My Origin Story by Ann
Have you ever wanted to walk out the door, get in your car, drive somewhere far away, never to return? I can’t count the number of times that thought has bullied its way to the forefront of my mind.
I have been allowing my experiences to lead me to believe that I’m not good enough since childhood. I non-gracefully stumble through years of awkward attempts at “being better”, at least, hopefully in the eyes of my family and friends. I swing back and forth from being loud and aggressive to passive and invisible. These life experiences lead me to believe that the best way to survive is to bury my hopes and desires, to ignore the whispers that come to me at the most inopportune times, whispers that are my true self reminding me who I am and what I want. It’s why I realize when I’m in my early 30’s that I’ve never had a genuine desire to be a wife and mom. I’ve always based my decisions on what I think I’m supposed to do in life. My response is to ignore my gut-wrenching feelings of guilt by working to be “better”.
What I don’t know is that the choices I’ve made all these years to live unauthentically is why physical illness begins consuming every aspect of my life.
Headaches begin at the age of 16 after recovering from the worst flu of my life. Headaches are just the beginning of what’s to come. Next come years of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, throughout my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond. Perimenopause brings with it vertigo and Histamine Intolerance, which leads me to alter my diet drastically. Ultimately, the more I limit my diet, the worse everything gets. The worse everything gets, the more I do not want to be here anymore. “Could you BE anymore selfish, Ann! Do what you have to do!” My brain always manages to jilt me back toward “reality”.
As I sit in the emergency room for the third time in two days, exhausted, dizzy, and nauseated, I wish I could be anywhere else but here. I think about what it would be like to leave behind everything and everyone I know. It doesn’t take long, though, for my “Inner Critic” to start in. “Get over yourself, Ann! Suck it up! How can you think of doing such a selfish, irresponsible thing, especially at a time like this?” I don’t know what feels worse, the fact that I consider such an idea or that I’m too weak, sickly, and scared to do it.
I envision my trusty friend the hamster (AKA Me) on her wheel with her punching gloves, frantically fighting and using every ounce of energy she has to get away from her life. What I notice through the block of ice surrounding her is that she is moving very slowly, shoulders hunched over, and punching gloves hanging down at her sides. She’s looking over at me with the most lost, defeated expression. But there’s also a glimpse on her pathetic little face of, “What do we do next?”
I’d like to say that this is the moment when I say, “Enough is enough”, but I’m just not ready. Instead, I shove my emotions down, down, down, wondering if there is any more room in there for more dark, ugly shadows. I feel my heart closing tighter than ever before, and as it does, another layer of ice forms around my broken little hamster within. As fractured as she is, she has convinced herself that she is safe inside this block of ice. It’s time, though, to step back into this hospital environment, into the reality of my husband’s current health crisis and to acting like a “good wife”. After our marathon of hospital ER visits, I return to distracting myself with work, caring for my husband, and telling myself that life is meant to be a struggle and it’s my job to endure it.
Ultimately, though, the Universe has a different plan. Who would ever believe that a kidney stone would be a person’s saving grace? Along with excruciating pain and nausea, it brings about more panic than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Letting down the teachers and students that I work with has me gripped in anxiety and fear. I’m convinced that I have a Urinary Tract Infection as a result of the kidney stone, so I schedule an appointment with my Primary Care Physician. I have a meltdown in his office, and he proceeds to put me in my place.
He says that I do not have a UTI and that my nausea and other symptoms are no longer related to my kidney stone. They are due to stress, and I need to recognize that fact and begin caring for my physical and emotional well-being.
I take a leave of absence from my job and begin caring for ME. I begin walking, meditating, and researching new ways to address my health problems. I also begin my spiritual journey. At the foundation of it all is my desperate need to find the solution to my health problems. The physical suffering has me on a roller coaster of emotions. The good news is that I’ve begun to acknowledge my emotions, but I am gripped with the fear of my symptoms and believing that this is what I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. I am aware of my emotions from within, but I continue seeking answers outside of myself. I have become so frozen in fear that I become somewhat of a recluse. It is less stressful to be by myself in my own little cove. Traveling and being around others where I’m not able to control the food, temperature, sound volume, etc. just becomes too much. I sometimes force myself into those situations out of that pull to do the right thing and not be selfish, but with it comes a great deal of physical suffering.
As part of my spiritual path, I have worked to forgive others and to maintain a state of feeling peaceful and happy as much as I possibly can. When I’m not peaceful and happy, I resist what I’m feeling and continue seeking answers through diet, exercise, vitamins, herbs, and various other alternative healing methods. I’m truly grateful that I continue finding the strength and courage within to persevere. My unwillingness to give up is what finally leads me to information that suggests that my symptoms could be 100% due to my emotions. My brain is simply protecting me from the consequences of my feelings by distracting me with physical symptoms.
I’ve understood for years that my illness is due in large part to stress and not being true to myself, but now I begin to dig down much deeper than ever before into ALL my emotions. I acknowledge and accept all the feelings that I have buried over the years, even those that I didn’t know were there. I can honestly say today that I’m truly grateful for every life experience. I’ve had so many opportunities to listen to my inner voice over the years, but every time I veer off the path, another experience always guides me back to the main road. I now know what my inner and outer purposes are. I now know, first and foremost, that I will live authentically. I will continue to step outside my comfort zone and say “YES” to the Universe. I now know that courageousness flows from vulnerability. I now know that my vision is to assist other women to rediscover their true natures and to transform their lives.
🎧 Ann’s recovery story also features on Katelyn Michal’s fabulous Mindbody Mastery Podcast, episode 62
🎧 The Cure For Chronic Pain with Nicole Sachs, LCSW is also an indispensable resource.
📖 The 4Fs: A Trauma Typology in Complex PTSD by Pete Walker is an excellent article about fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses.