I have five siblings. And one of them is a fraternal twin sister. Growing up as a highly sensitive introvert meant that I was overwhelmed a lot by the sheer size of my family alone. The first few report cards reflected this sense of overwhelm. There were often comments about how easily upset I would get at school especially when I perceived that things weren’t going well.
Dysfunctional family systems, divorce and deaths. Moving to new places and changing schools. In my mind, these added to the constant chaos I was already experiencing.
For the most part, I was an average child. But inside, I was usually quite anxious, and even fearful. I craved calm, quiet and solace. My self-soothing techniques included trying to predict or control every outcome, perfectionism and numbing with sleep, watching television or procrastination.
Fast forward through high-school, a post-secondary degree, a marriage, birth of children, career changes, dissolution of a marriage all while reading, craving understanding and asking the hard questions. I realized that my attempts to calm the overwhelm so that I could ‘feel’ resilient weren’t working. Proof of this came one day when I ended up in the ER with what I thought might be a heart attack. It turned out to be heart palpitations and hyperventilation brought on by chronic stress.
On the advice of my doctor, I took up yoga and meditation. I did and the impact was incremental but noticeable. I became more aware of the effect of my thoughts on my feelings and actions. And I discovered that my body has an incredible wisdom and it communicates with me all the time. My methods of dealing with overwhelm became more about listening and leaning into the discomfort instead of numbing or avoiding. I noticed more clarity and less panic. More peace and less need to control every outcome. I noticed how gratitude changed things for the better. I experienced more contentment and joy.
Now, after fifteen years as a high school counsellor, classroom educator, workshop presenter, faculty advisor at a small independent school, and a yoga instructor and mindfulness facilitator, I am excited for this new iteration of my life’s work: coaching resilient clients using collaborative, creative problem-solving, mindful movement, meditation and helping them to develop strategies and access all their resources towards a more robust life!
The end is still unwritten. And since I know not the time or place of the end of the story, I’ll continue to wake up each day and write a new page.