It Was “Just Stress”

Zen stone reflectionIn my last message, I told you about being hospitalized with what seemed to be a stroke-related episode. At least, that’s what the doctors and nurses told me. Granted, it seemed peculiar that all the imaging of my heart and brain revealed no damage as a result of that scary event.

Over the phone, I got a different diagnosis from my husband Harvey, a psychiatrist who specialized in trauma until his retirement. (He and I are separated, but on good terms.) His conclusion was that I was suffering from hyperventilation syndrome as a result of many months of tension and lack of exercise. That really fit for me. For months my muscles had been hot and tight with tension. But never mind, I was bent on my goal of driving to Arizona for the winter.

How ironic, though, that I, a former yoga teacher and trauma therapist who taught thousands of others how to relax, should now be overwhelmed by stress-related physical symptoms. All I can say is that we humans usually teach what we most need ourselves. It was anxiety (or fear, as I see it) resulting from childhood trauma that led me to a serious practice of yoga when I was in my thirties. I have a deep and personal appreciation of the role of fear and the resulting damage to our well-being.

Somehow, recently, with moving to Arizona for the winter and numerous other stressors, I neglected my routine yoga practice. Focusing and cardio workouts were also set aside. I’m on a journey to discover my biggest Self and to take charge of my own life. That often means taking on stressors I would not otherwise encounter.

My message to myself? If I’m going to go on this journey of independence and taking charge of my own life, I need to take stress reduction very seriously.

Just today I was listening to a podcast of Elizabeth Gilbert about women who never got the message that their lives belong to them. She spoke of the importance of honouring your own life. If you refuse to answer the call to do what you need to do, she says, you atrophy. I like to think of myself on a hero’s journey with the classical unfolding of events: the challenge, the fear of accepting the challenge, the setting out on the journey, meeting countless challenges and – I hope – finally emerging as the individual I am meant to be.

Maybe, I tell myself, I’m taking this whole journey idea too seriously. Then a scene from my childhood comes to mind. I recall how, when I was in public school, I used to race home at lunchtime to listen to the soap opera Helen Trent. The very serious music would come on and the announcer would say: “Helen Trent is a woman who will not let life pass her by because she is over forty,” to which my mother would sigh, “Oh dear. If only Helen would let some life pass her by, she’d be much happier.” Maybe she was right.

What do you think?

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