How To Get Up When You Break Down

“Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” ~T.S. Eliot

This a guest post by Diana Baur of A Certain Simplicity

I recently told a new friend that I suffered for years from anxiety and panic.  She was shocked. “You? You who walked away from a normal life open a B&B in Italy? I thought you were fearless! You get scared?”

What a question.

Leaving corporate life with its feigned sense of security and moving to Italy to restore an old property was more of a challenge than I could have imagined.

It turns out that I chose this particular path not to live la dolce vita in the Italian countryside as I had originally thought, but rather to reckon with anxiety that had kept me from reaching my potential for way too long.

In spring of 2009, the fifth phase of our Italian restoration project was fraught with delays and cost overruns.  The outbuilding in question, a two hundred year old barn with a wine cellar, was threatening to collapse. Delays meant we might have to cancel reservations and return deposits.  Although I had been through similar disasters before, this time I snapped.  By May, I stopped eating and sleeping, and within a week I wondered if going on at all was remotely worthwhile.

The Onslaught of Fear

Anxiety announces itself with physical symptoms:  racing heart from unleashed adrenaline, exhaustion backlash, lack of appetite, inability to relax.  When you finally calm yourself down, the fear raises its head again, restarting the adrenaline.  Anxiety is a warning sign that you’ve pushed too hard, that your mind is tired, and that you have to step back to see what’s triggering it.

Respect Your Own Limits

I had violated this rule.  I was already stretched to the limit before taking on this construction phase, but finishing the project had become higher priority to me than my health. I bulldozed through and put us under unbearable deadlines.  Finally, I broke.  I couldn’t wipe up one more speck of dust or absorb one more cost overrun.

My exhausted mind created endless what if scenarios, imagining the worst possible outcome for every variable. I was paralyzed. The thought of entertaining guests was out of the question. My anxiety had, in a matter of weeks, put our life’s work at risk.  I was disoriented, lost and so afraid. With no English-speaking therapist in the area to talk to, I stopped leaving my bedroom.

I had no idea how to go on.

Through frantically combing the Internet and reading endless amounts of literature, I came upon a novel idea:  to live next to fear in some sort of peace accord.  I knew I would never be fearless, but I also knew that if I let my fears control my behavior, I might as well dig a hole in the rich terra di Italia and jump in. I owed it to myself, not to mention to my husband, whose heart was breaking, to try.

Live Along Side Fear

I decided that I would follow a normal daily routine.  When the panic came, I allowed it to be there. I felt the adrenaline, the exhaustion afterward and affirmed the presence of the fear, but did not give into it by changing my behavior to suit it.

I drank water by the gallon (adrenaline overload makes you thirsty) and ate steamed spinach or yogurt with fruit (the only things I could stomach). I tried not to pay the fear any heed and went for walks to counterbalance the adrenaline.  Two ten-minute meditations every day gave my tired mind a break from the endless chatter and fretting.

We halted construction immediately.  We let the workers finish what was not secured and got them off property.  We had a couple of weeks before guests arrived, and breathing room to check the validity of the extras charges from the construction company. I let myself rest, and when I had strength, I got things in the best order I could.

The initial days of carrying on a normal routine felt like walking in lead shoes. I made breakfast, cleaned rooms, shopped for groceries and entertained guests, even though I felt like dying inside. I gave myself permission to rest, but not to languish too much.  I tried to avoid ruminating; it would cause the panic to spike.  I felt like I was just going through the motions, but I didn’t give up.

By August, something changed.  My fear started taking its cue from my behavior.  The adrenaline rushes slowed and my appetite returned. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel like dying anymore, either. I kept meditating because it gave me a sense of peace.

Bridge the Gap between Fear and Reality

The gap was between what I was feeling and reality was huge.   My terror was the potential loss of our home and endless shame at what I saw as my own incompetence. But those feelings did not reflect real life. We had a solid business, and hadn’t overextended ourselves.

We had held on through the start of a crushing recession and the web of Italian bureaucracy.  I repeated to myself that life would continue to take its course, and that we would be fine. At some point, I started to believe my own words.

Acknowledge Vulnerability

Understanding the nature of your fear means accepting your own vulnerability. There is honor in taking care of yourself. In your vulnerability lies self-acceptance. Once you accept and care for all the components that make you human, including your fear, you’re ready to embrace who you really are instead of proliferating some version of who you’re supposed to be.

Move Past Your Fear

It was a long road from those initial days of terror to feeling well again. In retrospect, taking on this project has given me a far greater gift than just a residence and a lifestyle. I’ve discovered strength and resilience that I didn’t know I have.

Our B&B continues to thrive, but I see that there are other things to life than restoring old houses and booking the season.   In 2010 we hired a new construction company and easily finished the remainder of the phase we had opened the year before. The property is not 100% yet, and if it stays the way it is, that’s just fine.  It’s my home right now, and that’s all it needs to be.

I have my life back. I will never push myself to the brink again, especially not for a pile of rocks on a hill, no matter how beautiful.

Fearlessness is a Myth

Fearlessness is not a worthwhile goal, because it doesn’t exist.  Fears are human and go with the territory. Pretending to be fearless distances you from yourself. Being vulnerable and resilient by accepting your fears celebrates your humanness.

Embrace Your Vulnerability

In the end, it’s up to you.  Fear will take you down if you let it, but only if you let it.  If you accept your fears as part of yourself and embrace your own sense of vulnerability, I promise that while you won’t be fearless, you will be on your way to the best possible you.

Diana Strinati Baur is an innkeeper, writer and potter living in the wine country of Northwestern Italy.  When she’s not making breakfast or walking her dog, she’s blogging at A Certain Simplicity or working on her memoir about her journey as an innkeeper at Baur B&B.

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Comments

  1. The brink is a place we all seem to visit from time to time, but it’s definitely no place to live; thank you, cara, for once again bearing your soul so beautifully and honestly.

  2. Bearing *and sharing* I mean to say xx

    • …and thank you, Michelle, for always being a friend who I know will understand. Un forte abbraccio, cara.

  3. Such an honest post, thank you for sharing your experience.

  4. Thank you Sue. It was a really challenging time, one I’ll never forget. I think periods like that give us so much in retrospect. Going through times that challenge all of a person’s paradigms is disorienting. And disconcerting. But full of potential for new awareness.

  5. I love that photo of you and Max, which says it all. A test? A quest? You walked through fire and came out the other side alive and…thriving. Blessings, Diana. And love.

    • Grazie, cara mia! Yeah, a test because of a quest, or something like that. My feet are still a little raw from the fire, but I will keep walking. As I know you will too. Blessings and love right back to you.

  6. You give so much strength to others – you inspire us all. I have been on the brink over these years in Italy many times…but like you, survived and grew from the struggles.

    An affectionate hug, my bella Diana, my admired friend.

    • Grazie, Mary, as always you are so kind and generous. We have survived!!! That’s for sure!! Life in Italy is enlightening, if nothing else. We’ve been given some extraordinary chances here to learn. A hug right back to you, Mary!

  7. Sometimes we’re so good at wearing our brave facade no one would ever imagine what’s going on behind the curtain. This was a wonderful post that I’m sure will help many people accept their vulnerabilities and know it’s ok. I’ve loved your writing since I first discovered your blog, and it’s nice to know what a wonderful woman you truly are.
    Thanks.

    • Barbara, you are very kind to say these things, thank you. I am more convinced than ever that accepting ourselves is the key to just about everything. We really need to give ourselves a break, especially at those times in life when the rug has been pulled out from under us. We’re really only human, and life can be very challenging at times.

  8. Hi Diana,

    I like how you’re brave enough to share your vulnerabilities – and to suggest that we face up to our own.

    We’re programmed by society into believing a sense of vulnerability is a sign of weakness … and to be avoided at all costs. We’re all meant to be invincible, aren’t we?

    But, it’s only when we embrace our vulnerabilities that we no longer fear them – or allow that fear to hold us back.

    You’re on a great journey, Diana!

    • Scott, that’s very true. I think people want to believe that those who have effected change do so and come out with the light of sun in their faces. Sometimes it’s not that way. That’s when we have to get back to who we are (and maybe even remember who we were before we started evolving….there is comfort in that…. when I was coming out of this panic situation I remember how comforting it was for me to hear the Eagles, like it was something familiar from the past that I could sort of hold on to). And we have to accept that person entirely. Thank you so much for commenting.

  9. What a lovely, heartfelt post. My favourite passages are those which are on learning to make peace with fear, anxiety and vulnerability. It’s only through accepting the whole spectrum of our emotions that we can truly begin to live. xo darling

    • Deeanne, you and Carol were actually among the first people I entertained as guests when I was finally pulling out of this! I remember the laughter from that time — in the kitchen, on the patio. It did me so good to have that. Making peace is what it’s all about. xoxo

  10. Anastasia says:

    Thanks for this, Diana. Your story is beautiful and astute.

    So true that when we accept our own vulnerability we have a chance to take care of who we really are — and what we really need at any given time — rather than ‘proliferating’ an image that requires ‘bulldozing’ through to sustain. Yes. Been there.

    • Anastasia, oh, we are functional girls, aren’t we. 🙂 In fact we function sometimes at all costs. I do know bulldozing. Oy. It is not sustainable, that’s for sure. We really, really, really need to take care of ourselves. Especially those of us who work and live out of our element. xoxo

  11. Diana, in just a few words we walked with you through your journey. You are such a gifted writer as you use words to share from your soul. Thank you for the hope you have given others who travel the same road. I hope this season will be full of joy and low doses of adrenaline!

    • Oh, Jane. Thank you so much. I know one thing for sure. I will set my limits this season. I am getting better at that. I have to! And your words about my writing give me courage to continue. Blessings. xo

  12. I have just met you over the internet but I feel like I can really get a sense of who you are through your writing. You write with your soul.. and it shows. As the previous comments said.. you truly are an inspiration and by digging deep and understanding yourself you are now helping other people too! UN ABBRACCIO

    • Thank you Anna. We will have to have some nice long conversations on the terrace one day over a nice bottle of…. well…. maybe…. Chionetti Bricolero 2009? xoxox baci….

  13. Thank you for having the courage to share your story Diana.

    I know some women who enjoy having renovations done – I’m not one of them. I can vouch for the stresses of changing country, even without the language barrier to surmount. For me it was hard enough just to move to a new place with a different culture and without my extended family. Sometimes I just had to focus on being kind to myself and on getting through the basics each day with my husband and kids. Many days I still do.

    I’m so glad you found the path through and I’m sending you a big hug 🙂

    • Alison, you bring up a good point. There are an awful lot of expat blogs and blogs about contemplating the expat life that romance the experience. But even just living in a foreign country is a challenge. Just the daily stuff. It definitely makes us more compassionate and flexible, but it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It can be a jungle. I totally hear you.

      I would say I am torn on renovation. I love to restore old things in a way that maintains the soul of the former lives of the structure. The dust and cement are a whole different deal, but one doesn’t go without the other. Right now I am happy with taking a break from it.

      Thank you so much for coming and reading, and I will be getting my hands dirty in the garden next week! Lots of warm hugs. xoxo

  14. Anxiety & panic I know too well. Funny, I cry almost everyday but someway I am happier then I have ever been. Living in “panic attack” / anxiety mode is an impossible place of survival but finding your way & the process is the beauty of it all. Beautifully written & shared. Thank you for opening your heart.

    • Maria, I know for a fact that crying is something we need to be able to do. Remember that you have a lot of sisters out there who also cry and would give you their warmth and love in a heartbeat because they totally get it. xoxo

  15. colleeenk says:

    Ah Diana, not only are you one of the most creative souls I have met in my lifetime , you are one of the bravest to share such a personal journey.

    What strength you have to get through that stressful time on your own terms without the help of a therapist. And the steps you took and have written about so clearly are a good guide for all of us when we are feeling overwhelmed.

    So happy to hear you are working on a novel. Jim and I still remember your hilarious story of your first season of growing potatotes, you have lots of great stories to share and you are a gifted writer.

    Here’s hoping you have a happy, fullfilling season and that we get to return to your haven in the near future.

    • Ok, Colleen, now I actually did cry. You are so sweet and kind. Thank you.

      I think that not having access to a therapist was like root canal without novocaine. Somehow I got the job done but man. It was brutal getting there. On the other hand, I did repair the damage myself, so it’s kind of like knowing how to change your own tires, you know? I know the signs and what to do.

      And you can better believe there is not one god-forsaken potato growing on my property right now thankyouvery much. My neighbor just planted 250 pounds of seedling. Buying them from her is far easier than scratching potato bugs off two thousand plants buy hand while waiting for the bread to rise, know what I mean??

      Love to you and Jim. xoxo

  16. Diana, thank you so much for sharing this. I know it could not have been easy. Having experianced all of the emotions you have written about many years ago, I can honestly say that to “crash and burn”, forced me to face up to many issues about myself and I am so much stronger for it today…it’s always amazed me, the amount of resiliance we mere humans have. Just when you think you can’t go on….you do.
    Wonderfully written and again, thank you.
    Deb

    • Deb, truer words were never written. The amount of resilience we have as humans is just beyond amazing to me. I can’t believe I got through it sometimes. But I did. And that gives me faith that I can withstand a lot if I have to. Thank you for sharing that you have been through it. There is comfort in shared experience, isn’t there?

      • There is indeed a comfort in sharing our experiances with others Diana. Reading of yours made realize that I am not alone..that others have experinced the same difficulties I have and somehow, in our own way, we have not only survived, but thrived. I am just so comfortable in my own skin now! Other difficult times will come, but that’s the beauty of life..the ups and down and in betweens and knowing that we’ll be just fine in the end.

  17. Diana,

    What an amazing post. You shared a lot of powerful stuff and what I agree is a real solution. It’s the same thing that’s gotten me through my most recent traumatic experience and is now becoming a part of me.

    You say it in a nutshell with “Once you accept and care for all the components that make you human, including your fear, you’re ready to embrace who you really are instead of proliferating some version of who you’re supposed to be.” That’s exactly it for me. It’s all okay. What a concept.

    I think I was first introduced to this idea when I read Pema Chodron’s book “When Things Fall Apart”. I highly recommend it to anyone who feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under them and they have no place to stand.

    Anyway, powerful story and thanks so much for sharing it. (Thanks to Barrie, too.) I think your place is absolutely beautiful, and I love the photo of you and your dog. What smiles. 🙂

    • Patti, oh thank you so much for your wonderful words. I am happy you have found peace and soulfulness in your own way of getting through your trauma. I send you energy. I have not read that one of Chodron’s book, but I will download it . I read her “The Things That Scare You” which is of great comfort to me.

      Peace to you, Patti. Thank you again. xoxo

  18. Barrie Davenport says:

    Dearest Diana,
    Look at all of the love coming your way! Perhaps this post is another turning point for you. You are loved and respected for who you are — and maybe a bit more because you are willing to be real and help others with your experiences. Thank you for choosing my blog to present your beautiful story.

    • So true, Barrie! I am totally feeling the love. For me, I think enough time has passed that putting this out there does not feel so scary. But also, I needed the right venue, and that’s where your help and warmth and acceptance helped me over the last bit of resistance. Thank you for everything, you lovely person! I will not be forgetting this, not in this lifetime!

  19. Diana,
    This post has helped me greatly. I have been suffering with anxiety for well over a year now. I had to leave a corporate job because of it, which is fine at this point as I believe the job was a huge trigger for the anxiety. I have been working my way through healing, and blogging about what should work, yet at times, none of it seems to be working for me. It was nice to hear you explain what has worked for for you.
    My panic feeling tend to be sheer anxiety when I am overhwhelmed and not so much fear. I used to be the Queen of multitasking, now it sends me into a tizzy that is difficult to calm.
    I look forward to using some of the methods you have mentioned here!
    I have Italian roots and would love to visit Italy one day. Maybe will stay at your B&B!
    Bernice

    • I can promise you, Bernice, it really, really takes time to pay anxiety no heed and to keep moving. Everyone I know who has this and has chosen this way of dealing with it has a very different story. You might get over the horrific part quickly and then are left with the dull low-level anxiety for a long while. It just depends. Although none of it seems to be working, in the long term it will. It’s like your subconscious has knots it needs to work on behind the scenes before you can feel better.

      A note on multitasking: I can’t . That’s really one of the main lessons coming out of this anxiety. I can only focus on one thing at a time in order to get anything done at all. I get way too fragmented if I try to do more.

      All the best to you, and thank you for commenting!!!

  20. Thank you for such a beautiful message. I’m in my late 30’s and I have had my fair share of ups and downs over the last 10 years. Anxiety has also been a big part of my challenge along the way, but through yoga, meditation and just giving myself a break, I’m starting to learn to let go. Your words really inspire me to know that things can turn around; while also reinforcing that it can just take time to find our path in life. This I truly believe in.

    On a personal level I also relate because since the age of 17 I have always known I will own and run a B&B. You are like my virtual mentor!!! To see it is possible 🙂 When I travel I will choose a B&B over a hotel any day of the week. I live on the seacoast in NH, and some day I hope to open one here. It’s a beautiful location!! Secondly, and no lie, my boyfriend and I plan to visit Italy (hopefully) this year in the Fall. Being the big “foodies” we are, your location sounds (and looks) perfect! We are attempting to learn Italian on tape…haha…wish us luck!

    Keep smiling. know that you inspire others (like myself), and that life is truly what we make of it. Thank you!

    • Karen, oh, wow. If you had the B&B bug at 17 you will definitely have an inn of your own one day. The New Hampshire sea coast would be a to-die for location.

      Things can certainly turn themselves around. It’s that there are plateaus along the way where we think that things are not really working – but they are. We just have to keep on the path. And time is important. Giving ourselves time to heal (without the added pressure of having to “figure everything out” all at once) and just focusing on not allowing the anxiety to run things inside of us is very, very important. It sounds to me like you are on your way. xoxo

  21. Diana, Your writing gets better and better with each taste I receive. Fear, I agree, it is human. To live alongside it, and to not let it direct our life is a great life’s work. I write and live these words too.

    I used to worry about worry, and that got me nowhere but more worry. With each step I take to not let the worry direct my life, it gets easier to do. But so hard at the beginning, and so hard when stress is really high. Thank you for sharing your story, I’m going to bookmark it and share it 🙂

    • Marci, thank you! I equate the first phases of not allowing worry to be in control with swimming in a big pool of mashed potatoes. When the panic is spiking, you cannot believe it could ever go away. It does eventually diminish, but not without leaving a trail. It’s so hard at the beginning, so hard. And we really do, in those moments, have to be kind to ourselves and suspend all thoughts that nothing will work. Because it will. We just can’t see it right then.

  22. Corinna says:

    I don’t know who said it but, the true definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Thank you for sharing your experience with breaking the cycle of madness and showing that sometimes the best way to get to a goal sometimes requires stops along the way.

    Cheers,
    Corinna

    • Corinna, that was Einstein! And he was right. Changing behaviors is key to getting past panic and anxiety. If we keep reacting to the fear in the same way, it will stay in control of our lives. If we pay it no heed, it eventually gives up, starved for the attention it needs to keep scaring us. xoxo

  23. Diane, Thank you for sharing this wonderful message. I am currently struggling through some battles with anxiety worse than ever before. I see myself experiencing so many of the feelings you shared and trying to do many of the things you’ve done to combat them. Reading your words are inspiring and help me feel less alone in this battle. I have subscribed to both your blog and this before and it made me smile to see you post here on this great place where I find a lot of strength and guidance.

    I love what you have done with your life and how you are making it all work. I would love to learn more.

    Thank you again, you are a blessing.

    -Jenn

    • Jenn, I wish I could give you a hug and hold your hand and let you know it will really be ok. Just please take it one day at a time. Even if today is rough, tomorrow will be better. It’s a daily struggle. To pay attention no heed is so hard because we constantly “check in” to make sure we are not focusing, and by doing that, we actually do the EXACT thing we don’t want to do. Checking in on my anxiety (asking myself the question, “so how do I feel NOW?”) was one of the largest stumbling blocks on my recovery. When I let it go and told myself, “well, how I feel right now doesn’t really matter, I’m still going to iron/garden/walk/etc” and let it go, things got easier. I hope that helps. xoxo

  24. Anxiety runs in my family, but no one ever told me. I figured this out on my own as I got older. I learned that by eating healthy whole foods, taking B vitamins, and getting adequate rest, that I could at least minimize my anxiety.

    • Justin, you bring up a couple of extremely important points here.

      First of all, anxiety and panic are multi-generational. And never discussed. They are such a “skeleton” in the closet of so many families. We, as children, are tiny absorbers of even the most minute behaviors of those around us. We learn very quickly who we should say what to, who reacts how, etc. Anxiety often reveals itself at or before puberty. We often combat this stuff for years at a low level without even realizing we are doing it. By the time panic really hits, we’ve actually been dealing with anxiety for years at some level. Panic just does not happen over night.

      Also, what you say about food and rest. Critical, critical, critical. You are doing the right things in that regard. All the best to you.

  25. kari m. says:

    Dear Diana,
    Brave you! This is such a powerful reminder; ‘My fear started taking its cue from my behavior.’ Thank you for sharing!

    • Tesekkür ederim dear Kari. As hard as it was for me to believe and accept, that’s what happened. Fear feeds off of our reaction to it. We get the extreme, all-encompassing fear because we’ve exhausted and thought ourselves into a corner, and then keeps us there because we make it the focus. We can behave our way back to normalcy, but it takes time and a whole lot of patience. Blessings.xoxo

  26. Dear Diana,
    What a moving blog this was; it is a magnificent offering. By sharing your fears and telling us how you dealt with them step by step, you have given me some tools to work with….and have made me feel that I’m ‘not alone’ in this journey. Sometimes it’s actually a relief when fear no longer hangs out in the crevices and corners but comes stomping out to meet me head on. Warmly, Fran

    • Fran, I think one of the precursors to full blown panic is years of low level, indefinable anxiety that is sort of numbing. Like long term dissatisfaction with ourselves. Or working ourselves to the bone for years but not being able to stop. Those kinds of things make us ripe for an attack or for elevated anxiety. Which is why the habits are so ingrained and difficult to break. Changing anxiety habits is a long term commitment because it means learning to pay no attention to something that has demanded all of our attention, probably for years – that halting feeling in our chest. Let me know if I can help further. xoxo

  27. Diana,

    thank you for sharing the pain and emotions you were going through; your experience helps me see I am not alone as I am going through my own personal meltdown. You mentioned how we must recognize the symptoms and then give our mind and body time to rest and heal. I need to hold on for one more week and then will be able to take some time to do just that.

    Be happy,
    denise ~*~

    • Denise, I hope you can take good care of yourself and calm your tired mind. It is so critical to do that when we recognize that things are just becoming too much. All the best, and lots of warm energy. xo

  28. I can’t begin to tell you how perfect the time of this is. I can’t even get into it, but thank you Diana.

    • Lucinda, please let me know if there are any words that I can give you to help you. Take care of yourself, you are a sweet sensitive soul and therefore vulnerable to pushing too hard and tiring yourself. Much love xo

  29. Diana, this is a magnificent “Up From Splat” story. I love the living alongside fear. Being with it. It’s what I think of embracing your splats. It is what it is and when you can breathe into it, you move through it. Thanks for taking us on your inspirational journey!!

    • Ande, grazie! Moving through it while paying it no heed – looking at it and saying “yeah, you’re there, so what, I’m going to make breakfast now anyway (even though I’d rather crawl under the covers)” – it’s those small victories that let us know we can take on anxiety which is kicking and screaming for all of our attention. xoxo

  30. MaraRose says:

    Diana,

    I have been following your blog and love your beautiful, always inspiring words. Today, I am especially touched by your honesty in sharing an issue faced in silence by so many of us. I am deeply grateful.

    Warmest Wishes,
    MaraRose

    • MaraRose, thank you for your kind words. I hope to lift a bit of the “taboo” that I sense is out there regarding fear. There seems to be very little place for honesty about being scared in our world and to me, it’s as likely to destroy a life as does a grave illness. The fact is that there are tools to deal with panic and fear and we possess them. But we have to access the tools and learn how to change our habits All the best to you, MaraRose. xo

      • MaraRose says:

        Diana,
        I have come back to your beautiful post several times this past weekend. It could not have been more timely for me. Truly serendipity at work. I am rebuilding my life after a hard fall, and have started writing a blog about healing & regaining balance, learning to live from the inside out. I want for my blog to be a conversation that supports my readers and encourages their responses, as I felt supported by your words. I have not taken it off ‘private’ yet, as I am quite shy about it and want to change to a different platform first. But I wrote a post inspired by this very helpful post that you wrote, and linked to this article–I found it so very helpful. I also forwarded this to a friend silently dealing with same issue. Many thanks to you for lifting the veil. 🙂 MaraRose

        • Thank you, Mara Rose. Stay with it, and best of luck with your blog. The veil must be lifted. It’s worthwhile work.

  31. An inspiring post thank you. So much to think about.
    I know my fears are holding me back in some areas of my life even though I’ve seemingly conquered them in others.
    Reading this, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering why I always ask myself bad, “What if…?” questions and never good ones! I could start imagining that the best might happen rather than the worst.

    • Here’s a little exercise for you, Jen. Every time you find yourself asking the “What if” question, immediately turn it into “So what?”.

      What if I lose my money? So what? I’ll figure it out and make it back another way.
      What if I get sick? So what? I know how to get care and can handle treatment.
      What if I fail at my business idea? So what? I know how to make adjustments to the plan.

      What if? So what? Internalize it. Meditate on it. Breath in What If. Breath out So What. Breathe it out so hard that it spreads to encompass your entire space.

  32. A very moving piece of writing, Diana.
    So many of us have battled with anxiety and panic attacks. Agoraphobia paid me a very unwelcome visit in my 30’s and I shall never forget the wisdom of the psychotherapist who said, as I left his office to face getting into a lift (one of my worst fears),
    ‘One day, you’ll be in a situation, (like riding in lift) and you’ll suddenly remember that you used to be afraid.’
    I didn’t believe him at the time but I wish I could meet him today and tell him he was right. It took a while, but I chased the agoraphobia monster away and now he rarely visits.
    Thanks so much for this.

    • Linda, agoraphobia is often an outgrowth of anxiety when it’s left to roll on too long. Even after you have beaten, there can be what I call the “white flag” of phobia – meaning that if you start to get the sinking feeling coming on again, it’s a warning to step back and relax. I am very pleased that you have been able to keep the monster at bay because it’s such a limiting disorder – a disorder of avoidance that threatens to keep you from doing what you need to do. May you be able to always go and do the things you want – regardless how many lifts you have to take to get there :). xo

  33. This post brought me to tears. Thank you! I have struggled with anxiety and its cousin depression nearly my entire life. It’s a little unbelievable to me, but I’ve just realized how much self-care has to do with it. I’m starting to learn the difference between giving in and just letting the anxiety overcome me, and stopping and listening to what the anxiety is trying to tell me. Usually its pointing me in a direction of more self-care or more authentic living.
    I’ve also found Byron Katie’s work to be be helpful, in asking myself if my worst-case scenario thinking is actually true. Usually it’s not.
    Thanks again for a beautiful post! 🙂

    • Amy, thank you for commenting. The worst case scenario is very rarely in the realm of reality, which is so important to remember. Catastrophizing is something that often goes hand in hand with anxiety – extrapolating a current situation into the worst outcome, even if the worst outcome isn’t even possible. When I find myself going down this road, I have been known to talk to myself. Something like this. ” Oh, stop. that’s silly. Now go clean the kitchen!” Or something like that. Change direction. Life is too short to conjure up worry!! xoxo

  34. Peppy | The PeppyWrites Chronicles says:

    Oh, my! Your experience, and insight gained from it, is shared in such a beautiful, eloquent manner … I wanted to read more!

    Fear is, indeed, an amazing human feeling that either cripples or compels the human spirit – your experience is a poignant example of both. I genuinely appreciated your honest reflections of what you have endured and how you have been able to move your life forward – with fear beside you.

    I liked your point about learning to control your behavior – how you reacted to the fear – and how it helped you learn to accept it. I have had fear hounding me because of a traumatic life situation … I’ve been in a fight with fear – from refusing to accept it – and all I’ve accomplished is immense fatigue. Now I must consider the need to just accept it … and try to regain a measure of the quality of life I have left.

    Thank you, Thank you!

    Peppy

    • Peppy, if it helps, in the beginning when I took this route, I talked to the fear outloud. I remember getting hit hard while in line at the bank. I pretended I was humming and said, “ok, I feel you. I know you’re there. Yep I do. I feel you. But I’m still going to do the banking, no matter how much you yell at me!” In the beginning, when you start accepting fear’s presence, it definitely helps to do things like that. After awhile, I would say to the heart racing, “Oh, there you are again. How nice. Want a coffee? No, that’s right, you don’t need any caffeine.” I know it sounds like a bit crazy, but just letting it be there like a mother-in-law that outstays her welcome helps keep anxiety in its proper place, which is in a room by itself, not altering your daily plans.

      All the best to you. xo

  35. Hi Diana
    This is my first time ever to post a comment on anything. Your post is like a salve to my bruised and battered soul this morning. I am coming through an experience which has pulled the rug out form under me and everything you describe resonates with me. I have been crippled with fear and anxiety and a feeling that I am going to disappear immently without a trace. Thank you for your descriptive and eloquent sharing of your experience. You are great.

    Blessings, love and light.

    Monica

    • Monica. I wish I could just wrap my arms around you and calm your tired mind. Let me say a couple of things to you. Please remember, you are not alone. So. Not. Alone.

      You are exhausted. And it doesn’t feel like there are any options other than this. But I am here to tell you that there is a world between what you are feeling and what reality is. You have many, many options that you just can’t see right now. Your perspective is focused on this because you have a very, very tired mind. You need to take care of yourself so that you can be strong enough to be able to stop focusing on the anxiety. It is not easy, but it can be done. You can let the anxiety be there, affirm its presence and then decide to pay it no heed. But you can’t start that process until you have given your tired mind a break.

      I send those blessings, love, and light back to you a thousand times over. You will be fine. Everything will be ok.

  36. Hi Diana,

    This post really hit home. I hit rock bottom in 2009 and was not really well enough until 2012. It all started with a regret with which I was bashing myself, something I should have done but I did not, pursuing other things that ultimately led to a dead end careerwise, and I just could not forgive myself. Well, it took its toll on my nervous system, which shut down on me and I was experiencing the frightening aspects of de-personalization, which, I must say, I would rather have stomach flu than that! I felt like a walking ghost in the midst of all the things I had to do- which was start over in my 30s! I became sick physically and mentally and it was a nightmare.

    Only with time, lots of personal development, a season with a cognitive behavioral therapist, acupuncture, and more personal development gurus (I read anything and everything I could get my hands on), anything to relieve the pain of not taking that awesome opportiunity I was given that I did not take, leading me to the abyss in which I fell. This is no joke and it is very dramatic, yet thank God I am better and at least the depression and anxiety are not there anymore- only their shadow. I still deal with clastrophobia (even in the ladies room stall), which is a remnant of my anxiety, so it has left its scars.

    I guess we really learn from these happenings and become more grateful for what we do have. We are thus forced to look upon life in a different, healthier and more natural way, unlike the way we were treating ourselves before. Because it is all about self love.

    Thank you and God bless