I’ve been away. I’ve been away for quite a while. The journey that brought me to yoga has continued, in the way that journeys do.
Three years ago this month I had a bad anxiety attack following the suicide of an old friend. It shone a light on aspects of my life that were no longer working for me, and perhaps never had, and triggered a depressive relapse which sent me into a tailspin of confusion and despair. Over the next 6 months, the life that I had been carefully building in Bristol became one in which I could no longer function.
I decided to take time out for a complete reboot of self, to devote substantial time and effort to continue the spiritual development that had begun during my yoga teacher training. I had lost my connection with the universal spirit; blocked by poor relationships, alcohol, and depression. Alcohol was the first to go, so far the easiest of the three to escape. Next the relationship, allowing space for my soul to grow and heal. I needed to start again, to build my life and myself in a way that would nurture and sustain me through the remainder of my days, through all the ups and down.
When the relationship I was in ended I needed to find a new place to live, so I decided to move home, temporarily, to Ireland. Two and a half years later – I’m still here. During the tailspin months I had come to realise that my entire outlook on life needed to change; I needed to start valuing myself in a way that I never truly had, and remove myself from where I wasn’t valued. I didn’t realise that this would lead me to value others more; that was a delightful and unexpected bonus!
Many times I’ve thought of these words from Robert Tew –
“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”
– Intellectually I had understood these words, but I hadn’t been living them, and while my mind had been determined to carry on regardless, deep down my soul had had enough; she demanded to be heard, to be felt, to be free. As on a winter’s evening when a fuse blows, I was forced to look into the darkness and find my way towards the light, investigate the source of the problem, repair or replace any damaged circuits and vow not to overload them again. In essence, my difficulties provided me with my reboot opportunity.
This is still very much a work in progress, but it is in progress. During this time, I have undergone intense therapy treatment, some of which was wonderfully helpful, some of which was traumatic and crushing, requiring more help to recover from, but I am recovering. Slowly, I am becoming myself. I realise that I’ve been defined by others more than I would have ever believed. Afraid of not being believed, of being deemed overly sensitive or weak, of not being worthy enough, I tolerated the intolerable until I could take no more.
I have learned that when the point of ‘no more’ comes along, that is often when people are not believed. In domestic violence cases it is very common that an outsider doesn’t believe the victim because they themselves would not stay and tolerate such treatment, so they cannot comprehend how another person would, or could, stay. Part of my reboot these past few years has involved walking away from intolerable situations that I’ve suffered through for too long. Some of these were of my own making. More were of the makings of others that I believed I needed to endure. I had taken on responsibility for the karma of others, and had neglected to nurture my own. Mine is to learn to appreciate myself, my own worth, and to share it with those who recognise it. Mine is to trust my inner knowledge, to listen to my body, my gut, my intuition – when I listen it never leads me astray. When I listen. Mine is to listen.
I wrote a post a few years ago about my longterm spinal issues – following 20+ years of back pain, several years of which were excruciating, I was finally diagnosed with Scheuermann’s Disease in 2013. Too late to reverse the damage done during growth, I now need to continually maintain my muscles. Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences), the musculo-skeletal specialist who diagnosed me said that yoga is the best way to do so. At the time I was struck by how much I had tolerated for so long; and espcially how I had berated and criticised myself for my physical limitations, which was, as I finally understood, outside of my control. Instead of trusting my body, I ignored her messages for decades. Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences), it was later that same year that my reboot was triggered.
A domino effect had been set in motion the day I signed up to train as a yoga teacher, and it’s still rippling through space and time in my world. When the big ones fall it’s like an earthquake, but the movement clinks perpetually onward. No longer can I tolerate the intolerable, no longer can I happily criticise myself for not being able to fix the unfixable. I finally know that I don’t have to. I finally understand that nobody should have to.
Today I was diagnosed with asthma, having had extreme sensitivity to pollutants, scents, dust, smoke, perfumes, etc. for as long as I can remember. Having had more colds, chest infections and skin sensitivities than most people I know for as long as I can remember. Having been forced to leave smoky pubs in the pre-smoking-ban-era to gasp for breath multiple times a night. When I experienced breathing difficulties in the past, they had ended and I could breathe normally again so I didn’t think it worth mentioning to a doctor. It never occurred to me that it might be something that I shouldn’t tolerate. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t just overly sensitive, or that I had a condition that needed to be managed.
Last year I began training as a yoga therapist with a wonderful group of yogis. A few months ago, during the module that dealt with respiratory problems, asthma was of course high on the list. The signs and symptoms were familiar. Very familiar. Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences) shortly after I had completed this module, a family member mentioned that her GP believes her to have asthma. I decided to get checked out, because I’m taking care of myself now since the reboot. Stilling the voice that criticised me and insisted that I’m a hypochondriac, I expressed my concern to my GP, who gave me an inhaler ‘just in case’. ‘In case’ happened last week after a morning bout of spring-cleaning resulted in a night-time coughing fit. Two puffs and… oh wow! I could breathe! Previously such a fit would have me wheezing for hours afterwards. Compelling proof for me, yet still I needed to quiet the critic, who this time was revelling in ridiculing me for not going to the doctor sooner. My painful reboot has taught me that I need no longer give weight to the critic in my head; the devil on my shoulder whose only joy is to belittle, to condescend, to destroy; nor to the vile words of others who believe their own shoulder-devils. So I listened to me. To the voice too afraid to speak. I heard her. I listened. I acted.
Today I paid my GP another visit. This time he broke out the Peak Flow Meter for me and concluded definitively that I absolutely, without a doubt, have asthma. So now I have three inhalers for emergencies, and coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences) I also have some excellent pranayama techniques from my yoga therapy training to help me manage my newly-diagnosed condition.
Sometimes the best gifts come in oddly-wrapped parcels (which occasionally are booby-trapped with high-voltage deterrants). Today confirms again for me that I need only trust my true self, my intuition, my gut, and listen to the quieted voice.
Today I am grateful for the painful reboot.