Coming back to myself...

Honestly, I’ve been a disconnected mess for the past few months, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that it might ease your burden, or at least bring us a little closer as I share another vulnerable piece of myself with you.

I’ve been hurting a lot inside, especially the past couple weeks, and today I’m finally feeling like myself again. Not like another wave on the roller coaster, but finally truly at home in my own heart again.

I didn’t notice myself slipping back into depression, until it turned into anxiety about two weeks ago. I had my first panic attack, and then my next 10 immediately after. If you experience these regularly, my heart just goes out to you. I want you to know that I’m sending you all the love and kindness and comfort and feelings of safely being able to breathe, in the form of loving and intentional prayers every single day from now on.

(And a special shoutout to Michelle | @girrlscout for sharing so openly about her own struggles with anxiety and helping break down the wall. You really helped me get comfortable acknowledging this with myself and sharing it with others when I needed help.)

How did the depression start?

I was being cruel to myself (And I had no idea!)

Seriously. I didn’t even notice it, because the judgement and the shaming and “should-do” started out as something healthy and positive… and it slowly became a toxic thing I had going with myself.

Last summer, I took part in a really amazing life coaching program by Jessica May Tang! The program is called Free to Impact (and this isn’t sponsored or anything, I’m just a huge fan of the program and Jess has quickly become one of my very best friends). I want to gush about the program for anyone who is looking for a coaching program- especially if you are or are looking to become a coach- but that’s not the point of this post. Comment below if you want to see a post specifically reviewing FTI- or check out Jessica’s website.

Anyway, in FTI, I learned how to start noticing clues in my life…

I learned to notice what I was unhappy about over time and keep track of it, and then I could look at my list and begin seeing common themes and use that to understand what the root block was that caused me to feel so unhappy about that specific set of things in life.

Think about that concept of noticing what you look for. How often do you notice a gold Honda on the road? But how often do you notice a “slug bug, yellow!” ? We see what we are looking for, even if we are only subconsciously looking for it.

I was gathering clues like that, but once the program stopped and I no longer had a coach reminding me to celebrate my successes and really feel into gratitude and expansiveness, the noticing became complaining. I forgot to celebrate and notice what was going beautifully! I forgot to see the ways things were working in my favor and how blessed I was to live the life I do.

I started telling myself all the things I should be doing, and criticizing myself for being unhappy about anything. “I took the program, I should be able to resolve the root block now. I shouldn’t be unhappy, I know how to transform my beliefs. I should do a better job.”

My brain was like a constant stream of “I should _____. I need to _____. I have to stop ____.”

For weeks. Everything I did, I was analyzing my beliefs, looking for holes and places where logic was getting in the way of my dreaming, or where I had my head in the clouds and wasn’t acting on my goals.

I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath for such a long time. Nothing felt safe anymore because I was poking holes in every thought that went through my mind.

Then came… yesterday.

Yeah, I’m writing this one fresh!! Because yesterday something really shifted. I woke up from a fitful sleep not feeling rested at all…

I always had trouble sleeping as a kid, and then as I built a stable life for myself as an adult, my sleep became so soft and pleasant. I fell asleep easily, didn’t wake up screaming or in cold sweats, and woke up feeling well rested. It’s not lost on me what a coveted gift that is.

But for the past few weeks my sleep has been wretched. I fall asleep quickly still (thankful!!), but I’d have lots of anxious blurry nightmares and wake up throughout the night. When I woke up in the morning (er… afternoon…), I wouldn’t feel rested at all. I was groggy and tense.

Yesterday, I woke up and my jaw was already clenched. I felt so weak and tired and my veins felt like glass. Everything felt rigid and brittle, and I decided I’d had enough!!

All that time, I was ignoring my body!

My body was crying out. I was dehydrated, my skin started breaking out, my digestion wasn’t particularly cooperative. I was getting headaches. The energy of my body just felt gray, like clammy cold sweat, and so weak.

I had no appetite. I was eating food I knew tended to make me sick. It was just a mess. My physical and mental states were a match.

So I stopped. I stopped everything.

Yesterday, I decided to finally listen to what I needed. I listened to my body, even though I didn’t really want to. I had stir fry with lots of green veggies, tons of water, and a few glasses of a lavender and chamomile herbal tea…

And then I laid in bed most of the day, and just noticed. It wasn’t the depressed curled up in a little ball kind of day. The light was streaming into the room through my sheer bedroom curtains and I was looking at my little sister’s beautiful nature paintings up on my walls, and I was sending myself so much love and kindness. I noticed the discomfort in my gut, the aching in my head and joints and the pain in my kidneys. I noticed how difficult it was to take a deep breath…

I was surprised when I finally noticed how sad I was.

And I shared it with a friend. Actually, I shared it with my sister first. And then with a friend as I realized I still needed more… and I didn’t shame myself for needing more support. (That was new.)

If you struggle to share this kind of burden and you want to read more about my philosophy of sharing sadness, take a look at this post about sharing your burdens actually being a gift to your loved ones. I think it will help.

After sharing this entire massive roller coaster ride and emotional spiral, letting my sadness be seen and acknowledging that I wanted to change, I could finally breathe again. I took my first deep breath in weeks.

And I came back.

My actual face today! Hi!!

I woke up this morning from the best sleep of my life. I feel refreshed, lighter, stronger, happier. I feel like myself and I’m so thankful. I designed a prayer for myself that I’m going to say every single day. I’ll share the prayer in a post next week in case you want to try it or design one of your own.

Thank you,

if you’ve read this far I know you’re truly a part of my journey here and I’m grateful for your presence in my community. This post was just about my adventure, and I don’t have a big call to action or anything for you.

If you’re struggling with something similar, I want you to know you’re not alone. Your feelings are valid. It’s as simple as choosing to change, but at the same time if you’re not ready for that change yet, that’s okay.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be content with just being where you are. I was shaming myself for being judgmental, vain, inconsistent, unreliable. At one point, one of my best friends asked me, “what if you just let yourself be unhappy today?”

What if I didn’t have to poke it, “should” it, or try to fix it? And that made such a difference. What my heart really needed was to know I still loved myself, that I wasn’t completely rejecting every aspect of myself as I stripped back all of my old limiting beliefs to uncover my loving, expansive core.

Sometimes we take personal growth too far, I think. It’s important to step back and revel in the moment and appreciate who and where we are, even when there are still flaws and habits. We’re never done, so we gotta treat it like a marathon and nurture every part of ourselves, rather than starving until we push through to the end. That’s what I’ve learned.



Jessica PenaComment