Posted in Be The Change

Cross my heart! Hope to die? Stick a needle in my anxiety!?

I’ve been living with anxiety for as long as I can remember…and it sucks!! I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, incorporated the tools into my life, and the list goes on. I understand anxiety and I can talk about it in all sorts of different ways and yet when I wake up on one of “those mornings” almost nothing I know, understand or have learned equips me to deal with the feeling. As my eyes open I feel the steely grip of it around my stomach and the mechanical wings of robotic butterflies hammering against my chest. The thing is there isn’t always a reason as to why I should wake up to greet the day with the slightly acidic taste of vomit in the back of my throat, but hey, there it is!!

And no matter how I think or try to ground myself I am like a trigger-ball just waiting to snap at something and spiral into the depths of despair for no other reason than I am awake and the world is out to get me! Logical – No! Real – Yes! I have done the work around my disorder and have a plethora of tools and methodologies to use when it strikes, but when it’s a really bad attack nothing that I seem to know is enough to get me back into a space where I am able to tap into the wisdom, logic and executive thought processes of my prefrontal cortex – the part of my brain where all the good stuff happens. I know what it feels like to “flip my lid” as Daniel Siegel explains and go into that part of the brain where I am being held captive by my amygdala in a state of fight, flight or freeze. I have the “mindsight” to see what’s going on and yet my brain goes into runaway-train mode and I feel like a helpless heroine from a 1920’s train robbery silent movie.

And over the years it’s got better with all the personal work and learning I have done, consciously and consistently incorporating practices into my life to keep me present, grounded and tapped into pre-frontal part of the brain where I am thinking like a rational and reasonable human, and not reacting like an impala under attack by a pride of lions. And still there are days when the the world closes in around me and I am slave to the neurological processes of my ever-complicated grey matter!

What I am not trying to do here is excuse the fact that I become irrational, unreasonable and completely over-emotional in these times. The period between these attacks has got longer with the more practices and tools I use, but still it happens. And in these times not only am I freaked out and impossible, but I have a severely negative impact on the people around me. I become needy and seek affirmation and assurance from anyone within a twenty metre radius, but don’t necessarily believe the words that I hear. It’s really just a nasty emotional quagmire to be in!

And yet I never stop looking for ways to calm my brain and psyche, and develop new behaviour that is supportive of me being in a present, grounded space in my life. Among other things I exercise regularly, follow a healthy sleep and recovery regimen, eat a very balanced and nutritious diet, abstain from alcohol, narcotics and nicotine, journal, do plenty of personal spiritual, emotional and mental work, and follow a number of intellectual pursuits of a personal and professional nature. I am fully aware of my triggers and have a strong system, structure and scheduling process in my life. So it’s not like I am not aware of what needs to be done. The purpose of all of this is to support my well-being and personal recovery, and to ensure that my anxiety is under control on an ongoing basis, and yet I still get struck by the horrible debilitating disorder periodically!

Well, that was until fairly recently…let’s call it a month! And then I was introduced to the wonders of Acudetox otherwise known as sticking needles into one’s ears!? A method of using acupressure points in the ear to detoxify the body and enhance well-being. The reason I was interested to begin with was to help me wean off my prescription of Wellbutrin which could possibly have run its course and actually be adding to the anxiety, although there is no definitive evidence of this and confusing wording like “research suggests…”. On the morning of my first treatment I was having one of “those days” crippled by insecurity and my special brand of crazy thinking. When I get like this it’s like being an astronaut whose become disconnected from the spacecraft, floating around in the ether without any communication or oxygen, and knowing where I need to get to, but being unable to do so. I’m flailing in mid air, fighting the zero-gravity effect and feeling helpless!

So I arrived in a tearful and panicked state. All I really want in these times is to be able to pause and get back into a state of presence and calm, where I can reason, rationalise and respond to my life. I shared the space with my partner who is severely impacted when I am trapped in the anxiety spiral, and the practitioner quietly put the needles into my ears and then left me to sit for 45 minutes. I could feel the anxiety slipping out of my body as the minutes ticked by. To be honest merely being able to sit still when I am so anxious was a feat in itself, but something was happening. I could feel my prefrontal cortex coming back online so to speak and the irrational thoughts and fears ebbing away.

When the time was up and she had removed the needles I still felt the residual effects of my morning – it’s like an emotional hangover when I have a really bad bout. And although the rest of the day I still felt raw and uneasy, the following morning I woke up in a completely different space and time. There was nothing in my stomach or my chest…just a wonderfully peaceful empty feeling. And it was in that waking that I realised that even when I am not in full-blown attack mode, I actually live with the feelings of being anxious on a daily basis…it’s just my normal. Over the past fours weeks my world has changed considerably.

Although I have fleeting feelings of anxiety, my days are far more centred and manageable, and I have been having weekly sessions with the Acu-Angel.  I have been more present, grounded and calm than I have been in ages, even with a chaotic job and a lot of pressure in my life. I am dealing with my triggers more effectively and handling my stress in a far healthier way, and all has been well. Until through unforeseen circumstances I missed my last appointment and along with a special set of stressful circumstances, I had a day!! A horrible, dysfunctional day where nothing I did would keep my in the space of being a responsive, thoughtful woman. And it was in that day when I undid so much of the good I’d done in the previous weeks, I realised just how powerful the treatment I have been receiving is.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anything works in isolation. I don’t think that taking meds and sitting on the couch is going to create mental health and well-being, or that going to the gym will get me a great body if I don’t do anything else. I am sure that a combination of practices, habits and behaviour is what is needed to be in a state of holistic wellness. But wow! With all the work I have done over the years, I feel as though acudetox is the thread that pulls it all together. Because while I can be cerebral about my life and what needs to be done, it feels now as though there is something chemical and physical that the needles are taking care of. I don’t know enough to be able to fully explain it, but the feeling of aliveness, energy, well-being, peace and presence I have experienced over the past month or so is nothing short of miraculous for me!

Of course I will continue to use the sessions along with my practices and processes, but the combination is returning all sorts of incredible dividends. My days are calmer and more focused, my sense of self is more realistic and loving, my personal relationship is stronger and happier (as is my partner), and there is a new level of clarity and responsiveness in my professional space. So although I did have an atrocious day on Saturday, and there is some damage control to be done, I am relieved that if I continue with my treatment, these days will eventually be nothing more than a memory as I move into an exciting new chapter in my personal and professional life, free of the shackles that have held me back for what really feels like forever…

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We offer acudetox sessions at The Foundation Clinic, Oaklands with registered practitioner Kim Margolius every Thursday morning.

For more information about rates and to book a session, please contact Leigh-Anne on (010)900-3131 or email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Posted in Life Coaching

On Particularly Rough Days…

I am  actively working on myself…and have been for some time because what I know to be true is that there is no end point to the work that I am doing.  No final destination or goal that can be achieved where I get to sit back and say that I have accomplished what I set out to do in my personal work.  The truth is that the more work we do, the more I realise there is to be done.  Okay, maybe calling it work makes it’s sound like a required tedium.  I love the process of getting to focus and experiment on myself – even when it’s difficult.

This afternoon I was having a quiet, pensive conversation with a friend of mine who is a true inspiration to me and has been an essential part of my spiritual, emotional and mental growth over the years.  The conversation was about important things that are going on in our lives, not just a chat about the weather, and we inevitably started talking about where we with ourselves and our more challenging situations.  The word acceptance kept coming up from my side of the conversation.  Acceptance about where I am in my life with regards to a couple of personal financial challenges that I have been facing.  Because the thing is that I am being extremely proactive in building my business and creating new opportunities in the work that I do.  It’s not like I am sitting on my couch and waiting for business to fall into my lap.

My Wheel of Life looks amazing at the moment.  Well except for that like wedge labeled “financial”, but that’s where the acceptance is being practiced (or is it tested) at the moment.  Acceptance in the fact that the situation is not permanent, and it’s definitely not personal (one of the habits/skills I am focusing on learning and deepening).  And also practicing the spiritual principles of faith and believing that the hard work will pay off.  That like my recovery, my body transformation and my relationship, consistency is the key to success.  Well one of them anyway.  That if I follow my path with courage and passion, the rewards will follow!?

I’m not talking of financial success, but wealth that is measured in other innumerable ways.  Riches that comprise of gratitude, love, acceptance, wisdom and understanding are actually abundant in my professional and personal life.  But there are times that I find the world a very complex, confusing place and then I start to forget that wealth and success are not merely about money and financial stability, but also about the universal truths of integrity, honesty, compassion and kindness.  That success is about honouring my values of education, knowledge, service, connection and adventure, in a way that touches the lives of the people that I work with.  That being given the privilege of holding a space for those who are ready to find their true voice and live with courageous vulnerability, is nothing short of a daily gift.

And yet I get caught up in the challenges of daily life and forget to be grateful for the remarkable space I get to work in.  Where I get to work and walk with people who are reinventing themselves, their relationships and their purpose in life.  Those seeking out their true sense of self so that they can move forward with congruent integrity.  I get to learn about lives that are so different from mine and no amount of reading could ever bring me the knowledge and insight I get from being part of my clients’ processes.  These are the blessings that I need to remind myself of when I am feeling overwhelmed by the business of life.

I never profess to be some sort of expert in the field of human behaviour, able to apply all the learning and tools to my own life in an effortless way.  My personal process is a collection of triumphs and challenges, situations that go swimmingly and others that teeter on the brink of disastrous.  At times I can be as present and centered as an enlightened being, only to be knocked out of my moment by something completely trivial.  And then spend ages trying to refocus and breathe in a way that resembles normal.  The reason I am saying this is because what I do believe is that there are no experts when it comes to how to live life.  There are just those who are much much better at it than use mere mortals…the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and other such spiritual masters being on the high end of the “I get this life thing” continuum.

I have had hysterical calls in the middle of the night from people who present very differently in their professional lives as business people, lawyers, executives and leaders, and their lives or those of their loved ones are in in a state of messy.  What this has shown me is that we are all just people trying to make sense of the inexplicable situations that life throws at us at times.  And we may be equipped with all sorts of skills, tools, practices and habits, but that doesn’t mean we hit the mark with our behaviour every time things go awry.  It’s one thing to observe and assist in other peoples’ lives and a completely different situation when it is happening to us.  So I have to remember that humility is an essential spiritual ingredient in my personal and professional life.

Because in my own life I don’t get to be the coach, I just get to be the woman.  That I also get triggered and scared, and there are things that upset my equilibrium.  Just because I know how which tools and methods to use when feeling upset, angry and reactive doesn’t mean I always get it “right”.  There are times that I lose my temper, react rather than respond, and even say something mean and thoughtless.  And just like everyone else I have to take myself back into the situation after losing my shit and apologise for being insensitive or irrational.  In fact often knowing what I should have done makes screwing it up even harder.  But that’s the inner critic coming out to have a loud word in my ear!

I guess what I am trying to say is that I really am just trying to navigate through this world as best I can.  That there are days when I just don’t get it… Days when I find people and communication complex and confounding.  Days when I want to slip under my bed and pretend that I am hiding from a fire-spewing dragon.  Days when even my best efforts end up not working out like I had hoped or planned, all communication missing the mark and pretty much it all just being a huge SNAFU!  And it is on these days in particular where I need to stay in my authentic self and just let the chips fall where they may, even if that is in a big messy pile all around me.  Only then can I start to catch my breath and my bearings and decide on the way forward.  Where maybe I have to shallow my pride and take responsibility around the part I have  played in the dysfunction.

I’m not saying that this is an everyday event, but what I am trying say is that it happens.  No one has a perfect score card when it comes to good days!  And on particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%. And that’s pretty good.

Rough Days

 

Posted in Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

365 Days of Becoming the New(er) Me…

Change is never easy…not when it comes down to it.  We can talk about change, envision change, even set out to change, but then we have to do the work!  I have been challenged by my weight for most of my life and I have always been doing something about it.  The thing is I never got to where I was going and then managed to stay there.  Starting to make changes is very different to actually changing…

bethechangeBecause no matter how fantastic and well thought out our goals are, that’s not where the work lies.  It’s in the actual doing where the success and accomplishment lies.  Of course that makes perfect sense, but I’d often miss that.  I love to goal set – always have!  What I have come to understand over the past year was that when it came to my health & fitness, I wasn’t much of a goal-getter.  I’d always start my diets and fitness endeavours with all the motivation in the world, but never seemed to be able to follow through.  I’d give up when faced with the smallest of setbacks, plateaus, scale gains or any real discomfort.  I’d make all sorts of excuses as I gave up as well…too hard, too busy, too restrictive, boring, unsustainable, and on and on the list would go.

What I have learned over the last year is that change takes time.  There is no quick fix around developing new values around health, fitness, well-being and lifestyle.  And what strikes me the most is that in most other areas in my life I have always accepted and understood this.  Being in long-term recovery from substance abuse, I know that we don’t simply wish change and there it is…  It’s about consistency, practice, trial-and-error, winning and learning.  And yet there was always a huge, mental block for me when it came to my body.

And the obstacle in  my way was not about the diet plan or the workout routine, the obstacle was me.  The idea that I achieved my goals meant that I had to sustain them.  That means internalising the learning, and making health and fitness a priority in my life.  It means not being able to moan about this or that stupid-ass diet that didn’t work, it means ongoing work and commitment to sustaining the success.  Phew, and that is where the real work has been.  It’s great to be complimented on my achievement, but now it’s about following through.  If I want to continue to be successful in this part of my life I have to work to stay here.  I have to embrace the new habits, skills and behaviours and really ground them in my life.

No more excuses, justifications and blame.  No more self-pity parties and illusions of being the victim.  It’s easy to fail at the things we set out to do.  I fail, it’s over.  For me failure is effortless!  But to become good at something takes immense amounts of energy, dedication and consistency.  So what the last year has shown me is that if I want to succeed in this area of my life, it’s really just about doing the work.  Not sexy, not earth shattering, not miraculous.

I always imagined that losing weight and getting into shape had some sort of magic formula that only a few were given.  They were part of some secret club that shared it with those exclusive members who were let into the inner sanctum of weight loss!  And of course they had it easy, because my case was special.  I wasn’t like everyone else trying to get leaner, stronger and healthier.  My challenges with my weight were unique and no one could possibly understand or relate to my situation.  What I realise now is that there are no weight-loss, secret societies.  Yes, there are some people who are genetically blessed with better metabolisms and/or body composition, but they still have to work if they want to stay fit, health and in shape.  You don’t get to sit on the couch eating whatever you like, never exercising, just because your metabolism works a bit better.

I’m not one of those people.  I have abused my body over the years with the constant yo-yo dieting, insane diet regimens, all-or-nothing approaches and now it’s time to be gentle.  I have learned that I need to work with, nit against, my body.  I need to take time to love and nurture myself through the food that I eat and the exercise that I do.  After 30 something years of all of this craziness, I now know what I need to do.  And the last year is not very much when I look at it in the context of life.

So I follow the plan that is taking me closer to my goal, learning to embrace the process of change and growth.  I am learning to listen to the voice that takes care of me, rather than the critic that is quick to reprimand and chastise.  I see food as fuel and I love a good treat (not cheat) when my plan allows for it.  I don’t go to the gym to punish myself, but to build myself up.  I now understand that this is a process and a lifestyle that I choose – not one that has been forced upon by the outside world.  I have learned to embrace my new, still growing, values of health, well-being, fitness and strength, and that 12 months really isn’t that long given where I was.  It didn’t take me a year to get out of shape and I now accept that it’s going to take more than these first 365 days to get to where I see myself.  And that is ever-changing too.