At 17, I found myself hyperventilating and curled into the fetal position on a nasty, sticky restaurant floor, all because I'd forgotten to bring a customer an extra ramekin of ketchup. Except, of course, it wasn't really about ketchup at all. It was because I had anxiety - and it was time I finally dealt with that fact.
When I was younger, my anxiety showed itself in smaller ways. I would shrink into my seat so that I wouldn't be called on in class. I would stress out if my shoelaces weren't tight enough. The adults in my life thought it was kind of cute how I'd lose my mind if my little sister was out of my sight when we were in public - they didn't realize this was a symptom of a much bigger, deep-rooted issue.
As I got older, the list of triggers grew with me. By age 16, things had escalated to full blown panic attacks EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
It affected every aspect of my life. I had to change my job to avoid contact with people, I avoided going out in public alone, I couldn't drive at night or in the rain. I needed help.
I talked to my primary care doctor, and she referred me to a therapist. There, I tried to be as honest as possible and voiced my struggles. She diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder (heightened with triggers) and situational depression. Per my request, the doctor prescribed medication. She let me know about the possible side effects, but I don't think I truly paid attention.
We tried three different meds. With the third one - damn the third one- I dropped a lot of weight, leaving me at a whopping 105 lbs. I was grumpy, had no regard for how my actions would affect other people, I slept until I had to work and crashed as soon as I got home.
And I was pissed off. I mean, this was supposed to fix me.
I stopped going to therapy, stopped making appointments with my PCP, and stopped taking all medications cold turkey (do NOT recommend). I stewed in anger for a bit until my chemicals finally balanced back to their natural states, and that's when I started looking into more natural alternatives.
I gave guided meditation a try and followed a few yoga 'classes' on YouTube. I'll be honest, I was a tad pessimistic and wasn't expecting much... and damn, was I wrong!
I never realized how much tension I held in my body until my first real experience with yoga. I had never thought to release my jaw or relax my eyebrows. Never thought that a connection with my breath or bringing attention to the way it feels to fill my lungs and expand my rib cage would make me feel powerful. It was liberating.
Don't get me wrong, I still deal with anxiety every day. Some days I get mad that something as simple as going to the store is a big ordeal for me. But, now I have tools that I can use when I feel myself getting worked up, and most of those are thanks to yoga.
I have since taken classes outside of YouTube and have fallen even more in love with the practice. Nothing quite matches the energy when every person in one room is in the Savasna pose... silent, relaxed, taking in everything that happened in class.
Yoga is a time to be with myself and to calm my mind, and I am eternally grateful that I found it. I am still working to push myself out of my comfort zone so that I can further my practice.
Everyone who experiences anxiety has to find her own path, figure out her own coping mechanisms, whether that's medication or meditation or a combination of the two. For me, it just happens to be standing on my head and shit.
Great Video - Beginner Yoga Class: