“You should be in our talent show in the morning,” she said.
“Absolutely not,” my body quickly replied.
“Wait now,” implored my heart, “We love to sing. Flesh, we will be okay…”
“No.” my body replied flatly.
My soul chimed in, “Yes, yes, yes.”
And then my mind remembered, “You have promised to surrender and trust.”
All of me sighed.
“Yes!” I said.
If you know me personally, you will know how much I love to sing. I have loved to sing and perform since I was a child. It is in my nature to express myself in song. That’s the crazy thing about fear — it will cloud your nature to the point that you don’t believe in who you are anymore.
I have lived with panic for over 15 years. For the first few years, this was controlled by numbing my whole existence with anti-anxiety medication. Then, I found yoga and I began to wean myself from drugs and learn new ways to cope. I thought I had it all “in control” only to come to a place where I realized that my coping skills were to avoid those things that scared me most– driving with others, travelling, anything in church (including taking up collection), and especially singing in public.
I am content to be anxious. Some of my nervousness is a reflection of how I live my life. I live honestly, open to whatever the universe delivers. That vulnerability is naturally exhilarating. Anxiousness, for this highly sensitive person, reminds me that I am living at my edge and I would want it no other way. I have time to sit with nervousness, explore its meanings, but I do not have time to panic.
If you have never panicked, like full-blown debilitating panic, then I hope you never will. It is fear that stops you in your tracks. One of my favorite acronyms for FEAR is, “False Evidence Appearing Real.” And it is so very real in the moment of panic. It stops you in your tracks. It will stop you from living if you let it.
When panic returned to my life a few years ago, I was shocked. Why now? I was a yoga teacher! I had the skills to fight this! Why couldn’t I do it on my own? Instead of feeling as though I failed somehow, I had the courage to ask for help. I did a therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming) that treated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and put me on the path to healing once and for all. To aide in my healing, my doctor suggested an acute acting drug that I could take if I felt panic was going to take over. It helped me to not slip into Flight or Fight mode, and if I did, it helped bring me back onto my edge. What it really did was help me with all the “firsts” I had been avoiding.
The brain is a curious and magnificent beast. It can convince you of nearly anything. If the body has convinced the brain that in a particular situation you are unsafe, then the brain will automatically remind the body that you are unsafe if you are ever in that situation again. It is incredibly protective in this way. But if the fear your body has experienced is indeed “false evidence” then your brain has been tricked. This is what this medication helped reverse. I was able to trick my brain, to form new neuropathways of memory where, in any particular situation, my body felt okay, so my brain responded in kind. The next time I would drive to a new place, or meet a new person, or perform, or preach, I would lean on my new memory of the last event and know that it had been all okay, so it would be all be all okay.
Around the same time as I asked for medical help with my mind and brain, I sought spiritual help for my heart and soul. In yoga, I researched practices that targeted relaxing in fear. I breathed, I moved, I meditated, I prayed and I sang mantras. I also committed to a life mission statement. The one on this page, “I surrender to the will of God and fearlessly trust the Divine to lead me.” I became a YES.
When I responded to God’s call to the ministry, I decided that if I was living my truth and I truly trusted that this is what God wanted from me, then God would also carry me through it. God helped me at first by teaching me to let down my negative attitudes about temporary medical intervention in the treatment of anxiety. I formed new memories again and reconnected to the fearlessness that is my true nature. The one that is afraid, but does it anyway! This leads me to yesterday morning…
I had agreed to sing. It would be my second day of my new school. It would be my first time being in front of all of them. It would be my first vulnerable act in that place of worship. I woke up early. I sat with God and felt calm in the stillness of that presence. I prepared the kids for their first day of school. I left the house with no extra bathroom stops (my favorite place to end up when flight wins over fight), I drove to school in morning traffic and landed straight to school, I sat in morning worship until it was time for the talent show to begin. I didn’t run, I didn’t hid, I didn’t throw up, I didn’t reach for my bottle of pills. It was my turn. I was first. I stood up and I sang. This was my first “first” without medication and it was thrilling…so thrilling that I want to do it again. I want to have many more firsts in this way. And I will.
I have stepped onto a new path now. One where my firsts can be pure. I’ll still carry that little bottle in my purse for now, but someday I know that my security blanket won’t be needed because I will have fully embraced the security of God’s promise to take care of me. I’m getting there. One first at a time.
“If pretty little bluebirds fly above the rainbow, why, oh why can’t I?” — I CAN.