I’ve dealt with anxiety as long as I can remember.
As a child I was a nail biting, thumb sucking little ball of energy who carried my teddy bear, Mr. Kamunka, with me everywhere I went. Growing up an only child of an alcoholic mother meant finding comfort in any way possible. My parents divorced when I was three, thankfully, because hiding in a closet from the fighting is still one of my first memories.
I remember so many nights as a small child not knowing where my mom was or what kind of mood she would be in when she got home. Would she be sweet and wake me up with a surprise or would she be sick or would she be angry, looking for someone to take it out on? Often times she was just crying and sad and needed someone to listen to her. I was always all of those for her.
My childhood was a roller coaster and while she eventually gave up all parental responsibility to my dad, she still would show up randomly, outside our house, when she was needing someone to vent to. The neighbors didn’t appreciate it and I didn’t either. I never felt safe or secure. She would show up wasted or high to my school or soccer games and pick fights with anyone who said something to her. Once she locked me in a bathroom because I embarrassed her in front of the McDonalds clerk who she was probably trying to flirt with for free food during our first time together in months.
As a teenager, I desperately tried to connect with her during her sober stints, spending summers in Las Vegas with her and her new baby, my amazing little half-brother, Kellen. (I say “half” to explain the paternal difference, although he is very much my full brother by heart!)
I wanted to be close with them but watching her put him through the same roller coaster and often times worse situations, was something that tortured my heart and made me angry beyond belief. I was experiencing panic attacks in school and doctors put me on xanax and ativan at 16 to keep my anxiety under control.
I eventually cut her out completely and focused on the things I could control in my life and vowed to never be weak like her. I pushed myself to start my own career and be reliable to the people I cared about. I kept everything under control, quit all medications at 18 and began treating my anxiety herbally. I learned that self discipline was key. I became very hard on myself when I made mistakes because I never wanted to be anything like my mother.
I did my best to pick up the motherly slack she left with my brother, who like me, ended up bouncing around with his father and father’s family most his childhood. I resented her for not being there for him, for leaving me with the hole to fill but it motivated me to be better for him and to show him what the possibilities are when you work through the darkness.
All of this has been like a shadow in the beautiful life I have created for myself. As a child I didn’t share it because cruel kids made fun of me. As a teen I didn’t want to seem weird or different. As an adult I didn’t want to share my story because I didn’t want anyone’s pity or to be defined by it. “Wow, you have come so far considering…” YUCK.
I worked harder to make the stories less powerful over me, yet the anxiety never subsided.
I had to heal the root of the problem and I set out to forgive and set myself free. I went to workshops, personal development seminars, I wrote closure letters, I read books and joined support groups. I surrounded myself with positive people and created a community. I found myself no longer hating her, but feeling sorry for her that she was not a part of my life. I had created such amazing things and people around me but she was unable to share it with me.
My brother and I became closer than ever and have had the most honest talks about addiction and mental illness. I have been able to share the wisdom and the knowledge I earned on my own, with him. He knows I am always here for him no matter what and most importantly, I know it too.
Almost two years ago I saw her walking down the street in my neighborhood in San Diego and I pulled over and got out to talk to her. She was so high and angry and incoherent I couldn’t have a conversation like I had hoped but I gave her a hug and drove off, with sadness and love in my heart. I didn’t hate her. I wanted her to find peace, like I had.
A few months later, while planning what I thought was my next chapter in life, marriage and my own family, I learned my soon-to-be-fiancee had been having an affair, and my world came to a screeching halt. I had been betrayed and abandoned again. I wasn’t safe in my own home I had created with him and I could not trust him or myself. I felt all the same wounds open back up deeper than before.
What was wrong with me that the people I love and trust most, treat me like I’m disposable?
Then the anxiety came back and the nightmares began to get worse. I felt like I was starting all over and then some. I was determined to heal as quickly as possible, to get back to the peace I had felt before learning the truth about him. I went to women’s groups, energy healers, seminars, workshops, tropical getaways and still, no matter how packed my schedule was with positive productivity, I could not shake the anxiety and nightmares.
I would replay scenarios and lies he told me over and over in my head. I couldn’t stop trying to “solve the case” even months after I had “moved on.” Desperate for answers, sitting on a beach in Bali, staring off into the gorgeous sea and feeling anxious in paradise again, I searched for alternative therapy in San Diego. I was going to give it a try as soon as I got back. I couldn’t deal with another beautiful morning wasted, waking up in paradise, from a nightmare, about some douche bag thousands of miles away. ( Apparently, spending years dealing with a sociopath can cause PTSD. )
Luckily, a trusted friend recommended her closest friend, Kristyn, a hypnotherapist in San Diego and I booked four sessions right away. I went into each session with a very open mind and willingness to absorb my own insights and to heal. I was ready to release and forgive and feel peace in my heart. I finally finished all four within a few months but the improvement was apparent in the first few weeks.
The nightmares stopped, my nail biting subsided to where I was able to quit getting fake nails and finally wear my natural nails with out shame.
Both of my businesses took off in a really big way and I suddenly was not angry at my ex anymore. I found my old blackberry full of messages and photos from our first year together and I was not sad or angry, but nostalgic for a happy time in my life and I felt excited for what was ahead and having that kind of happiness again, but for real this time. I was finally free and even my best friends said they could see a difference in me.
I’ve been able to take my meditation practice to a new level. Before working with Kristyn I could never quiet my thoughts, especially before bed. Now I put on a guided meditation almost every night and morning and can find myself at peace. Even the one time I dreamed about my ex since our sessions, instead of there being a altercation or argument, I just kept on walking past our house. I just kept on walking. It felt good to wake up from that one. I had found the release I needed.
As I sit on another beach in paradise, writing this, I am grateful for the difficult people and the pain they caused because I have learned to over come the struggle and abandonment and feelings that I am not lovable. I have learned to forgive and find peace in my heart. Without drugs, with out alcohol, without sex or shopping or any other crutches. (although I admit I have a travel problem, hee hee) I have found the healing I needed right inside myself. Its been there all along and its up to me to keep it.
Suffering from a broken heart, anxiety, depression or just lost in life?
My Love, Life & Self Expression Coach: Jess Johnson
My Hypnotherapist: Kristyn Caetano
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