Finding my internal navigation system was incredibly freeing for me! Before I had found it my life was on shaky ground.
Living with anxiety is exhausting and that is exactly what I had been doing for most of my life. I remember as a child even, being acutely aware of my surroundings and mentally mapping out strategies to navigate around bags or chairs or feet in aisles.
The world was a massive land mine and I was trying my damnedest to avoid stepping on one.
The anxiety only intensified when my eating disorder developed. Or, maybe the eating disorder developed when my anxiety intensified? Who knows?
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. My anxiety left me worried about every single thing I said, did, ate, or thought.
Recovering With Anxiety
Anxiety made recovery very difficult!
Recovery asked me to make different choices than what I was used to making. It wasn’t as simple for me to change one thought and replace it with another. Changing my thoughts and behaviors to align with a different way of being didn’t relieve the deep-seated fear that lived in me.
I constantly worried that I was making the wrong choices. I never felt sure or stable.
What I Wanted Most
And that is what I wanted most, was to not be worried, to feel safe. But, the truth is, nothing felt safe.
Even when I was behaving in ways that were congruent to all that I had learned in treatment, I still felt this gnawing in the pit of my stomach, like something horrible was going to happen.
I recall sitting on the couch one night watching TV when a wave of worry washed over me. I couldn’t figure it out. There was absolutely nothing wrong. I was safe and warm. I had money, food. and my cats.
What was happening?
A Sick Feeling
I felt it deep in my stomach. I felt sick. Something terrible was going to happen.
And yet, I also knew that nothing terrible was going to happen. I’d had this feeling a million times before and nothing had ever happened.
What was going on? What was I so afraid of?
The Wrong Question
Turns out, I had been asking the wrong question. There was nothing outside of me that was wrong. I hadn’t done anything wrong. There wasn’t something I had missed doing. There was no question to ask.
The fact was, I felt scared. And no amount of tinkering with the outside world was going to make it go away. I felt scared. Period. I was afraid.
I realized there was no answer to my question, “Why are you so afraid?”
The only thing I could do in that moment was to state a fact, “I feel afraid.” There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could change that would not make me feel afraid.
What Could I Do?
I imagine a child in a dark bedroom who thinks there is a monster under their bed. You can turn the lights on, lift the bed skirt, show them nothing but empty space under the bed, tell them there’s nothing there. And yet, they still feel frightened. How can you persuade them to not feel afraid? What can you do when facts don’t fix fear?
I thought about what I would do if I were sitting with a frightened child that couldn’t be consoled.
I would sit with them and I would let them be afraid because, well, that’s exactly how they felt. Why invalidate such a feeling?
I would wrap my arms around them and tell them they were okay. I would let them know that I was sorry that they felt so afraid but that I would stay with them and keep them safe. Everything would be okay.
Over time, the child’s fear would ease on its own. Not through force or effort but by allowing and loving what was already there.
The Power of Emotion
I really began to see that my emotional fears couldn’t be fixed in a tangible way. No amount of trying, no amount of changing physical situations was having any effect on the amount of fear that I felt.
I was afraid. All the time.
Fullness wasn’t fullness. It was fear. Hunger wasn’t hunger. It was fear. Discomfort wasn’t because my body was too big for my pants. It was fear.
I was afraid. Of myself.
Every choice and decision I made stemmed from a place of fear and inadequacy. And man, how different are the choices we make when we’re afraid!
What I Needed
My fear didn’t need to be fixed. It needed to be loved. My fear was mine, part of me. I was not a problem that needed to be solved.
All I needed was love, acceptance, validation. I was finding my internal navigation system.
When I understood that no amount of fixing the physical situations was going to touch my fear, I changed tactics and focused on love.
It’s Who I Am
Love is what made me and love is what I am. I didn’t have to go searching for it. I had to allow it. And, when I did, I began understanding that love was my guide. I started to feel it in my bones. And it began to direct me.
Choices I had fought to make for so long became almost effortless. I was finding my internal navigation system.
The Great Lesson
What this taught me is not that everything should be effortless. Life continues to present me with a great many challenges…but that fear, anger, guilt, all the uncomfortable emotions I had, and still have, are a sign, a signal.
The signals alert me! I recognize them as fear now and know what they need.
The answer is love. And it guides me.
I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment below, contact me with questions or feedback, and/or join my private Facebook group, My Piece Of Yoga. I’d love to see you there!
Also check out my new YouTube channel and let me know what you’d like to see more of!