Man. I am getting anxiety just sitting here trying to think of how to begin this. It’s going to be rough and raw so here’s your fair warning.
I was doing so great. I had my shit allll figured out. Getting up early everyday to make my bed, meditate, and journal. Yoga everyday. Running 2-3 times a week. Lots of water and no coffee. In bed by midnight and up by 6:30am (6 hours of sleep is my sweet spot). Writing regularly, making plans with friends regularly, getting outside regularly… my life felt like a well-oiled machine of self-care and joy.
And now… not so much. All of that has gone to absolute hell.
What the fuck, Autumn??
I can tell you a bunch of excuses. I have a lot of shit going on right now. My life feels pretty chaotic and up in the air. I’m going through some major, MAJOR life transitions so if anyone gets a pass on eating dark chocolate covered pretzels at 1am while binging The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it’s me.
That isn’t who I want to be. The girl who makes excuses. The girl who takes her free pass. The girl who copes with emotional stress by taking it out on her body.
My body and I have been through a lot together. I trust her now, she picks up on things before I do. She’s always tried to warn me and I haven’t always listened, but I’m listening now. I can say with certainty that she is my best friend, the one I know I will have with me until the end.
And yet… I haven’t earned her trust in return. I don’t yet treat her the way she deserves. She puts up with a lot of shit from me.
But even the best of friends can only take so much neglect.
Earlier this week I had a full-on stress episode. My body said NOPE. You are done now. Cancelled. I’m gonna need you to lay down on the couch and barely move all day because I am done with your shit.
I had a massive headache, my stomach was in knots, I was super super weak, and my left eyelid was twitching all day.
MESSAGE RECEIVED, BODY.
This isn’t a new phenomenon for me. I have struggled with migraines in particular my whole life. There was a period of time in elementary school that I got one every day. It would come on right as I’d be getting home from school, so I’d have to go to bed and be in a dark, quiet room. I’d sleep for several hours, miss dinner, and wake up when it was dark and my house was quiet.
I remember begging my mom to stay in my room with me to massage my neck and shoulders and ease the pain. Around the age of 10-11, a doctor suggested taking one Tylenol plus two Advils or vice versa… “experiment” to see what worked since I had become immune to normal doses of pain medication.
Headaches were a regular part of my life. Eventually they lessened, and weren’t always so severe, but I never seemed to go more than a month or so without getting one. I eventually developed a thankfulness for them… because if I had one THIS week, it meant that I probably wouldn’t get one next week and wouldn’t have to miss my friend’s birthday party. Probably.
Pain and suffering were normalized. I didn’t know anything different.
Earlier this year, I realized I hadn’t had a stress migraine in a long time. Almost a whole year. It was a shocking realization! I just… haven’t had a headache?? How did I not notice that sooner? But as quick as I realized it, I knew exactly why.
It had been just over a year since I had spoken to my dad.
Just over a year since I started learning about boundaries, and trauma, and making the very hard decision to choose me & my health over everything and everyone. I made a very real promise to myself that I was going to heal, no matter what it was going to take or what I was going to have to lose.
That decision was like a drop of water in the ocean, creating a ripple effect that grew into a wave of healing that washed over my whole life.
My nervous system was a wreck, and I didn’t even know it. I was, quite literally, a nervous wreck all of my life. I grew up in a constant state of fight or flight. (Although in my case, I cope through freeze & please… I’m not a fighter or a runner, I’m a recovering people pleaser with severely dissociated childhood memories. I try to make people happy, and when that doesn’t work, I mentally check out.)
Our bodies are intricately designed to protect us. The nervous system will activate when faced with danger, so if we encounter a grizzly bear out in the forest, we’ll survive to tell the tale. Run, fight, hide… survive. I once read that experiencing long-term childhood trauma is like living with a grizzly bear.
As an 8 year old girl, I was so (subconsciously) scared to go home to my own house that my body literally gave me migraines to protect me. I got to be in a room by myself until the coast was clear and I could be alone with just my mom. Since I slept the afternoon away, I’d get to stay up late with her… I have fond memories of watching Johnny Carson’s intro monologue on The Tonight Show.
Healing is really, really hard work. They tell you it is, but you don’t really believe it until you’re knee deep in it and there’s no turning back at that point. You know too much. You’ve gone too far. Like Frodo & Sam.
Fuck it, we’re going to Mordor.
It’s gonna suck. I might almost die a few times, and I’m definitely picking up a few scars along the way. But it’s not even a question… I’m doing it. This is MY hero’s journey.
I haven’t been doing myself any favors lately though. I’ve been all action and no rest. Even the bravest of heroes has a lair to escape to and recharge…
So this week, my body forced the issue. I was forced to rest, forced to sit, forced to look at my life and take inventory of what is clearly not working. And the answer is SO ANNOYING.
Sleep more. Drink water. Move my body. Connect with friends. Put my phone down and read a book. And for god’s sake, WRITE. Write something shitty. Write something vulnerable. Just write SOMETHING.
So here I am, showing up for myself.
I have to get back to the basics. I want life to be further along than that. I want to be slaying my dragon NOW and be at the end of my story where there’s a celebration and an acknowledgement that I made an impact and all the struggle will just feel WORTH IT.
I DID IT.
But that’s not where I’m at yet. And that’s okay. I’m still on the journey, which means I’m DOING IT. I can’t reach the end without first traveling the messy story in the middle.
And here’s a hot tip: when climbing mountains and traversing fields of molten hot lava and battling demons and a giant fucking spider (*shudder*), make sure you DRINK SOME DAMN WATER. AND GET SOME FUCKING SLEEP.
We all want to be the hero and protect the people, but you’re no good to anyone if you aren’t first protecting yourself.
Be good to yourself. Be good to your body. You deserve it.