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As someone whose job it is to help people with problems, I’ve always believed in the power of the mind.  I’ve seen how thoughts can affect our experiences–how our beliefs can create the landscape of our day to day lives.  Sure, things happen, but how we perceive them can often make the difference between having a bad day and having a bad year.  These perceptions can be changeable, depending on our outlook or our mood. And as someone who can struggle with persistent worry or anxiety, I’ve noticed how those thoughts and projections have made my life much harder, in many ways more than it needed to be.


I never really understood the full ramifications of this until I developed a chronic pain condition.  You see, I have dealt with anxiety for many, many years and as I got older my body started to rebel. I would get random, unexplainable health problems and was prone to catching viruses.  I became so rundown with my chronic self-judgment, that getting sick was the norm for me. And don’t worry, I wouldn’t miss a chance to beat myself up for what was going on. I would think to myself, “why can’t I handle life better, why am I always falling apart?”  I never found an answer to my own question though, until my body totally and utterly crapped out on me.


To be fair, it was the only way that I would listen.  I’d been putting myself down, people pleasing and caretaking for so long that I didn’t know I could function in any other way.  And honestly, it had been working for me (or so I believed). But a few years ago, the scales were tipped and I had to learn a whole new way of being.  The what and the why are probably TMI, but more or less I got super stressed for a number of reasons including uncontrollable life circumstances, perfectionism and a lack of self-acceptance.  My expectations were more than I could realize and the chasm between what was and what I thought it should be was growing by the day. I ended up in the ER with intense pelvic pain and no known cause, which sent me on a wild goose chase, because in the end, I found out that no one could fix me but me.


But at first, I tried really hard to find someone else to tell me what the problem was.  Mostly all of the medical providers I met with suspected I had Interstitial Cystitis–which is like having a UTI that never goes away.  That was a terrifying prognosis for someone who just turned 40. I was anxious and depressed and in pain. But part of me knew there had to be an answer.  There had to be something I could do. The irony was that what I needed to do was to do absolutely nothing. However, I attacked my problem in the way I had approached everything else in my life, I leaned way in.


I used to joke that I saw every witch doctor on the East Coast.  And I did consult a lot of healers, both conventional and alternative.  And folks, none of them, not one was able to tell me what was going on. They were all wonderful people in their own way, but eventually, they would shake their heads and tell me that they had no idea what was wrong with me.  After about 6 months, I felt ready to give up and resign myself to some kind of life with regular, debilitating pain. Thank god I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak and some pretty accurate intuition because something told me that there was an answer out there for me.  So, I gave it one more shot and I struck gold.


I found some information while doing research online about mind/body syndromes and the information I found allowed me to feel hope again.  My exact experience was reflected back to me in story after story and I realized that my chronic negative thinking and worry was making me sick.  I immediately started working on my thoughts and felt better within days. I realized that my body couldn’t heal when it was in fight or flight, so rest and digest became my focus.  I gave myself a shit ton of grace and unfathomable amounts of permission–I let myself fully and completely off the hook. It was something I would be unwilling to do unless I had no other choice, but I learned to truly listen to myself and the messages my body was sending me.  If I felt tired, I rested. If I felt overwhelmed, I took things off my plate. Seems simple really, but to me it was revolutionary.


It’s been almost three years and I can say that I have no more symptoms, even though I was told that I would probably have to live with this for the rest of my life.  And honestly, I’m grateful for the experience. Things would be very different if this hadn’t happened to me, and in some ways I imagine that I gave myself a gift–a gift that I can share with others.  You don’t have to live life in a perpetual state of hyperarousal. You can free yourself from the bondage of your own expectations. It doesn’t mean that my life is perfect. It doesn’t mean that I’m always happy or everything is the way that I want it to be.  It means that I suffer less and enjoy more, that I appreciate the little things and can tolerate the mess a whole lot better. Mostly it means that I allow myself to be happy without always waiting for the other shoe to drop. That I can more often experience life in the moment, whether it be joy or despair.  I’m not encouraging total avoidance of human pain, but I am encouraging the ability to feel the total range of human emotion rather than staying in what may seem like a small, safe place. And maybe it’s time to ask yourself what would happen if you stopped. What would happen if you let it all go, even for a moment?  Who would you be without your anxiety? Without your perfectionism? Without your need to control things? How could your life be different? Sending hugs. If you need me to hold your hand, you know where you can find me.


Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.


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Sarah is a therapist and coach who has been supporting women for over 12 years in creating lives that align with their own values.  As a mother and a wife, she understands the complexity of modern life and how to manage stress while juggling many responsibilities.  She believes in having fun, taking naps and saying no as often as possible.  If you’re interested in exploring motherhood, imperfection and doing less to have more–or just want someone to tell you to take a break, you can find her at sarahnormandin.com.



Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.


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