I cried in yoga class on Monday night

It’s true, I cried in the middle of my yoga class on Monday night! I have heard that this happens sometimes. Our body physically holds emotions and they can come pouring out when we’ve released those particular muscles. Well, half-way through class we rested in child’s pose and the tears began to flow. Luckily we were just about to start a floor sequence where we were on our stomachs for a while – just long enough to take a few breaths and wipe my eyes.

I’m not exactly sure what the tears were about, but I must have been holding on to some emotions unwittingly. I do have some suspects: the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s death, possible changes at work that have left me anxious, and relief that my husband got a new job that he is really excited about after nine long months of searching all come to mind. I’ve been experiencing little moments of anxiety lately as well.

I’m wondering if some of it has to do with my lack of consistent yoga practice these past few weeks. I’ve been hooked on barre and Pilates classes lately. My favorite teacher no longer teaches on Wednesday nights and I’m not so crazy about her replacement. I really like the teacher on Monday nights, but it’s tough getting there in time for a 6:00 class, so my yoga practice has been sporadic. I’ll be enjoying a “staycation” for most of July and I plan on getting my yoga groove back. We’ll see if that helps curb some of this anxiety that’s been building lately. It had been such a long time since I experience any episodes. I hope I can find my way back to that peace quickly!

Breaking Habits & Being Honest

This time of year I usually find myself craving all things Easter candy – Peeps (gross, but I love them!), Cadbury Creme Eggs, chocolate coconut eggs, etc. On St. Patrick’s Day I usually want to get a beer or two and eat some corned beef hash and soda bread. Of course, I usually give in to those cravings with the reasoning that a few pieces of candy or a few beers and some salty corned beef isn’t going to hurt me in the long run. I still stand by that rationalization, but on Sunday I made a drug store run for my poor sinus pain-filled husband and found myself eyeing the candy near the check out counter with barely a tinge of longing. It was rather amazing. I realized that St. Patrick’s Day had come and gone without one sip of beer or bite-full of beef and I hadn’t even thought about it.¬†Instead I attended my Pilates class and had a delicious salad for dinner, never feeling as if anything was lacking.

I attribute this change to a lot of things. Physically I think eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and drinking lots of water has helped curb all kinds of cravings. Emotionally/spiritually, I see the support of my husband and regular meditation, Reiki, and yoga as having important roles in regulating my emotions and keeping my anxiety in check.

More and more, as I think back over my past I see how much of an emotional eater I have been. All those forbidden foods that I snuck into my room to eat with abandon provided temporary relief from whatever I was feeling: anxiety, loneliness, anger, lack of security, lack of love, just plain old lack. I was in such denial. I vividly remember watching Oprah one afternoon when I was in high school. She talked about emotional eating and how people use food to fill a void, and sometimes use their weight as a way to protect themselves. I scoffed at that and said to my mom, “Well, that’s not what my problem is. I just have a big bones and a slow metabolism. It’s so frustrating.” Twenty-some years later I realize that it is exactly my problem (or at least a big part of it).

I don’t think I’ve ever really binged. Not in the way that it’s been described by others anyway, but I did eat past the point of being full regularly. I didn’t even realize that until my past few visits with my family this year. Pretty much as soon as I entered my childhood home I would head to the kitchen to find snacks. I snacked until dinner, ate more than usual at dinner, and snacked some more. I should point out that no one else was doing this, just me. When I went to bed I was so full and uncomfortable. I actually woke up in the middle of the night with raging heart burn and once even coughed up a bit of vomit (sorry for the TMI, but I think it’s helpful to be honest).

As I tried to fall back to sleep I pondered a few key questions: Why did I feel this way? Why did I eat so much? Why did I feel like I couldn’t stop eating the whole evening? When I got really honest with myself I realized it was a combination of anxiety and sadness that I was trying to tamp down with whatever I could get my hands on. The sadness was from missing my dad. The anxiety was an old feeling that has permeated my life for as long as I can remember. I no longer blame my family for that, though. I had a pretty good childhood. I just wasn’t really equipped to handle my parents’ divorce and other changes, and I don’t think anyone knew how to help me with that. Still, the feelings return the minute I walk in the door and if I don’t acknowledge them and sit with them, I end up stuffing my face to the point of getting sick.

Being honest about my feelings, particularly the “bad” ones, is a constant struggle. As a highly sensitive child I learned to keep a lot of my emotions to myself. I continued that habit into adulthood, only revealing my true feelings to a handful of close friends and my mom. Writing – fiction, journal entries, free-writing – was my steadfast refuge, but even that began to feel unsafe after I graduated from college. I worried that spending all my free time writing was keeping me from living my real life and so I slowly evicted myself from my one safe haven.

Luckily, after a bunch of failed relationships – some self-destructive and emotionally wrought – I met my husband. Even that relationship had a rocky start, but here we are in our fourth year of marriage. R has helped me in so many ways, but especially by not letting me shut down and hide from my feelings. He pushes me to have conversations that I would otherwise run from and to acknowledge not only what I feel, but also how I let those feelings overcome and undermine me. It’s not easy work, but it’s necessary work and I am so grateful for his patience and love. For the first time I can remember, I feel seen and loved for who I am, not who I’m trying to be.

So while I’m working on breaking habits like turning to food for comfort, and denying my emotions, I hope to re-ignite my old writing habit by posting here more often and keeping a journal again. Words can help us sit with uncomfortable things and see a way past them. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll come sit with me from time to time.

On Anxiety

I think I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes suffer from anxiety. I’ve always been a worrier. When I was nine my parents divorced and I developed stomach aches for months afterwards. If I was struggling with a math topic, having trouble finishing my homework, etc., I would stress myself out until I got physically ill with stomach aches and migraines.

After moving to NYC for college, the anxiety lessened considerably, but still showed up from time to time. Now, in my thirties, it’s taken the form of what I call anxiety episodes: racing heart, shaking hands, spiraling negative thoughts, crying for no reason and EVERY reason. In essence, it really, really sucks. The first time I experienced one of these episodes was during and shortly after a particularly bad break-up. I ended up getting a prescription for Xanax so that I could function at work. Luckily, the intensity and frequency didn’t last very long and I was able to stop taking medication for it.

Over the years, the episodes have become fewer and far between – a few times a month, rather than a few times a week. I’ve noticed a pattern that leads me to believe they are influenced by hormones. I’ve started taking vitamin B supplements because I read that they can help with anxiety. I think the other triggers though, are being tired and feeling vulnerable.

You would think that being newly married would mean that I wouldn’t feel vulnerable at all. That might be true for most people, but for me, it’s the opposite. I’m such an expert worrier that, late at night when he’s peacefully asleep (and ¬†my hormones and sleep levels are at their “perfect storm” levels), I first realize how happy and lucky I am to be married to such an awesome man which quickly leads me to think about how horrible it would be to lose him. And then we’re off! Cue the downward spiral into everything I’m suddenly not “enough of”, of worries that he’s going to get bored of me, worries that I’m holding him back somehow, etc., etc. You name it, I’ll find a way to worry about it. Once I’m in the middle of this mess, I can’t sleep and I can’t lay still so I tip-toe into the living room and panic and cry until I’m finally exhausted enough to fall asleep. Fun, right?

The worst part is, my husband generally notices when this happens and when he brings it up the next day I just don’t really know how to explain it. It’s nothing that he does or doesn’t do, but I can see that it hurts him and he wants to be able to help me. The thing is, all the crazy thoughts and insecurities come from deep inside me. Even if he was the perfect husband 24/7 I would still feel those things every so often. I would still not be able to sleep and would cry for hours in the dark about all my insecurities and the most irrational things I can think of.

So, clearly, THIS is the emotional work I need to do. I’ve renewed my journaling to keep track of when I feel these things and why. I’m trying to dig down to the core to see what is really going on with me. It’s a lot of work and not very pretty at all, but I know it’s necessary. I would love to have an entire month where I don’t keep myself awake out of a temporary, but overwhelming, fear of everything. It seems so ridiculous in the light of day, but on those nights it all feels so suffocatingly real. Last night was one of those nights. I didn’t get to sleep until after 4:00 a.m. Thankfully I’m off from work today so I can take it somewhat easy. I will be going to the gym, though, since it helps relieve some of my nervous energy among other things. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but, like the weight loss, it will be worth it in the end.