Today is my 101st consecutive day of meditation, and I feel astonishingly good. I feel calm, alert, and super smart. Amazing, right? Most importantly, I don't feel anxious. The constantly looping, stomping, and crashing parade of worries and what-ifs disbanded and left my mind about a week ago. Only a few of the more reasonable concerns remain, and they're cool. They're sitting down and hanging out quietly until I choose to deal with them.
None of these things were true 101 days ago, and they're all thanks to my meditation practice. But meditation did not made me more "zen." Meditation gave me the insight to seek, and the confidence to get, help.
Therapists have told me that I ruminate. I've had coping mechanisms my whole life, like imagining worst case scenarios and planning how I would handle them when I needed to. I am a truly excellent imaginer of worst-case scenarios. Imagining those terrible situations and possible solutions is probably supposed to free a person from worry. But for me? These situations simply added to the chaos and noise of the never ending parade. I couldn't seem to let anything emotional go. People would tell me that emotions are like ocean waves, and waves always recede, so I'd be okay. I'd nod my head like I totally understood, but I didn't. I was busy treading water in the deep end of a wave pool of emotion, trying to seem like I wasn't tired.
The anxiety made sense to me for decades. School was often stressful, and the more I worried, the harder I worked. The harder I worked, the better grades I got. Being a litigator could be stressful, too. There were clients, judges, important cases, and lots of things to juggle. I eventually decided a high level of worry and anxiety about my work was not only normal but necessary. Who cares if I couldn't turn it off? The worry and anxiety was probably part of what made me good at my job.
I left legal work about seven years ago, and I took on Stay At Home Mom like it was a profession. I learned about nutrition, fermentation, cooking, and I made myself do things like stay up super late to bake sourdough bread rather than lose a loaf to over-proofing. I shifted our kitchen into a place that was full of jars of whole, nourishing ingredients from the grocery store bulk section. I was the only person who could turn any of it into food anytime anyone wanted to eat. I focused on raising our kid, reading books, taking classes, trying to come up with a second career, improving my emotional intelligence, all the while worrying what angles I was missing. And then? I started a blog where I posted every week without fail. I was up late writing, checking stats, editing photos, and ultimately welcoming self doubt into my mental parade. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was as stressed-out as ever. Worse, I felt like I had to hide my mental state because it was, based on my life and lifestyle, totally unwarranted.
There seemed to be no objective reason for my anxiety. I am a white, heterosexual, cis-woman. I'm married with one non-home-schooled child who has no disabilities. I don't have an employer, and I live comfortably with my wonderful little family in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. We've had rocky periods at home, but we emerged from them maybe better (certainly no worse) than before. The mismatch between my internal and external life was frankly embarrassing. I was sure I was doing something terribly wrong.
This January, I decided to slow way down and remove self-imposed pressures to see if I'd calm down. I stopped writing regular blog posts, and I started doing things like buying grain-free granola instead of making it. I prioritized connecting in person with friends over completing tasks. In February, I began developing a meditation practice according to Bliss More. I went from dreading and avoiding meditation to looking forward to it and doing it every single day. Surely all of this subdued the parade, right?
Nope. Doing less didn’t help at all. With all those activities gone, I worried about more and more mundane things in greater and greater detail. The parade stayed just as loud and looped just as fast as ever. But thanks to meditation, I started noticing how my mental state was affecting my life. I needed to change things, and I couldn't do it myself.
While I was debating about hiring a new therapist and looking into prescription medications, I noticed a social media post from Wyatt’s pediatrician, Dr. Julia Getzelman. She wrote that she had been using genetic testing to uncover the root causes of patients' mental and physical issues, including anxiety, ADD, and ADHD. Knowing the root causes allowed her to successfully treat those conditions without pharmaceuticals, and she was starting to work with adults. I swallowed hard and sent her a self-conscious email explaining how I was feeling and that, in my opinion, I had no right to feel this way, but maybe she could help. Her compassion was overwhelming in the very best way. She took my complaints seriously, and after analyzing my 23andMe genetic test, she explained, from a medical perspective, why I felt so awful and trapped. More importantly, she developed a plan for me to get better. The plan involves my taking supplements maybe forever and also playing with dietary changes over the next couple of months so we can determine what will work best for me over the long term.
Today, I am so much better. I feel astonishingly good, and I'm so grateful.