I don’t hide it. I’m not ashamed of it. If anything, I have talked about it more since teaching yoga than I ever have.
My anxiety is the result of an attached emotion to a past life event that I can’t recall. It’s often triggered by stress, and became part of who I am.
People who meet me, wouldn’t even realise the personal turmoil I have gone through from having this mental illness. I come across as confident, friendly and outgoing. But by living with this all my life, I’ve found many different ways of coping with it, and hiding it.
I can see I’m surrounded by people who love me, supportive of my every ambition. I grew up in a country where I believed I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard enough. So for a long time, I didn’t understand why I had anxiety (and in turn depression) and was very unkind to myself. This is what initially brought me to yoga back in 2008. And in 2013, I started my yoga teacher training. By this point in my life I was taking anti-depressants daily. There had been a lot of change to my life, with a stressful job (and upon reflection a stressful home life). I’d not had a regular yoga practice for 12 months, and my life was stressful and unbearable. I wasn’t coping with simple tasks and being in crowds or social situations would bring on a panic attack.
I felt really uncomfortable telling people that I was taking medication, including my parents. More because I didn’t want them to worry. But also, because of the stigma around mental health issues. I felt that by saying I was on medication for anxiety that I was being dramatic – because no one else could see it, “it wasn’t real”. It was also hard for me to personally accept that I needed it. To me, being on medication seemed like a really serious thing. Like it had got so bad that I needed help in the form of daily medication. But it had.
At this time, I also began seeing a therapist on a regular basis. This helped, but it wasn’t something I personal felt comfortable with, it didn’t feel right to me. Maybe the type of therapy wasn’t right, and I hadn’t tried others. When I started my yoga course, I decided that I wanted to stop my therapy. I also began a regular yoga practice with a local teacher. I had this real determination to get better on my own. To find what was right for me, as an individual. I knew that yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety. So when I started my course I had initially intended to only do the Foundation Course, to deepen my own practice. I never thought I would become a teacher!
My way of the yogi
On this course, I met a yoga teaching assistant who shared with me, that she used to be on medication herself and that the yoga had helped her so much that she no longer needed to take it. I know that being on medication is absolutely okay, and it really helped me to feel more balance. But I really wanted to overcome my ‘demons’ on my own. I remember that moment to this day, the feeling of hope that one day I would be ‘normal’.
Armoured with this hope and determination, I worked hard with my yoga practice and within six months the doctor agreed I could wean myself off the medication*. I began to cope with everyday life and understand myself better. Knowing what my triggers were and how to prevent a panic attack. I’ve never had to take medication since, but I wouldn’t say I feel ‘normal’ I’ve still have good and bad days but the peaks and troughs are more shallow.
As I said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication if that is what you’ve been advised by your doctor. Everyone’s experience is different. I’ve always known that there may be a chance that I will need to take it again and quite possibly see a therapist or counsellor. And if I do, then that is what I will do, and alongside that, I will continue my yoga.
I just want to feel good, feel balanced. I have to say, it isn’t easy for me to share this. I feel like I am completely exposing myself. I’ve read, and re-read this a number of times to make sure what I am sharing with you is purposeful, and truthful. It’s important to remember that anxiety can be different for each individual, depending on the circumstances. I know what it is like to suffer in silence, not knowing what step to take next. Feeling lost and alone. But there is always help there, you just have to reach out and find it for yourself. Take that step.
So what do I do now to keep my balance?
I meditate every day. Just 11 minutes, but I don’t miss a day. I then do yoga asana (poses) practice 1-4 times per week. I get out in nature every day. And I focus on what I ‘can do’ and what I ‘can control’. I still have my wobbles, but I feel so much better in myself. As my teacher would say ‘I show up for myself every day’ and do this through meditation. I am still learning and developing my own knowledge and practice. Trying out new things, sticking with those practices that work for me, and appreciating the additional knowledge I gain from other practices that just aren’t my ‘thing’. I came to the realisation that I’m the most important person in my life and to be the best I can be as an individual not only benefits me, but those around me. So taking that 11 minutes of ‘me’ time everyday is important if I want to get the most out of my life.
* Every individual’s experience with mental illness is different and you should always consult your doctor or medical practitioner for advice. As previously stated, there is absolutely nothing wrong or negative about taking medication for your mental illness. If it helps you and you feel good in yourself, then you can use yoga and meditation in addition to your medication. Yoga and meditation cannot replace medication but it can help give you tools to incorporate into your everyday life to feel the balance you need./p>
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