Quiet, small and full of grace

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My heart feels fragile and my emotions are like glass. I ache everywhere… from head to foot. Strange! I don’t know why.

Maybe I’m just tired? Every time I think I’m out of it: home free, laughing on the other side of what has been a long lonely eviction from all that’s warm and sweet; it comes crashing back, knocking until I fall to my feet. Not that I was ever arrogant about standing upright anyway: it has always been a challenge. 

Born into a mould that was different; teased about this and that; poked and prodded until my paper-thin broke: I have learned to hide rather than shout. Like the church mouse, I creep and sneak. Like her sister Cinderella, I pick up and dust. I often think I was born to serve. I do it so well. 

Perhaps my role is not to stand out, not to change in any overt external way, but, insteadto lend, lever and prop up? Maybe I am just the wingman: fixing what is broken in others; healing what hearts, bellies, minds cannot stomach, see or tolerate? Not a bad task. A task I actually rather like. After all: what comes easily and cleanly; what feels natural, an extension of self; what reaches out and into one’s own heart, bringing one into presence, demanding one turn up… is hard not to like. 

I’ve always had this desire to help others; this calling to protect, shield and heal. It’s something I’ve done ever since I grew up. Something I endeavoured to do even in childhood. I used to think: if I can’t fix me, if I can’t protect my own damaged and broken self: then at least I can apply the knowledge, the learning, the ‘advice too-hard-to-take’, to those around me.

And yet…

there’s this yearning now: to be whole, to be healed, to be Holy.

Tripping over my own misguided self; falling flat on my long-ago disowned face; finding myself alone with my mind and my body – things I hated, things I feared; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no anything to take me: the all that I had been avoiding, the everything that I had fled, the darkness and dirt disowned… caught up. And somehow – in the eye of that nightmare, in the vortex of that storm, in the deafening noise of that aloneness, that isolation from friends and family, world and self… I found myself a miracle: quiet, small and full of grace. 

Slowly, I learn. Slowly, I see. The road is long; the horizon unclear. It is often dark and it is often wet. But there are stars 🌟 and rainbows 🍭 too. And the sunsets 🌞, when I manage to see them, are incredible. 

I live according to a routine, keeping it simple. I don’t overly tax myself. I keep interaction to a minimum and travel to where I can get to outside of rush hour on foot. I don’t expect. I don’t demand. I listen to my body and do what she wants. We draw a lot. We make things out of paper, silk, clay and wool. We listen to the radio and we read, educating ourself, ourselves, in all things spiritual, metaphysical, holistic, helpful and healthy. We sing 🎤 and we dance 💃🏼. We do yoga. We meditate – with essential oils, with crystals – hands on heart, on abdomen, on head… addressing each injured part, each softly screaming object, each rejected bit of once-upon-a-time integrated ingredient, bit by painful bit.

I begin my day in front of the mirror, greeting myself with love 💋. It is hard work and it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to do it; I want to run away 🏃🏼 and pretend like everything’s ok, like everything’s usual. But I can see how it affects my life and I am encouraged by the results.

I work on releasing anger 💥: forgiving, accepting, letting go🎈of things I have too-long been holding onto. 

I am learning to say “no” and not to beat myself up for having done so. I am not a bad person and I deserve to be loved.

I am starting to listen to myself and act from the silence and in doing so I am learning peace .

I am shining my light and allowing others to shine with me. This is incredible: I had forgotten how much, when in alignment, when balanced and grounded, when in sync with authentic self, I glow.

I am welcoming abundance and paying attention to the guidance 🔮 that I receive. I am practicing accepting 🎂 along with giving 🎁, allowing an even exchange. This really has been difficult. 

Slowly, I am letting go and learning how to surrender.

I see the shadow that stands behind me, the pain on her face and the suitcase 👜 she holds in her hand. I sit with her on quiet mornings and together we go through the contents: sifting through old clothes 👗👘👚👕, forgotten garments 👙, things I have not seen or thought about for many years. 

My wardrobe grows, accommodating things I now wear instead of hiding deep inside me. I wear my shame with pride and slowly she glows 🏮. Life is richer, brighter, more intense. I don’t dance around the permimeter of the person I want to be. I step in fully and completely. 

It’s a long journey, but daily we are getting there. Happiness 😊 is a choice I make and I am making that choice upon rising ⛅️ every day

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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A creature of habit

IMG_6520-0I suffer from chronic anxiety. I’m not sure when it started, if I have always had it, or if it is only recently that I have become affected, like in the last 15 years. I do know that it plays an influential role in my day-to-day life and that it occurs with enough regularity to have become frustrating and annoying.

When I was at university I had a boyfriend who experienced panic attacks. They were a mystery to both of us, neither one of us understanding the shortness of breath, the hot flushes, the dizziness, the nausea, the blacking out, the vomiting and the lack of consciousness. He lived in fear of a repeat attack and this fear dominated our evenings. With the understanding I have now, I look back and feel guilty: I could have been a lot more compassionate and helpful if I had known what it was he was going through, if I had understood it. As it was, a part of me thought he was doing it to sabotage our evenings (it only ever happened when we were out with my friends). If we had kept in touch, I would have phoned him long ago to apologise. I would have also explained to him what they were, if he hadn’t already arrived at his own discovery, and recommended possible avenues of treatment. A rough analysis attributes them to the state of flux he was experiencing as a result of his recent uncertainty about the future and the pressures from his family. Several months later, he dropped out of a law placement and switched to teacher training. A dramatic shift in direction (provoking disappointment and anger from his parents) which helped him profoundly.

Anyway, regardless of when my attacks started (at a guess, I would place them at 8 years), the reasons were similar and the results pretty much the same. And ever since, each time there is a significant shift in circumstance: a sudden change, an enforced situation, a necessary transition from A (where I am comfortable) to B (where I have no idea), an extended journey resulting in a separation from everything known, etc., I start to unravel, my inner peace disappearing. If I fail to act, attempting to ignore the emotions and run from the reasons, the anxiety escalates until it reaches a level that incapacitates me. And even then – housebound, bedridden – there is no relief. The only solution is to turn around and face and to attempt to address.

Over the years, I have learnt that there are things that I can do. And they are things that, on the whole, are fairly successful. The challenge is becoming aware of the spike before it is too late and getting my mind to agree to accompany me on the necessary journey to solution and recovery.

Things that work are:

• self-hypnosis for anxiety, worry and stress
• meditation, ideally with a mantra
• gentle exercise (yoga or a walk with music)
• verbal expression (either by talking to someone I trust or writing in my diary)
• a solid daily routine
• safe places where I can go to relax or work
• an emergency plan (i.e. someone who can talk me down or come and collect me should the need arise)

Practiced regularly, I can keep the anxiety to a minimum and the attacks at bay. There are periods of time when I forget about them completely. It is only when the circumstances are such that I have no power to affect them that I struggle to arrive upon a cure. In these times the above list is key to my survival and, while it might not remove or solve, it does deliver a situation that is manageable.

These days I am a creature of habit. I have a routine, essentially a timetable, which I follow without complaint. At a certain time I will always be in a set type of place going about a specific activity. And, while it could be viewed as small and limiting and perhaps a little sad, sequestering my life and its experiences to the confines of a box: for me, it has actually been the opposite, allowing me to travel the world, live in different places, experiment with different things.

more information on panic and anxiety
Broken Light: photography for mental health
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