It was around Thanksgiving in November of 2014 that my “breaking point” crept up on me silently and swiftly. Basically, something just wasn’t right. I was feeling ill and spreading myself too thin.
My job as the co-owner of a water propelled Jetpack company, Jetpack America, had lost its allure. While it was amazing to co-create a company where our mission is literally to help people fly, I was burned out and ready to do something new.
When I wasn’t working for the Jetpack company, I was writing for a local record label and mentoring young talent at another music production house. I loved every minute of it, but my heart was telling me I needed something more in my life.
Since I come from a family of divorce the holidays are always a tricky time for me. Where do I go? Where do I fit in? My mom wanted me to be in Arizona with her, I hadn’t heard from my Dad at all, but I knew deep in my heart I wanted to be with my step mom’s family because that is where my niece and nephew would be. My step sister’s children own my heart and are my favorite little people in the world. I wanted to spend the holidays with them.
Sadly, the decision of where I would be spending the holidays was made for me. My body broke down. While driving from Los Angeles to Orange County late one night, I had a wave of nausea hit me. I had to pull over. I had just come from working with a young recording artist on her songwriting and choreography and had gotten very little sleep over the past few days.
I called a close friend and told her something wasn’t right and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to drive home. She calmed me down and assured me no matter how long it took she would stay on the phone with me till I arrived back in Orange County safely. A drive that normally takes one hour took three because I had to take side streets and pull over every few minutes because I felt faint.
At first I thought I had come down with a case of food poisoning. All the symptoms were there. The next day, I hopped in my car to head to go to the grocery store. As soon as I made it into the store another wave of nausea hit me hard. I had to run back to my car without any groceries. As I drove back home I noticed I was sweating profusely and my heart felt like it was going to explode in my chest.
I made an appointment with my doctor and, after a battery of tests, she concluded I had severe panic disorder. In the past, I had suffered from panic attacks here and there but it was nothing like this. Whatever this was felt like a constant brick on my chest.
It slowly got worse. At one point I couldn’t drive and had to go stay with my step mom for a while. I felt helpless. I missed my stepfamily’s Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. I missed the annual Christmas Eve party at my aunt’s house. I did get to see my niece and nephew open their presents on the morning of Christmas Eve and it was wonderful. It was the first time I had felt happy since the onset of my battle with panic disorder. I spent Christmas Day alone until I reached out to a childhood friend who lived across the street and asked if I could walk over and crash her family’s Christmas party. Lucky for me, she welcomed me with open arms.
One of the worst days in the throes of my constant anxiety was when I walked out of my condo to go on a hike. I didn’t even make it down the street before I had to turn around and go home. I was crushed. I felt paralyzed and miserable. I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t take care of myself and now I couldn’t leave my house. I was trapped. I felt like a bird that had its wings clipped and was no longer able to fly.
Long before my panic disorder arose, I had booked a flight to Costa Rica in January of 2015. I would be spending a month in Playa Hermosa to train to become a Yoga Instructor. Yoga is one of my greatest passions and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from making this trip, not even panic disorder.
When the day came to leave for Costa Rica, my step mom drove me to the airport. A close friend who lived in LA met me there and talked her way through security so she could accompany me to my plane. We drank a lot of wine before boarding began. I was nervous about flying and the wine calmed my constant anxiety.
I was terrified getting on that airplane, but I got on it anyway. As soon as we were in the air, I started to pray. I prayed for the whole five-hour flight. I prayed that by the time I landed I would be miraculously cured from the grips of my panic disorder and be able to experience the yoga teacher training symptom free.
My prayers were answered and the weeks that followed were some of the most blissful of my life. Everyday I took long beach walks, practiced hours of yoga, studied the Yoga Sutras, swam in the ocean, and ate delicious vegan cuisine. Yoga school was my version of heaven on earth.
When I came back to the states I felt refreshed and relaxed. I thought I was cured. For a month or so I felt like I was on top of the world. Then, on March 18th my world was turned upside down again. Just hours before celebrating my 38th birthday with childhood friends, I received a phone call informing me my father’s girlfriend had killed herself in their bedroom that morning. This suicide hit me hard. She was only 26 years old and had so much life ahead of her.
Though we weren’t close, I understood her pain. When I was 24 my brother passed away in a tragic accident. I remember feeling like I just didn’t want to live anymore and I went into a deep depression. I think my Dad’s girlfriend’s suicide brought up so many old emotions I had buried inside me and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I resorted to the same coping strategies I did when I was in my twenties, I started eating my feelings away. Within a couple months I had put on twenty pounds.
In June, I went to a three day spiritual retreat that I had been attending every year since 2008. My spiritual teacher is a little Indian woman named Amma. Amma travels the world embracing people. She has hugged over 35 million people. Some people call her a Humanitarian. Others call her a Saint. I simply call her my Spiritual Mother and I so desperately needed a hug from her that year.
One of my friends who was working at the retreat is an Ayurvedic Doctor. He encouraged me to make a trip to India to visit Amma’s Ashram. I gave him every excuse in the book as to why that was a horrible idea. “I can’t go, I have anxiety!” There are too many people in India.” “I am scared!!!” He didn’t let up though. He kept persuading me that it was time for me to make the journey so I did.
I boarded a plane to India on October 13, 2015, less than a year after being diagnosed with Panic Disorder. Once I arrived at the Ashram, I thrived. I threw myself into every activity that spoke to my soul. I taught Indian university students how to swim, I went through a 6 week detoxification process/cleanse called Panchakarma, I sang in the Christmas play and on New Years Eve for thousands of people, I participated in two intense yoga retreats. In addition, I prayed, I meditated, I read, and I wrote constantly. I documented every detail of my journey on my blog, Warrior Girl Yoga.
Being at the Ashram for three months was life changing. I made friends from around the world and I became better friends with myself. I learned so much during my stay that I decided I will return to the Ashram for three more months in the summer of 2016. I can’t tell you that I never felt a moment of anxiety while at the Ashram, but I can tell you I never let it stop me from doing all the things my heart yearned to do. I made a choice that I wasn’t going to let “panic disorder” define me. It is just a silly label. I am so much more than my “anxiety.” I am an artist, an entertainer, and an explorer. I decide who I am. I won’t let anything or anyone decide for me.
Currently, I am traveling India and Vietnam with my biological mother and am enjoying every second. I see the world in a whole new light and I am hopeful that when I return to the states I will feel exactly the way I do right now… happy, light hearted and free.
I love to LOVE. That pretty much sums me up. I am an avid explorer, a Jetpack operator, a writer, a yoga instructor, a spiritual ninja and a soulful singer. I enjoy traveling around the world and sharing every detail on my blog Warrior Girl Yoga
Featured image via www.wikimedia.org