burnout & boundaries – is anxiety the catalyst for self-care?

there are days when i wake up, and life feels, more than anything, incredibly uncertain..

i am slow moving, worn out from my recent sleep phenomena of waking up in the middle of the night with heart-racing anxiety, laying in bed for a couple of hours, and then eventually falling in and out of sleep for 2-3 hours..

i was texting a friend yesterday, commenting on how “off” i’ve felt recently, wondering what might be the cause.. laying awake around 4 this morning, it came to me.. i mean, it was smacking me right in the face — my fucking anxiety.

it’s funny the ways in which we can be so blind to the most obvious aspects of our experience.. it can be hard for me to reach a place of clarity on things like this, because i’ve been subconsciously avoiding confronting it..

i’ve grown quite adept at recognizing my depression, which takes on a wide variety of forms in its expression.. but as for my anxiety, i’m much less attuned to..

when i’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, my knee jerk reaction is to get away from it, to distract from it, or to fix it.. never do i want to simply “sit” with it, to experience it. because my general fear is that i won’t be able to. or that maybe it’ll mean i have to change some things..

i’ve been taking on more over the past few weeks, feeling alive with life (hellooo, spring energy), ready to take on new projects, to do this living thing full-on..
so i don’t have a desire to be less busy, per se. but something i can recognize is that i’ll need to become much more skilled at boundaries, which continue to intimidate the heck out of me.

in her book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, Nedra Glover Tawwab explains:
“Mental health issues such as anxiety can be prompted by our neurological response to stress. When we are stressed, our brain has difficulty shutting down. Our sleep is affected. Dread sets in. As a therapist, I observe poor self-care, resentment, avoidance, and other mental health issues as common presentations of boundary issues.”

damn, so Nedra got my number, huh? she named the litany of experiences i’ve been cycling through over the past few weeks: anxiety, sleep disturbances, resentment, and avoidance.

here’s another quote from Nedra Glover Tawwab’s boundary book:
“If you think about it, the root of self-care is setting boundaries: it’s saying no to something in order to say yes to your own emotional, physical, and mental well-being.”

this brings me back to a quote i heard on the radio years ago that stuck with me: “sometimes saying no is actually saying yes.”

“no” feels harsh to me, especially as a woman who has been trained to be pleasant at all costs. (because sometimes, my literal survival depends on it..)

i also grew up in a household with, what Nedra refers to as “porous boundaries“:
– my mother knew no emotional boundaries, a classic oversharer
– my father has been so disinterested in taking care of himself over the years, i question if he could even name what he wants and needs
– my aunt was a people pleaser, non-confrontational, struggled with saying no and speaking up for herself, and was incredibly self-sacrificing

i don’t say any of this to drag the people who raised me — they’re all incredibly loving, generous, caring people. but they’re also human, and therefore flawed. which means i just didn’t really have boundaries modeled for me..

so as i try to practice them, i am becoming well acquainted with that queasy feeling that comes up when i feel like i am making someone i love feel sad or disappointed.. and it all but guts me.
[i’ve noticed that i often turn to anger in these moments, i believe as a strategy of protection, so i can keep some distance from me and the intense guilt i feel..]

one more thing from Nedra about poor boundaries and using avoidance to cope:
“Thoughts of fleeing… Fantasies of spending your days alone, ignoring calls, or hiding means you are seeking avoidance as the ultimate answer. But creating boundaries is the only real-life solution.”

goddamn, okay Nedra, we get it — you’ve been watching me for months and see my ways..

avoidance is definitely my main form of dealing with overwhelm.. i do it with friends when i feel like i don’t have the capacity to chat, i do it with my family group message, when my mom calls, and even right now, with a friend i’ve recently decided to collaborate with — i’ve know for a couple of days that i need to create a boundary, a container that differentiates our blossoming professional relationship from our personal one.. and yet, i’ve had such resistance to naming that need..

i want to be clear (mostly for myself) that sometimes “avoidance” is simply taking space for ourselves.. maybe Nedra would make the point that we need to articulate this to others, i don’t really know..
what i do know is that i often need space from my phone.. because it is simply too much.. so i’m sure there are still some nuances to be worked out.. i’ll let y’all know what i continue to find out.

i was jouraling today that i felt cheesy offering a prayer/public offering at the end of posts, but the reality is, i’m doing it mostly for me, because i need the reminder. so here’s one of my more general daily prayers:
may i remember the Love of the ancestors, the empowerment of the goddesses, the guidance of the spirit guides. in service to this Earth, in connection with Spirit.

more than anything, i don’t want a day to pass where people don’t remember their true nature as Divine beings. because this society so desperately wants us to forget, to become disconnected.. so i’m here to remind you.

❤ ❤ ❤ happy friday! i know i’m ready for it.

the practice: digesting and integrating loneliness

horoscope offering for this week from the CHANI app:
“When I am lonely, I ask how I might serve others. When I feel isolated, I focus on the quality of each interaction. When I am lost in a spiral of self-pity, I recognize the bounty that surrounds me by naming everything I’m grateful for.”

“Just because you feel grief or sadness after making a decision, doesn’t mean you made the wrong one.” – Amanda E. White, @TherapyforWomen via @latinxgrief on IG.

“Existence has its moments.”- via @patsysibley on IG.

“…while I sometimes resist the work of writing, I resist my own psychic suffering more, and writing has become for me a primary means of digesting and integrating my experiences and thereby reducing the pains of living… There is no pain in my life that has not been given value by the alchemy of creative attention.” – Melissa Febos, Body Work

“The truth is that creativity occurs in clusters… It can be argued that successful art is built on successful friendships. It can certainly be said that friends are what enable an artist to go the distance.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way Everyday

my heart feels weak, literally. over the past few years, i’ve had chronically low blood pressure, which although preferable to high, comes with its challenges:
– i black out very easily, especially going from a low to high position, which can make getting into a yoga flow pretty difficult
– my heart often starts racing for no apparent reason
– taking a hot bath can feel like a precarious endeavor
– when i get out of bed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, this can cause my heart to race and make it nearly impossible to get back to bed (often for a couple of hours)

it’s strange, getting older and my body changing. in the naivete of my youth, i had this sense that how life was was set in stone. and i felt oppressed by this idea.
but as i age, i realize with more gravity the ways in which nothing can be held onto for very long. and learning that appreciating things for what they are in the moment is truly the secret sauce of life.
(and also so freaking challenging. i guess that’s why they say retrospect is 20/20..)

if it wasn’t already clear, i don’t really know what my purpose here, today, on the page is. i provided the quotes above, because they are some of the messages guiding me in this iteration of my life.

other things that have been on my mind:
– money (god, fucking money..)
– environmental collapse
– the dynamics of solo poly
– loneliness (my own experience of it, and others’)
– my desire to read more and the ways my reading periods tend to come in waves
– an intentional cannabis practice and cannabis justice
– my relationship with the trees and the land..

loneliness is an interesting one, because it’s not solved simply by the presence of others…
in my experience, it’s a strong desire to be seen and felt by another, for my existence to be validated and my life shared.

i went into nature this past weekend in the hope that communing with the land would alleviate my loneliness.
unfortunately, in the vastness of the earth, seeing far and wide with little to no humans for miles, it had the opposite effect — i was able to feel more viscerally my loneliness (and desperately wanted to get away from it).

this makes me think of Buddhist and Yoga teachings, and the general sense that we navigate our lives distracting with the best of our ability from our deepest pains, our most unfathomable wounds..
being alone with the land, i was able to hold more space for being both alone and part of.
and see with more clarity that my loneliness is a product of my trying to avoid the hardest truths of existence, which is that none of this lasts.
and yet, i am still called to appreciate every second of it.

i was reminded yet again that salvation is in surrender, in no longer trying to fix or avoid..
yet as much as i can feel this truth, i am still coming up against a lifetime of practicing avoidance.. i still have the narrative stored in my body that feeling certain emotions, especially intensely, is not safe and could actually destroy me.

i have rarely been modeled rituals and processes around feeling deeply hard emotions, or cathartic release.

something i have gained over the past year or two is the evolving understanding that emotions want to move through me — sadness is not trying to set up camp, happiness is not moving in.
these emotional experiences are energy moving through my body, my being. to teach, to guide, to nurture, to warn, and then to move on.

well, i’m running out of steam on my musings.

i would offer a prayer, but instead, i’m going to repeat the CHANI offering from up above cause it’s worth repeating:

“When I am lonely, I ask how I might serve others. When I feel isolated, I focus on the quality of each interaction. When I am lost in a spiral of self-pity, I recognize the bounty that surrounds me by naming everything I’m grateful for.”

i wish y’all the best on your journey today. maybe we remember every day is precious, sacred, and an opportunity to practice.**
**which doesn’t mean it’s not hard, terrible, heartbreaking, or unbearable at times. to paraphrase a previous mentor of mine, “we’re meant to feel every emotion, darling.”

(lol, well i guess i ended up offering a prayer anyway)

love y’all
❤ ❤ ❤

the evolving lessons of rejection – learning to take responsibility for how i feel

everyday, i come to this page, uncertain of the shape my thoughts will take.

everyday, so many lessons; every morning, so many revelations.

i am tired, on multiple levels. i am navigating the waters of rejection, once again learning it’s depth, the feeling of it lapping against my skin, the fear of drowning in it.

rejection is an interesting experience, because it feels immensely personal and yet, when i really dig into it, i can see that the other person’s experience of me has little to do with me. and vice versa.

as someone practicing taking responsibility for how i feel (instead of falling into blaming, my historically preferred approach to pain), i am learning how to dissect my side of things and the ways in which i am hurting myself (or maybe simply the ways i am hurting).

for what seems like the thousandth time, i’m confronting the reality of my loneliness and boredom. along with the places these states takes me and the actions they tend to prompt from me.

i’m coming to terms with the ways i’ve infused my hopes and desires into my idea of this person. and also the ways in which i am not great at not getting my way.

as i’ve gotten older, i’ve gotten better, more skilled at not “barking up the wrong tree” — not pursuing someone who’s so clearly uninterested, unavailable, or both.

and yet there are still times when i just can’t help myself. when i feel captivated, intrigued by someone, and i have to have them, despite whatever they’d prefer.

i think this is the place i come to when i’ve been lonely for a good while, and avoidant of it. and instead of engaging with it head on, i become focused, even obsessed with the other person in the subconscious hope they’ll fix it for me. that i’ll be able to bypass feeling the hard feelings completely.

this rarely, if ever, pans out well.

it’s also a total objectification of the other person, turning them into a means to an end, instead of a highly complex and individualized human being with as many needs and desires as myself.

and then i villainize them, making them the object of my anger instead of truly grappling with my pain.

it’s a cycle i know well, intimately, really. it made up a lot of my 20s, and i’m setting the intention to not make it a pattern in my 30s.

but of course, this means the willingness to feel my loneliness, my deep, unmet desire for companionship. my fear of being alone.

i honestly don’t know how to grapple with hard feelings. i’ve spent so much of my life in avoidance of and distraction from them, honing the skill of intellectualizing my feelings instead of feeling them.

i’ve also found that trying to feel my feelings on demand to be a generally counterproductive experience. so oftentimes, i end up feeling them only once they’ve gotten so big, they’ve become a tidal wave that swallows me whole.

i took a somatics course this past fall/winter that could probably help me out with this — much like my experiences with yoga, i’ve found the body to be the entry point to hard, tangled emotions vs trying to think myself there.

because ultimately, feelings start in the body and then become stories we tell ourselves, often stories we’ve been telling ourselves for years, even decades. i don’t want to keep telling myself the same stories around rejection, ones that feed my insecurity, my blaming, my lacking.

i am learning the path of self-compassion, the willingness to hold my pain with tenderness and care in place of ridicule and shame. this transformation is not easy or simple (or even straightforward). i have a long history of using shame as a tool for change, and so learning how to grow and evolve without it has a learning curve.

the mantra i’ve found to be the most effective when i’m getting down on myself is: never a failure, always a lesson (a tattoo of Rihanna’s).

this is the best reminder i have (at the moment) that instead of beating myself up, i can learn and grow from what feels like mistakes.

it’s a very relieving perspective to have, very forgiving and understanding. it feels like the path of love. and it’s not a letting off the hook, it’s a transmutation process, turning the “bad” into something “good.”

well, i don’t think i have the capacity to keep writing, so i’m going to wish y’all a happy sunday and leave it here.

if anyone would like to share their own lessons with rejection, please do. collective wisdom is the most potent.

love y’all. stay strong and soft and tender and bold ❤ keep challenging the bullshit that’s been fed to us.

may we never forget our truest nature, as divine beings on their earth, interconnected, and interdependent. ❤ ❤ ❤