Anxiety- One Brave Step

Anxiety- One Brave Step

What’s the difference between a professional and an expert?

The person who not only has impressive qualifications but has walked the walk and speaks from experience. Bravery comes in many forms and sharing a personal story that may in some way help another is a type of courage we love at Ponderings. We welcome one such person: Sarah Healy- Health Professional and life changer.

 

Here’s a discovery that may help you on your journey: exercise helps to reduce anxiety but how do we put it into action? I can speak from experience, and I want to share this with you.

 

I’m an Exercise Physiologist, and up until recently low and behold I had a fear of exercise.

 

Sounds ridiculous right?  I started to avoid exercise, feeling anxious and using every excuse under the sun to resist.  I used pain and injury as my excuse. My clients come to me with pain and injury, and I give them exercises to help.

 

I wasn’t always this way, but I have for a very long time identified myself as an injured person. I remember going to a chiropractor as a gymnast at ten years old because I was experiencing back pain and that continued through years of gymnastics, competitive aerobics (never was very good at that fake smile), track cycling and anything else I could try.

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After having my first two children, my anxiety levels were through the roof.

 

Sometimes just the thought of going for a walk or a ride would stir up pain in my back and knees. Back spasms weren’t uncommon, and I feared it would be too debilitating to feed and carry my babies. None of my pain or injuries were severe, but my anxiety would cause tension, and that tension and memory of pain would bring on more pain and panic.

 

Stress or anxiety causes a stress response, fight or flight. Chronic anxiety can lead to hyperstimulation, even if the threat has passed, leading to headaches, tight and painful muscles and general aches and pains.

 

I was anxious about exercising, not exercising, having injuries, having pain, putting on weight; afraid people would think that because I was injured, unfit, in pain and overweight I wouldn’t know what I was talking about professionally.

 

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I didn’t initially realize that my anxiety was increasing my pain.

 

It was when I noticed it in a family member that was experiencing pain always just before the same event and always less when away on holidays that it finally linked for me. I was also very aware of what I was missing out on with my family when my husband would take the kids for a walk or ride, and I wouldn’t go. I was missing out on so much. I was determined not to identify myself as an injured person. It wasn’t the exercise as much as wanting to move daily as part of my routine, wanting to move and not thinking about it so much.

 

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The mental aspect of pain is so incredibly powerful that you can experience higher levels of pain just by receiving an MRI diagnosis than compared to those with the same injury but without MRI investigations. You are not your MRI; you are not your diagnosis.

 

Countless studies have identified the benefits of exercise for the symptoms of anxiety so I was well aware that exercise could help me too. Where I stumbled was the very thought of exercise was making me feel anxious. I needed to reduce the fear of exercise and the only way I could do that was also to reduce my fear of pain and injury. If I was to try exercising I needed to be calmer and accept that if I was to feel pain during or after my session that would be ok. My pain was not an emergency.
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New neural pathways were needed in my brain, to bypass my routine response of ‘oh no I’m about to exercise and make all of my injuries and pain worse!’ Who would create those pathways? Me.

I would meditate and imagine my body relaxing, my muscles relaxing and when I started to add more exercise, I would treat myself like I would treat my clients (I know right? Who knew?) As therapists we are so good at helping others we often neglect ourselves!

 

I went back to basics but also changed things up because with different exercises or environments I was less likely to predict a movement that would cause me pain.

 

A local ‘Ninja Warrior’ gym was one I tried. Ninja training meant fun climbing rope ladders and monkey bars and flipping tyres, the time would fly by. It didn’t feel like a workout, and I gradually started to trust my body again and not obsess over little niggles. Activities I did not even consider through fear of pain and debilitation were now an option.

 

Muscle fatigue and pain from exercise, the ‘good pain’ -I don’t fear. I love the feeling of my body reminding me I have put in the effort. I have enjoyed welcoming that feeling back into my life.

 

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Please find movement that you enjoy even if it takes you years and many trials to work it out. ASK FOR HELP from physical and mental therapists. Meditation and mindfulness are such powerful tools too. I have learned to believe I can heal and if I do experience pain, I can relax with it before panic makes it escalate. I have even recently started playing Gaelic Football, it’s not easy, I haven’t run in years but its fun, so much fun.

We are blessed with so much choice here in Australia, take advantage of that. It doesn’t have to be an organized sport it can be hiking to a waterfall, swimming, a circuit with a group of friends, walking your dog on the beach, street orienteering (it’s a thing, look it up, it can be fun) Moreover, if that means being the slowest on a Gaelic football team and sitting on the bench for the finals than do it and cheer as loudly as you can. At least then you’ll have a reason to train.

 

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I can’t say that my anxiety is gone, but it has diminished.

 

There were a few anxious tears before the first few Gaelic training sessions, could I do this? What will others think of me?  I’m too heavy, slow, uncoordinated? However, each time I attended those sessions, it would get easier to tie up my boots and go.  

 

So why am I sharing my story with you?  

 

Because for someone with anxiety you can feel very alone with your experience. You agonize over every detail and can become very focused on your own story and worries. Once you start to open up, you realize your story is not that different from so many others. I have learned so much from everyone that provided me with the tools to help myself, and I have continued to research more so I can help my clients get back their joy in movement.

 

 

Sarah Healy Teknique Health Want to get in touch with Sarah and find out more about healthy healing? This inspiring human can be found HERE.

About Sarah Healy: 

Exercise Physiologist – AEP AES ESSAM | Bachelor of Applied Science – Human Movement |

Graduate Diploma – Exercise for Rehabilitation | Cert IV – Training & Assessment

An Exercise Physiologist with over 13 years of experience and has been employed in the sport and fitness industry since 1996. Sarah works with individuals experiencing pain, musculo-skeletal injuries, posture/muscle imbalances and those that have developed anxiety relating to exercise and movement.

 

 

 

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The Case of The Exploding Brain

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What will it feel like?

It will be like nothing you have ever felt.

How will I know?

Oh, you will know! It will be the worst pain you could experience in your life. You will either be dead or wish you were.

Good to know.

Social Skills may not have been in his repertoire but hard facts certainly were.

When someone tells you this, you don’t forget it.

I forget my pin number and my sunglasses. But never this.

Then it happens. The Thunderclap headache. Standing in the kitchen having a conversation, perfectly normal. No build up. No symptoms, no warning. Instant projectile vomit and what feels like someone shooting me in the brain from across the room. Shock. Trauma.
Ouch.
Not in that given order.

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The pain. Today, some six months later I can’t believe I could be in that much physical pain and not be dead.

The ambulance came quickly that night.

Then the sirens. My name, over and over again. Kirsten, can you hear us?

She’s not breathing; BP is dropping. I answer. Why can no one hear me? They can, someone is screaming. I think it’s me. Don’t leave me.

The rolling vomit, the wave after wave of nausea surges through my body, like nothing I have known. The entire contents of my body feel like they are pouring out of my mouth. A tsunami I have no control over, and my whole body shakes and shudders from the violence of it.

By the time we got the hospital I was passed out, pupils dilated, and I was in trouble. A suspected brain bleed. 25% of bleeds cannot be picked up on an MRI; they require a lumbar puncture. I had one of those once. Never again. When one’s spinal chord is impaled with a thick needle by an intern with shaky hands, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I awoke in time in between vomiting to say No thanks. They were not happy with me.

By Friday I was washing the dishes and planning dinner. At my kitchen sink, with what felt like a hangover but no other symptoms. How? How is this possible?

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Gratitude, wonder and then Uh Oh set in. Then “everything is fine today, so let’s move forward, nothing to see here” set in. Its the survivor in me. Thinks she’s a cross between Charles Bronson and a Williams sister. No one likes a martyr. The grief counselor reassured me this sweet denial was a path to potential disaster. It happened. It happened to me, it happened to Lothario, my children, my brother and a lovely friend we had visiting at the time of the “Incident.”

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So I went to Magnetic Island with my youngest son and Mamma bear for a month. I wrote it off, played with him, had adventures, explored my second home some more in all of its pre Summer glory. I enjoyed the company of my island friends. I walked the beaches alone and cried out my fear, my panic. Papa G and I had many conversations on that beach. He was helping me mourn.

What was I mourning?

Well, it’s more than easy, in fact it is downright intoxicating to forget you are unwell when your symptoms do not stop you. You are invigorated by the hypnosis of a fulfilling life and do not want to subscribe to fear. EVER.

But then there is being emotionally truthful. The fact is unless someone comes up with a solution, I am not going to hold my grandchildren. I will not get to be old and grey with my boy. I will very possibly die from one of the most physically painful experiences you can have. Or I could end up a vegetable sucking bacon and eggs through a straw and getting Sunday visits. Sound depressing? It is! Bring on the Tropical Island and a few well deserved Margheritas. 

Rule: don’t ever talk about this to people. They will stop you immediately with: Well I Just Know You Are Going to Be Okay, I Can Feel It. Or No Kirsten, Don’t Say That, YOU WILL BE FINE.

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Here’s the thing, I am really glad you can feel it.

I know that the love we have for people makes us want to make them feel better again. For those reading this that have said that to me, I love you for caring enough to say it. I am invested in believing that I am going to be fine too, 365 days of the year which is 825 days longer that they expected me to live. BUT sometimes shit gets real.

Sometimes it JUST IS. Left with the facts you then rely on your faith to surge through again, creating an equilibrium that is a force to be reconned with. In the meantime? There are moments of emotional truth. Good or Bad. Pretty or Ugly. They just are. But this can be distressing to others. So I don’t do that. I take it to God. I take all of those “thoughts” and talk to God about it. We are sitting in a kitchen eating pancakes and discussing matters of the universe. Like what on earth is She going to do with Stephen Hawking now? Whoa. That’s a big one.

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There are people out there who walk around with some disease inside them, not of their own making. Someone operated on me and made a mess of my brain. The entire contents of my cerebrum, my grey matter, the old think tank and noggin is being held together with a microscopic thing called a FRED which isn’t doing it’s job very well, because it has slipped and has created a high volume bomb ticking in my head. Sneezes- dangerous. Flying – Dangerous. Humidity and the Common Cold ain’t great.

Constipation now holds a genuine concern. Vomiting? Forget it. Anxiety, Stress, and a raised heart rate are the worst. But head knocks? I can take those. I have titanium in there. One unfortunate head butt from my husband getting out of the car almost knocked him out, and I didn’t feel a thing. It was quite amusing.

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As much as I love Louise Hay, I did not manifest this. I am human. Therefore I can break.
I did not have unresolved anger issues, but thanks and no Frankincense oil under my tongue each night won’t cure me or special drops made from a rainforests Monkey’s toenail clippings, as delicious as that sounds.

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There is a process involved, and it has taken me places I never dreamed possible.

So is it a dis-ease? Or is it a blessing of the most peculiar kind? Depends on the day. Everyone lives and everyone dies, why does dying have to be the worst thing that happens to us in the Western world? Why can’t it be a celebration of how we lived and then the next journey begins? Like saying “Wow, you lucky thing, you are off to Hawaii now! Good luck and see you soon!” “She’s gone to walk with Jesus, lucky bugger.”

Because time is relative don’t you know? A word of advice- religion is not just a safety net for the emotionally weak. I am strong. I did my research. I believe in Physics. I believe in science. I also do not believe in chaos, but design. Conclusively. I do not believe in some Zeus like Gandalf in the sky. Please with a cherry on top, do not spruik your disbelief about the existence of a universal architect to the possibly dying. It is unkind. It’s just a shitty thing to do.

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This journey is upsetting at times. Especially times like “the Great Vomiting incident.” If I can change that fear, that sadness I will. Purely because the vibration is heavy and it doesn’t feel very nice. Good one Captain Obvious.

But it is life.

It is. None of us get out of it unscathed or without learning, so why pretend we do or can? For me, its the faith I foster through it and the learning it presents me that creates joy within the crisis, as I have mentioned before, the alchemy of it all is the light that changes any darkness.

Think of it like walking in a deep dark cave, you know you need to turn on the light, so you do. You find yourself looking at a cave filled with magnificent, luminous waterfalls, diamond-lined walls, and beauty. But you are still in a cave. You have stumbled over sharp rocks, trying to find your way in a cold and hard place, and everyone else is standing in the sunshine. You are in a cave. No denying. There’s the emotional truth bomb. It’s what you DO with it that counts.

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Sometimes the message is clear for me to write about this path I walk.

Other times I don’t think it’s a great idea. I enjoy writing other things more. I enjoy writing for others more. But I am reminded. It’s not just about me.

I reminded that there are 1 in 50 aneurysms out there. I am reminded that there are people out there in Australia who have a Used By Date that just keeps going. There are people out there that every time they cringe with a tiny pain, their child looks at them with fear and they must wrangle with the conversation “no sweety, I don’t plan on dying today, did you put your uniform in the wash?

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There are people out there who are losing friends and family because the journey they walk is too painful for others to bear, so they walk away. Sometimes it’s time. It takes too much time. Seriously? You keep going on about dying, but you are still here.

Sometimes some desperate people feel it would be easier to bring that final journey closer because then it’s in their control. That’s a scary one. Researchers at Baylor University Medical Center believe depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts affect up to 77 percent of people with a terminal illness. Would you like an after dinner mint with your taboo topic?

There are people out there who have been told they are going to die and it feels like someone took your arse and shoved it through your nose and out your ears.

Then you have to get back to being “normal.” You have to make sure it doesn’t ruin you, consume you or turn you into a victim. Becoming a victim to me is like denying the existence of a JEDI, somewhere a light saber just dropped dead. It’s just not cricket. (I was only joking about the Light Saber thing if you doubt my cred about the whole God thing.)

You are out there. Hopefully, you are reading. Hopefully, you feel a sense of connection that says I am not alone.

I see you. You are not alone.

PS- I know Mr. Hawking was an Atheist, but at the same time I wonder if he is having maple syrup with those pancakes?

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Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au

LIFELINE: https://www.lifeline.org.au

BRAIN FOUNDATION: http://brainfoundation.org.au

 

 

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Bronte, Anxiety, London and Back Again

Bronte, Anxiety, London and Back Again

By Cassidy Krygger

The United Kingdom has always held a certain magic for me, a girl growing up in Australia looks afar. So far away, the magical land of England almost seemed untouchable. Especially given that I was a girl who lived with a debilitating anxiety disorder since the age of 12. But last November, the impossible became possible.  I stepped on English soil for the first time. All by myself.

My Social Anxiety Disorder was pretty intense. I was diagnosed right after I graduated from Primary School and was unable to attend mainstream High School.

Eccentric teenage years were spent soaking anything up to do with history and reading; I loved it!  I was obsessed with the royal family and was in love with the idea of London. All the books I read seemed to be set there, and of course, it was home to the British Royal Family. It was a dream that deep down I wanted so much to experience.  

But for a girl who couldn’t leave the house without her Mum at 16 years of age or even answer the phone, that dream seemed pretty impossible.

The road to recovery was long and hard and filled with many moments of amazing triumphs and frightening setbacks. But slowly I was beginning to live a life and being able to cope with my anxiety.

I’d been talking to my friend about going to London for over a year, but we could never get the dates right. In May 2017, I got fed up. I decided that I wanted to go on my terms and I booked a trip to the UK.

By.

My.

Self.

Of course, I was freaking out.

As the November date loomed closer, I thought of a million and one ways to get out of it. My most creative idea was the good old fashioned fall and leg break trick right before I left.  I wouldn’t be able to go, and I might get the money back from insurance, it was a win-win solution!

Panic attacks ensued and I was sure something horrific was going to happen to me overseas. I kept thinking ‘How silly am I to think I would be able to travel to a country I had never been to before all by myself?’ These thoughts kept playing over and over in my mind, but  I pushed through.

Finally, the big day arrived, dread-filled would be the way to describe it.

I am pretty stubborn, and I didn’t want to waste all that money I had already spent on the trip. Something inside me just knew I had to go. This was my motivator.

The flight was long but nowhere near as scary as I thought. People are kind, especially when you are a solo female traveler. But I was pleasantly surprised to see I wasn’t the only one. Young women taking on the world filled the flight. It was awesome.

As the flight descended into a gloomy and cold London evening, the pilot announced our arrival with ‘Welcome to London’ over the speaker. It was and will always be one of the most defining moments of my life.

I couldn’t believe it.

Everything I fought for, everything I went through, from the days thinking I wouldn’t survive the black beast that is anxiety, had finally paid off. I was actually in London… the magical city. A real-life Disneyland.  I couldn’t wait to explore.

London was everything I expected and more. I saw Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace and The Tower of London (I told you I was a royal nut!). I went up to Yorkshire and saw the home of my favorite writer, Emily Bronte.

London culture filled and exciting. Every train station had a bookshop, and every building was bursting with history. I caught the tube everywhere and felt like a real Londoner.

I could totally be free. I felt like I was completely alone in the world and yet I was in one of the busiest cities. I found myself so quickly when there was no one else to talk with.

I got to know myself in a way I had never been able to before, and I realized that I am pretty impressive and strong. It was the best week of my life.

I believe that if you are lucky enough to be able to do it, that every young person should travel by themselves somewhere.

I totally had to rely on myself. There was literally no one else to lean on for support. And I had to grow up super quickly.

It could be the most terrifying thing you will ever push yourself to do. But it will also be the most liberating. I promise you’ll come back a more grounded, mature and all-round better person. You will find yourself in ways you have never encountered yourself before.

I came home a different person. Things that worried me don’t worry me anymore. I found new parts myself. Great parts. I think that is the most awesome thing you can do.  

Bio: Cassidy is a social media influencer, with her Instagram account one of Australia’s most popular! You will find Cass taking on the world one day at a time as authentically as possible. Her love of stories, in particular Bronte has her head in a book at some stage during the day and she has a love for the written world that shines through in her work. She is an advocate for Young people finding their inner strength and pushing through what can be a difficult world to be in. She has triumphed.

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