people that changed me, it was my mind who changed itself. We can allow our mind to play tricks & we can allow our mind to define what makes us happy. I recently picked up a book that I had been neglecting to finish, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. In this spiritually moving book she reads,
“The best we can do, then, in response to our incomprehensible and dangerous world, is to practice holding equilibrium internally–no matter what insanity is transpiring out there.”
I coincidentally found myself reading this passage the night I found out what had happened in Paris…
So in conclusion, I could dwell on the facts. The fact is, I’m sick. I have a terrible cold, I’ve lost my voice & I can’t even reprimand my toddler when he’s being naughty. I’m behind on my work since I’ve had to take a couple sick days. I’ve been distant from my partner & it’s showing. I’m going through the stages or waves of grief. I’m stressed about things that haven’t even happened yet. I’m really, really tired & I still feel a sense of anxiousness at times that I almost forgot how to deal with… If all of this were part of some war game, it’d appear I’ve been defeated.
But I am not defeated. I have a strong, capable & healthy mind. I don’t need to try to comprehend what is happening in this dangerous world. I simply need to practice internal equilibrium as it says in the book. I know this need to be true because I have been blessed with it’s reward many times already. When I am the best me, everyone benefits. So, I will continue to fight. To fight for the best in me, the woman in me, the mother in me, the partner in me, the creator in me, the dreamer in me, the peace & light inside of me. I will give thanks for the beautiful parts of my life & share that with the world because that is exactly where I will derive my strength from on the days I feel defeated.
For those of you going through challenges in your life, I encourage you to focus on the good in your life. If you can’t see it or find it right now, make it. The first 10 days after our loss, easily felt like the hardest days at that time but I still found a way to see the light & shared a post I titled ’10 good things in 10 days.’ You should also know, that you’re not alone & that you are worth fighting for.