A Quiet Day in Barcelona

La Molina, Catalonia, Spain - January, 2007

La Molina, Catalonia, Spain – January, 2007

People joke about nervous breakdowns, but I actually had one. Long before I discovered yoga or cared one bit about workouts, running, hamstrings and fitness, I went through a phase where I cried every day and feared constantly that I would never find my old self again.

Anxiety has always run in my family. My mom, my sister, my brother – even my dad, though he won’t admit it – all have bouts of panic and/or live lives consumed by generalized anxiety about just about everything, along with some pretty pronounced phobias. For me, it hit on the way back from a ski trip in the Spanish Pyrenees… that feeling that there must be something terribly wrong with me.  That I had to get to a hospital, despite the fact that I couldn’t in any precise terms tell you what was wrong with me.

The episode was followed by bouts of crying, debilitating phobias (some old, some new), and a general feeling that a very heavy weight had settled around my throat and on my chest.

Fortunately for me, my dad’s first cousin who I am relatively close to had experienced something similar in her youth.  For her, it manifested as agoraphobia – LITERALLY a fear of fear. I had sought out professional help but realized quickly that traditional talk therapy would do nothing for me, and I feared the meds more than I feared the anxiety. I reached out, as people with anxiety tend to do, to just about anyone who might help me cope, and in doing so connected with my cousin. She recommended going to Brief Strategic Therapy, a kind of solution-based therapy that focuses on providing a series of strategies to cope with disorders like anxiety, depression, anorexia and bulimia.  The point of the therapy is not to find the root cause of the disorder – who care what it is, really? – but rather to give the patient a strategy for permanently overcoming the disorder without relying on medication.

What on earth does this all have to do with yoga (which you’re probably thinking by now is the theme of this blog, given such obvious hints as the cover and name of the webpage)? I learned a few things in Brief Strategic Therapy that have carried over to many areas of my life. Yoga is one of them. But recently, 8 years after the fact, yoga has become a crucial tool for keeping my anxiety at bay. No meds, no therapy, no co-dependence. Just me and my growing ability to focus on the here and now (man, I’m stiff. Crap, I can’t touch my toes like that!) rather than the worst-case scenario, what-if world of anxiety.

And that’s why I’m starting this blog. If anyone out there can benefit from my experience, the tools I’ve gathered or the battles I’ve won, I want to make sure I pass something on. I hope you enjoy.

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