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How Anxiety Saved My Life

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Like many others I suffer from anxiety, this post is about how I realized I was suffering and how I started to dig my way out.

Be Here Now

Anxiety forced me to slow down and focus on what was really important for my happiness and mental well being.

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How anxiety saved my life

No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again

— Buddha

2020 has been my best year. Dark, scary, inner work, but worth all of the growth.

Here we go… In May of 2020 I became very ill. I either got a really bad case of food poisoning OR had a spiritual awakening. I believe it was a little of both and more of the latter.

On May 25th I had what I thought at the time was a really severe panic attack - room spinning, muscles tensed up and the kitchen counter caught my fall. A few hours went by and I discovered that I may have gotten food poisoning. At least this is what I was telling myself and what I chose to believe for the next 8 weeks, I know what you’re thinking, 8 weeks is a long time to have food poisoning... For the next 8 weeks I couldn’t keep any food down and began eating as scarcely as my body would let me. I lost 15 pounds, as a woman who is 5’9 and weighed 145, I didn’t have 15 pounds to spare. I started having anxiety and panic attacks daily (for 2 months) and had literally convinced myself if I ate I would continue to be sick. I was scared to eat and had to force myself to do it - lack of food was just another log on the fire. In the span of the 8 weeks I went to the doctor 3 separate times to get blood tests and any other test they could run on me to try and find an “answer” to what was going on with me. I even gave myself a trip to the emergency room because I had convinced myself that my heart rate was irregular and I had some kind of undiagnosed heart disease.

tears are starting to stream down my cheeks as I recall how bad things were and in realizing my growth

Even when we are lost, we are still exactly where we are supposed to be

I am a very private, “I don’t need any help” keep it to myself, don’t want to burden people with my problems kind of person. I started having suicidal thought about 5 weeks in - not the kind where I thought out how I would do it, but the kind where I felt like the only way I would ever escape the pain was if I no longer living. This is a very hard thing for me to admit - I love my life and I knew that what was happening to me would eventually pass and that I would eventually be ok, but at the time I just couldn’t figure out how. How could I ever feel better?! I had completely let my fear and anxiety take over and I was no longer myself, I had become a shell of the person that I used to be. I was scared, felt so very alone and hopeless. I had not shared any of this info with my family or even my boyfriend (and I lived with him). For 3 weeks I woke up and was instantly in the middle of a panic attack and my first thought of the day would be “how can I end this without actually ending this?” I eventually broke down and told my family I was having a lot of anxiety, but that was all I told them. In fact if they are reading this now this is the first they have heard of how bad off I was. I did however tell my boyfriend everything, which was really hard, but I wanted/needed help and I had to start somewhere.

Sharing Is Caring

I learned by talking to him, my family and a few select friends that sharing these tough times actually made them a lot easier. However, it did not make my fear and anxiety go away, if anything it made it worse because I felt guilty that I was missing out on good times with all of them because I was consumed by fear and I don’t really even know what the fear was of. I wanted help and I wanted my life back, I had worked too hard for all that I had to let it go to some fear that I couldn’t pin point. I got a therapist and started journaling daily, it helped, a lot. Rewind to all the doctor and emergency room visits - there was nothing wrong with me, absolutely nothing. In fact I was in optimum health. Other than being low on electrolytes, which was what was causing my irregular heart beat there was nothing wrong with me, physically.

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The Realization

I finally had to face the facts and accept that it was all in my head. For me this was hard and I’m sure like many others, I felt like there had to be a “reason” a definitive, tangible reason for why I wasn’t feeling well. I had lost all joy in my life. I stopped exercising, doing yoga, cooking, baking, going outside - there was nothing that I wanted to do but wait for the next day out of hopes that it would be better. Once I accepted it was all my head I was able to make a little peace with my mind and started my journey of healing. Days after accepting it was all in my head I forced myself to meditate - which at the time was very scary for me, being alone with my thoughts and my breath was literally the last place I wanted to be. I meditated for 40 minutes and the amount of clarity I found was incredible and you know what? It wasn’t as scary of a place as I thought it was going to be - it was like the phrase “the monsters turned out to be just trees” I realized I was going to be okay, but that I had some work to do. I signed up for a membership at a local meditation studio and I have been faithfully meditating everyday since then (3 months).

To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness

— Robert Morley

Take a moment to pause

Once I was able to sit with my thoughts I was able to see clearly at what the actual problem was - I was living in fear and I was living in the future. I spent the next 3 months working on just me. I stopped acting like I needed to take on all of the worlds problems and made myself my first priority. At first it was hard and I felt guilty and wondered if I no longer loved my boyfriend and my family because I was paying attention to myself first instead of them. I eventually realized that my number one job in life is to take care of me, I was 41 and had never stopped to take care of just me. In life it is so very easy for us to get caught up in the “I’ve gotta get this done for so and so and run these errands” before we know it the day is done and we haven’t taken even one minute for ourselves. I say this because I know so many of us live our lives this way. It is much easier to focus on everything you "have" to get done than it is to work on ourselves.

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The Take Away

Three months have gone by now. As I sit back and reflect on how bad off I was I can’t help but cry and smile just thinking about how far I have come - I mean I was scared to eat for 2 months! Literally frightened at the thought of having to put food in my mouth. I will always be a work in progress and I will continue to work on myself daily.

Here is what I learned from this whole experience:

I don’t have to do it all

I am the most important person in my life

Feeling this way doesn’t make me selfish or a bad person

I have to ask for help when I need it - people really aren’t mind readers

Communication is key

I am in charge and in control at all times of how I feel - not my past, present or future has control, but me and me only

When I notice I am leaning towards an old habit I have to stop and correct it immediately - practice is progress, no matter how slowly you go

You’re wondering what it was? What was wrong that caused 3.5 months of anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts?? It was everything. It was the pandemic, it was me not admitting I was scared of the future for our society, me not admitting that I didn’t want to move to another state, me not using my voice and thinking I had to do it all, me thinking I was a burden to the people that loved me if I spoke up and shared how I felt, me never taking time for myself, me never allowing myself to have a 2 sided relationship and lean on others and a big part was me not making peace with some childhood traumas (that is another blog post entirely). The things that happen to us in life aren’t always our fault, but they are our responsibility - it is always our responsibility to heal ourselves from past traumas, not our parents because they were there, not our friends or significant others because they want to make us happy - ours and ours alone. If you want to be happy YOU have to bring that happiness, because you are truly the only person that knows exactly what you want, what you need and what brings you joy.

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One day at a time

I feel as though I have been given yet another chance on life. I wake up each day living my truth and speaking it to the best of my ability. I give myself grace, but I also remind myself that happiness is an ongoing task and it is also temporary - so relish in the moments when you can! I am still meditating daily and have slowly started working out and going to yoga again. I now cook and bake again. I am also going outside and enjoying the outdoors once again. I have found my love for life all over again and I couldn’t be more thankful! I am still meditating at the local studio and they loved me so much that they asked me to be part of their family and now I work there! I will also be starting my meditation teacher training in March of 2021. For those that do not know I teach yoga at a studio in Dallas and through all of this and me finding my voice I truly found my niche in the teaching world and proud to admit that I believe I am helping others heal one day at a time.

I know this blog post is about me, but I must stop and take a moment to thank everyone that was there with me, holding my hand and cheering me on along the way - my boyfriend, grandmother, my family, the couple of friends that I opened up to, my yogis (for without even knowing healed me) and my dog, Bane, who meditated with me everyday and continues to do so. I know I did the hard work, but thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If you’re reading this I hope that it brought you some solace or clarity. I hope that you know that you are trying your best and that is all we can ever do, try our best. Remember even when you’re lost, you’re still exactly where you’re supposed to be. I love you. Coco.

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© 2020 Coco Parra

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