When I feel my blood pumping as a result of having a sudden shock of surprise from something it makes me feel anxious. That switch in my brain goes from relaxed and enjoyment to stress and anxiety and then has a hard time switching back. I think that is one of the side effects of having anxiety problems. It zaps your ability to watch and enjoy horror and suspense movies too. That sudden noise out of nowhere that makes you jump isn’t something I tend to deal with well. It is a symptom of a long history of trauma that while scarred and marked for life it never really goes away.
I don’t know that I was always like this but maybe I was and just didn’t recognize it. The years of trauma from an abusive childhood followed by years of struggling to survive in the world as a teen and young adult probably didn’t help. While we can heal from a lot of things in our life I don’t know that the scars of trauma ever go away. Then when we least expect it something will come up in life that brings up some of those old feelings and with it anxiety of the worse kind. Sometimes it’s just the sudden noise of a movie that makes you stand up on guard waiting for the next suspenseful action to occur. It amazes me how quick my mind and body can go into this mode of thinking about survival and old habits come back to me in dealing with it just like I never left it.
The other side of this story is most people who meet me tell me I am incredibly strong. I have a determination about me that can be intimidating and is the result of having been through so much in my life. It has shaped me into who I am and that is a strength and courage others can pick up and see about me clearly. If that is true then how can I also have anxiety? How can I feel depression, loneliness and even overwhelming thoughts? It seems so contrasted against this description of a warrior who has been though hell and back. Yet it is very much the side of me many don’t see. That vulnerable person inside who loses sleep worried about how to make it, achieve it, survive it and do it.
A lot of people have anxiety and I don’t consider myself unique with it. I honestly think most of us have it but we try to manage it quietly. We tell ourselves we’re being ridiculously too sensitive or are weak instead. Stand up and deal with our problems like adults and move on already. I did that for a long time. Heck, let’s just be real and I’ll admit that I still try to do it as often as I can. No one wants to admit they can’t deal with something that from all appearances sake appears others do just fine on. When you are a warrior by choice or not you also know you’re expected to just deal with it.
When I watched the Olympics this summer and the athlete with anxiety and mental health needs withdrew from her sport as a result it struck me. Most of the time, we just suck it up and go but why? Why do we push ourselves through when it doesn’t feel right or we have wounds that need to be tended. If we are hurt physically we stop and fix it. We rest and rebuild our strength. Yet when the wounds are mental we don’t have that same luxury. We don’t give ourselves that same healing space and support. Stress that leads to anxiety is just as real an injury as a broken bone.
I don’t need to anyone to tell me I am strong and capable as a result of how I grew up and how I got to where I am today. That path is full of battles won, lost and fought hard for. I know the inches I crawled and miles I walked to get to this point in my life. Yet it doesn’t mean there are still not things that hurt. Or perhaps after all of that I am truly tired and need rest. It doesn’t mean the triggers of the past won’t come up and bite me again at some point either. What I need when those anxious feelings creep up and wash over me is recognition that even strong people sometimes need rest.
We don’t always get to choose our path in life though we can choose how we travel on it sometimes. We can surround ourselves with a caring support system and tools to help us. We can even make the view better at points and enjoy it once in awhile. Some of us don’t have the choice but to push forward every day and try to also heal ourselves so we don’t lose ground along the way. We have people depending on us and life to continuously build and yet that fight gets harder on some days when we least expect it. Warriors know what that means. You can literally feel the energy life force drain as you cringe at the thought of another day fighting through life.
Be strong you’ll hear. You can do it, which you probably can. As a fellow warrior I have no doubt about that. However, I invite you to consider what would happen if you didn’t. What would happen if you recognized you needed rest or to walk away from something. Would you be as brave to walk away from a medal hard earned through years of sacrifice and training because it was right for you? Or would you push forward despite that? Watching that Olympian walk away from a medal gave me pause to consider that even a warrior has choices that can be made in the heat of the battle.
Observing that event and reflecting on my own path I don’t know if I would have chosen differently than I have. Maybe if I had though I could watch a suspenseful movie without getting upset. Maybe I would be in a different place in my life or not. Who knows? The lesson here though is it is ok to be a warrior and recognize ourselves as still vulnerable people with needs. Sometimes the strongest and healthiest thing we can do is to take care of ourselves. The measures of success in life are so much bigger than medals, big houses, money and a lifestyle that we’re not even sure is right for us.
One of the biggest advantages I see to living more naturally is that even in my warrior state I can be human. I can slay challenges in front of me and still take care of myself. I can give myself that grace to know what doesn’t feel right and change direction or entire paths if I need to find what does serve my soul. Living our best life is not just the social media highlight pictures of us winning but of us also winning on the inside.
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