In this blog, i would like to talk very honestly about anxiety. I have suffered from situational anxiety many times in my adult life, and i see anxiety in my clinic on a daily basis. I am slowly beginning to recognise that this is not an individual, yet a collective phenomena. We lead busy modern lives, many of us are juggling multiple responsibilities in life, we are often depleted and mentally over-stimulated, we struggle to maintain healthy boundaries and self-care practices. As a sensitive person, i know how easy it is to feel triggered by the emotions and experiences of others. We may feel like a failure, become overly critical (towards ourselves and others) and struggle to speak up and ask for support.
It is entirely normal to experience occasional anxiety, it is part of the journey of life. Chronic or persistent anxiety however indicates that our system is becoming dysregulated. Repeated episodes of intense anxiety, fear, terror, or panic attacks that are out of proportion to the actual danger of a situation indicate an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is often accompanied by insomnia, digestive upsets, chronic muscle tension, fatigue, and can easily lead to burn-out syndrome.
Like pain, anxiety is quickly pathologised in mainstream medicine, and medication is used in band-aid fashion to swiftly correct the imbalance (at a chemical level) and get a person "back on track" so to speak. Certainly, there are cases where anxiety does require medication, and careful monitoring by a psychological doctor. But i am finding that more and more people these days are on these sorts of medications and still not flourishing in their lives, not to mention experiencing common side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido and emotional numbness.
Is it time for us to re-assess the way we perceive anxiety?
What if anxiety is not actually a pathology, but a messenger from deep within, waking us up and asking us to pay attention to a hidden part of ourselves? If we are able to be still and take the time to move inward, what is our anxiety pointing to? What needs attention? What part of us is desperate and crying out for help? Chances are, it is a part of ourselves that we have been hiding from or ignoring. Anything that we resist will persist and erupt to be dealt with at some point. Does something inside of us need to break free and emerge? What hidden desire is our anxiety alerting us to? What is there to be uncovered?
Anxiety, in energetic terms, is basically energy that is stuck and not able to flow in a natural and harmonious way. Our creative energy is meant to move, we are meant to follow our intuition and desires in life, have new experiences, expand and express ourselves. Obstruction of this natural force creates discomfort and pain. It is up to us to gently lean in to this discomfort, to sit quietly with ourselves and listen to our innermost voice. What do i really need? What changes do i need to make in my life? Is my current lifestyle in alignment with my highest values? Am i living for myself or others? Am i moving towards my Joy? If not, why?... The only way for us to discern for ourselves is to take the time to regularly sit in silence and listen.
A few years ago, i was going through a particularly difficult time in my life. I had just emerged out of a relationship break up that hit me pretty hard. It was the break down of my first same sex relationship and i was in my late thirties. The shock and grief of the break up was compounded with a huge shift in my sexual orientation. I was suddenly "out", and i felt deeply unsettled. I went through a very weird and intense period of dating men and women (at the same time), yet i felt lost in myself. It was as if i had let go of an old identity, yet i was still getting to know the person that i was becoming. I felt highly anxious, lonely and very lost in myself. I felt judged by others. I felt judged by men for being a threat. I felt judged by the lesbian community for "not choosing sides" or "wanting to have it all". But really, it was me judging myself. I felt like i was floating on a distant island, a long long way from home.
It took time to fully integrate my experience. I was not a straight woman, but i was definitely not a lesbian either. I realised that i just simply fall in love with people, regardless of the physical body that they encompass. It was a painful journey to liberation (the layers of societal conditioning run deep). We conform to be accepted by and approved of by others, often unconsciously. Once i came into full unwavering acceptance of who i was, without needing the approval of others, everything changed. I found myself. I found my worthiness. I found my joy. I am now deeply happy in a heterosexual relationship, as in, i finally did fall in love again, with a person that just happens to be a man. Why am i sharing this? Because i am human, as we all are, each transforming and evolving and becoming more of ourselves.
Where there is discomfort, lean in gently, be curious, for there is always another layer to fall away and another wild discovery of self ahead.
Sending love to all on this brave path.
Rachel Berners, (Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Cat Lover, LGBTQ Supporter).
*The information in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice. If you are struggling or need help, please reach out to your local GP, or contact Beyond Blue Australia. This article was written with the intention of providing support and to offer a new way of perceiving a condition that affects us all.