Ooook! Diving into my first intention for 2014 and it starts with this here blog. I’ve said it more times than I can count, and it’s certainly not new news, but blogging is most certainly a slippery slope. It’s often hard to know what’s right and not right, or too personal, to share. That rings even more true when your blog is the face of your business.
But in the fall of last year I really started to crave a more authentic space. A balance between sharing food, career inspiration and style, and some more down to earth posts that could (hopefully) make us all breathe a little easier. Posts that allow us to let our hair down, connect like close friends, and keep it crystal clear my life is far from perfect. That doesn’t mean I’m planning on some sort of “authenticity” series, where each week I talk a challenge or rough patch in my life. I simply want to be a little more transparent and a little more vulnerable in hopes of serving you all better, because I truly believe we can best serve others when we’re candid and authentic about our own life experiences.
So to kick things off, I’d like to share a specific struggle I had towards the end of last year…
On October 17th, 2013 I was sitting in this event. I was wiped out and blurry eyed, but excited to see all my hard work come to fruition. Yet towards the end of the day I began to notice a pain in my eye sockets and weird fuzzy feeling on the sides of my face and forehead. I chalked it up to exhaustion but several days later the feeling was still there, and despite how much Advil I took it didn’t go away. I thought perhaps it was a migraine? But I wasn’t sensitive to light or nauseous. I wasn’t exactly sleeping well, but I trudged forward, feeling like I didn’t have any time to stop and breathe. In truth, I was so gripped with anxiety and fear of failure, that hitting the pause button was not at all an option in my mind.
A few weeks later the feeling eventually subsided. We were now in mid November. I celebrated my birthday and things felt pretty cheery. Shortly after my birthday though I came down with a cold/virus. Something that knocked me out for close to a week. Granted it’s winter on the East Coast and it’s not unusual to get sick, but my inability to sleep more than 6 or so hours at night (consistently waking up at the crack of dawn in a state of worry) made what should have been a two or three day illness linger for a week. But eventually I did get better and moved on. At that point it was Thanksgiving, and it felt so good to have a little breather. I vowed that after the holiday I’d make a balanced routine a priority. I’d get back to the gym (something I’d let slip for weeks), keep my eating in check, and make good sleep the most important thing. I also started seeing a therapist again at that point, because my anxiety truly began to feel out of control.
The week directly following Thanksgiving, I began to feel a pain in one of my back molars. It literally felt like my back left molar was coming out of my gums. I furiously began researching tooth abscesses and root canals, convincing myself I would need a root canal. I called my dentist and moved up my cleaning to have everything examined. After a pristine check up and the hygienist telling me she saw nothing wrong with my teeth, the doctor came in. I explained my problem again, stating I was sure my tooth was moving out of its socket and that my teeth weren’t aligning properly anymore. She glanced around, felt the sides of my neck and face, and then turned to me and said “How’s your sleep and stress levels?” It took every ounce of self control I had at that moment to not burst into tears. Nothing was wrong with my teeth. In addition to being a night grinder (which I wear a mouthguard for), I was now gripping and locking my jaw during waking hours, causing my teeth to feel this way. I was so relieved nothing was wrong with my teeth and that I didn’t have to spend precious dollars on a root canal, that I kind of glossed over what got me there. And then I got sick again. Same cold virus, twice in four weeks. I felt broken. I dreaded sleep, felt like I could never do enough work wise, and constantly felt like there was something to fear. And all the while my body was beating me up for it. It had to be my fault, right?
But then, the pattern hit me. From roughly October 15th to December 15th, my body experienced four physical reactions to anxiety. Again, sometimes we can’t avoid getting sick, but I’m quite confident that my inability to get sufficient sleep (fueled by anxiety) caused my immune system to be less than stellar, making me more at risk of getting sick. I used to be the person that never got sick, and I’ve been sick more times this year than I can count. It wasn’t until a noticed that pattern, that I really realized how bad my anxiety was. Up until that point I’d kept telling myself that because I was so fortunate, I didn’t have the right to acknowledge these issues. I kept thinking “Maybe these issues weren’t even issues… maybe I just need to suck it up and deal. Isn’t that what everyone else is doing?” But looking back, it’s become clear it was that exact thinking that lead me to prolong this unhealthy pattern.
I know I’m not alone in suffering from anxiety. Achievement and success is such a double edged sword, and often what propels us can end up taking control and wreaking more havoc than good in our lives. While it was a really rough eight weeks, I’m almost thankful for the experience. It was like a shock to the system on so many levels; a wake up call that my lack of self love and care can really do some serious damage to my mind and body. It’s a constant challenge… being easier on ourselves, offering more forgiveness, and feeling really good about exactly where we are. But if 2013 has taught me anything, it’s to pay attention to those signals, and work to value myself more and more, each and every day. Because that’s truly the only sustainable way to seek success.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Have you ever struggled with anxiety? Are you working to take better care of yourself in 2014? If so I’d love to hear how. And I hope if you are or have been in the throws of anxiety, my experience brings a little solace. We’ve truly all been there, whether it’s anxiety or some other personal struggle. Here’s to living (and blogging) more authentically in 2014. xoxo