Medicated to Mindful
I sat in a room with 11 strangers. I tried my hardest to appear calm and composed – while inside I was dizzy, palms sweating, and adrenaline running through my body. This had become my natural state of existence, with brief moments of peace sprinkled in every now and then, so I knew how to keep a neutral composure.
I was participating in an MBSR (Mindful Based Stress Reduction) course led by a veteran in the field. MBSR is an 8 week program intended to educate and equip participants with strategies to relieve physical and/or mental illnesses. It provides community and education to find peace in your life, regardless of your current circumstances. You can read more about it here.
What brought me there? I was diagnosed with a panic disorder many years prior, and the anxiety had reared its ugly head once again. No one knew how much I suffered on a daily basis. To the world, I was living a life filled with joy, adventure, and beauty. I was hiking and summiting some of the most beautiful mountains in the Pacifica North West. I was spending my evenings socializing with amazing friends. I was married (and still am) to a an amazing human being.
Little did the outside world know I was spending my evenings lying on the living room floor shaking and crying my way through another panic attack.
Class started, and our instructor led us through many activities and exercises. We ended the class by sharing what brought us there. One by one, people began opening up about their own struggles. Until that moment, I envied every person who seemed remotely at peace, and from where I was sitting, that was everyone but me. I remember looking around the room and wondering to myself what the beautiful engineer sitting across from me could possibly have “wrong” in her life. The man to my right was extremely chatty, and I wondered what such a social butterfly would need from a course like this.
As the weeks passed, I got to know the stories of every person in that room. These relationships made me realize that no one is immune from suffering. The support and acceptance filled me with the strength I needed to find peace. I was given hope, and that was invaluable.
My relationship with anxiety began when I was nineteen years old. I was visiting home from college during my winter break. I was a freshman, and I was experiencing stressors that I had never dealt with before. I was sitting on my mom’s couch with my older sister, and out of nowhere, the room began to spin. I am someone who desperately needs to be in control, so a sudden bout of dizziness, coupled with a racing heart, sweating palms, and chest pain sent me right over the edge.
I was terrified, and the adrenaline started racing through my body. After a couple of minutes of living with an intense feeling of doom and dread, I began shaking uncontrollably (thank you stress hormones). My sister took me to the emergency room, and that was the first of many hospital and doctor visits over the course of eight years.
I have been down the road of prescriptions and self-medication to numb my fear and pain. After I stopped medicating myself, it wasn’t long until my suffering appeared again. You see, I had just placed a band-aid on top of the pain. I didn’t learn to live with myself, only to run from the uncomfortable sensations.
Looking back, I fear what would have transpired if I never found the support and understanding from those strangers that day at the MBSR training. I have no doubt that I would have taken the familiar rode of simply placing a bandage over my issue of ruminating thoughts and fear, but I am grateful I put the work in.
Fast forward to me obtaining my teaching credentials for adult and children’s Yoga. After this, I sought and worked with some of the most amazing therapists who use mindfulness as a tool to address mental health disorders. A short time later, I gave my first “Beyond the Books – Inspiring Teachers and Students to Live in Calm” workshop to a group of educators.
At the end of my workshop, I stood in front of my first audience and felt the energy in the room completely shifted. The silence and calm were deafening. I was asked to return to the campus to center the staff at the end of each semester. This is when I realized my journey and tools needed to be shared.
I realized that we are all searching for inspiration and hope to live a life without immense suffering.
Inspired and rewired is just that. I hope to inspire you to live a mindful life. What does that even mean? “Mindfulness” is such a buzz word right now. I hear it all the time, and it is rarely used with a positive tone.
Many people think, “Mindfulness isn’t the real world.” What I want to teach you is that mindfulness is simply noticing and accepting whatever stands in front of you at this moment. You can not change the past, you can not predict the future, so this moment is all you have. Mindfulness is understanding the power of responding vs reacting. Mindfulness is rewiring your brain to live a life of more calm and peace.
Side note: Mindfulness is NOT giving up on goals and aspirations. It is also not staying stuck in a situation because you have chosen to accept what is in front of you.
As a skeptic myself, I needed hard facts and science to “buy in” to the idea that changing the way I think = less suffering in my life. I imagine I am not the only skeptic in this mix, so I will be posting plenty of information backed by science.
MY JOB IS TO INSPIRE YOU TO CULTIVATE CALM IN YOUR LIFE BY PROVIDING INFORMATION GUIDED BY EXPERIENCE AND SCIENCE. YOUR JOB IS TO HAVE AN OPEN MIND AND TRY OUT A FEW OF THE PRACTICES YOU WILL FIND ON THIS SITE. WITH KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE, YOU ARE ON THE PATH TO REWIRING YOUR BRAIN!