Anxious? You're One Of The Lucky Ones

There are a lot of questions that almost every client I have asks. Among them are: “Does it really have to be this hard?” and variations on that theme: “Why aren’t my other friends and co-workers going through this?” Anxiety and doubt ache through the questions and longing presses through every word: they’re wishing that they could glide through their transition like the people they see around them. I usually respond with something like, “Actually, you’re one of the lucky ones.” I’m sure that initially they think I’m crazy, but after a few sessions they usually agree.

Anxiety is always a calling for consciousness. When we’re in an anxious state, it’s because we’re ready for the next stage of growth. As transitions are inherently opportunities to grow, it makes sense that anxiety would precede the painful, yet important, growth process. Anxiety is so uncomfortable and often debilitating that we have few choices for how to respond: we can manage it through medication, we can try to ignore it, and/or we can address it directly and inquire about what its message might be.

When I was twenty-one, I had my first panic attack. I was driving down the 405 freeway in Los Angeles with my then-boyfriend, and all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe properly. The taillights became blurred, my heart started racing, and my chest contracted in pain. Certain that I was having a heart attack, I pulled over and we called 911. For those of you who have suffered through panic and anxiety, this description probably feels painfully familiar. After an exam at the ER, I was released with a clean bill of physical health and an anxiety “disorder” that would remain with me for the next seven years.

I spent several months wishing the anxiety away. Having lived a somewhat blessed life inside a glass castle, I couldn’t believe that I was suffering from panic and anxiety and had no idea how to manage it or where to turn. It took me years of journaling, dreamwork, spiritual work and therapy to unravel the mystery of what had happened that night. When I began the research for my Master’s thesis that ultimately culminated in the publication of The Conscious Bride, the pieces started to fall into place: I had been three months away from graduating from college and my psyche felt like I was falling into the great void of adulthood. On the practical level, I had no idea what I wanted to do or how I was going to support myself. On the inner level, the anxiety attack was my initiation into a spiritual awakening that would lead me into the darkest places of psyche, and ultimately back into the light. It was the beginning of my healing journey and the commencement of my life calling. I could say that the seeds for my work with transitions were planted that night.

There was no way I could know it at the time, but the anxiety was, in fact, the greatest blessing of my life. It shattered my glass castle and humbled me into understanding that I was a flawed person in need of repair. It inspired me to leap into adulthood and hobble my way through therapy so I could do the work and learn the tools that would not only help me heal, but would also help others heal. I can’t imagine who I would be if the anxiety hadn’t come banging on my doors with such insistence, but I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

The same is true for my clients. When they commit to doing their inner work, they’re transformed. Because the anxiety brought them to my virtual doorstep, they could take my hand and allow me to lead them across the terrain of their transition where they come face to face with their “demons”: the character of self-doubt, their inner and outer critic (that relentlessly judges themselves and others) their fears of intimacy, their unresolved grief, unshed tears, and their anger.

Friends and co-workers might glide through their transitions with ease, but life will undoubtably present them with plenty of opportunities to face themselves and grow. Life would just be too boring otherwise.

17 comments to Anxious? You're One Of The Lucky Ones

  • Just wanted to say again that I’m so glad to have found your blog!

  • Natalie

    Great post Sheryl! As hard as it is when anxiety creeps into my life, I’m so glad I experienced all I did prior to and in the year after my wedding. Finding the Conscious Weddings site was the best thing I could have done. Your site and the work you’ve done, along with the women I “met” on that forum gave me the terminology to understand what was going on inside of me. Along with that, it gave me the courage to go to a therapist and learn a little more about myself (well, confirm what I already knew about myself). I know anxiety is something I will deal with for my life. However, after going through the pre/post-wedding anxiety, I feel like I can handle anything.

    Thank you for your work. Without it, I don’t know where I’d be today.

    • Thank you, Natalie. And I know you’ve been a real inspiration and source of support to countless women who have been in your anxious shoes during their engagement – so thank you for taking the time to pass on the wisdom.

  • Joanne nager

    Dear Sheryl,
    I actually had a similar experience once with my then long -term boyfriend who felt far more seriously about the relationship than I did at that time. I have often thought it was the stress, indecisiveness and ambivalence about his wanting a marital commitment that led to my panic attack and forced me to finally address whether the relationship would be part of my life or not.
    Have you ever wondered if perhaps that was a part of your case/panic attack as well ? and part of the path that led you to this fine work you do?
    best, Joanne

  • Avantika

    HI Sheryl, im goin thru the same pain…ive been engaged to a guy.. the most lovable person ive ever met in my life… we have had a long distance relationship for 5 years.. n i know i stil love him.. but wen we meet, i jus get anxiety attacks but cannot tel my parents as they cannot understand why i face this since i know this guy and its a love marriage goin to happen next year… im drastically loosin weight.. idunno where my life is takin me.. but i cannot even dream of not gettin married to this guy whom i love… i get wierd questions in mind when i have panic attacks.. and my heart races like never before… i hate these attacks in me, this prevents me frm being myself, the bubbly girl.. :(

  • KP

    Hello Everyone, I wanted to share a song by Amanada Marshall that is really helping me right now. I wanted it to share it with everyone. Trust in the love you have with your partner, love is stronger than fear. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwn1ninmmgg&feature=fvsr

    Amanda Marshall- Trust me

  • Bettina

    Sheryl,
    I am rereading this post for the third time I guess, and I love it the more I read it.
    It just occured to me that you wrote that the anxiety started when you were 21; and took about 7 years;
    did you know that in the philosophy of Rudolpf Steiner he speaks about the “rebirth” that we all do, consciously or unconsciously, every 7 years? I think it fits perfectly to the 21 (2 * 7) and the next 7 years…
    I guess Steiner believes in 7 years because these are the 7 years where children go through the most important stages of development. I find this is a great thought.
    Isn’t Everest turning 7 as well? :-)
    thank you for that post, again, and for everything.
    I really start to understand what you mean with transitions now.
    Bettina

    • That’s fascinating about Steiner and it makes so much sense! And yes, Everest just turned 7 and it felt like an enormous difference in his development. I’m glad the information about transitions is sinking in : )

  • Jodie

    Thank you KP for sharing that song! It was definitely what I needed tonight! I have been engaged for a month and have had anxiety since the moment he asked, despite the fact that we have been talking about getting married for over a year (and have been dating 4).

    I have been frantically searching the internet for help and have come across this site numerous times, and each time it gives me a sense of peace (at least until the next panic attack). I felt like I was the only one going through this. Thankfully my finance is amazing and has been very supportive through it all, listening and giving me a shoulder to cry on when I need it. I am still dealing with the anxiety on a daily basis, and have turned to God and His word for guidance too. I feel that this is a mountain for me that will also pass, I just need to wait for the right time to experience my peace. I do plan on seeing a counselor, and am have an appointment with the doctor this week. (I have had bouts of anxiety in the past and had been on medication for it).

    I just want people to know that they are not alone. The anxiety comes and goes, but you just have to have faith. I keep telling myself that this is anxiety, and this is normal. But think of how amazing it will be to look back at this mountain!

    Thank you so much for this site and all of the people who post their stories on it. They really do help. I am desperately trying to get a copy of Conscious Brides, but it seems to be sold out everywhere. Again, this confirms…we are not alone!

    • Jodie – Thank you for this honest and wise comment. Have you tried to order “The Conscious Bride” on amazon? I’m sure you can find it there. Also, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to consider The Conscious Wedding eCourse: From Anxiety to Serenity.” It was created for women and men who are struggling with exactly the kind of anxiety you’re describing, and it’s truly the greatest gift you can give to yourself during this life-altering transition. If money is a concern, please write to me directly using the contact form above and we can work something out. The sooner you get a handle on your anxiety, the easier it is to pull it up by the roots and eradicate it once and for all. Medication can help take the edge off, but it won’t address the root issues, and until those are addressed, you will struggle with anxiety unnecessarily. Blessings to you.

  • [...] that marriage is completion, and once married, they will be fulfilled and happy. One of the gifts of engagement anxiety is that that fantasy comes crashing down and shatters all around the engaged woman. She has to [...]

  • Arlene

    I’m so grateful to have found this beautiful blog!
    I’m 36 and have been on a transformational spiritual journey for two years. I worked on myself and my inner understandings as a single woman for the two years until this September when I met a beautiful man. It was an incredible meeting of souls, and we have been basically inseperable since then.
    Then came the anxiety… I’ve been experiencing tremendous anxiety for the past few weeks, and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been praying for clarity and understanding, and I’ve been worried that my anxiety is a warning that my relationship isn’t right. This causes me deep stress as for the first time in my 36 years, I’ve made a real commitment to a wonderful person. I grew up in a family without love, and I’m working through love being so foreign. But I’m also seeing a BodyTalk healer who has “hinted” that maybe I need to follow my intuition, and then maybe it’s my fear of love, and needless to say, I’m completed confused and experiencing even more anxiety than before our session last night. I’m trying to focus in on myself and my inner knowing, but I’m at a loss and feel so blocked.
    Any advice?
    Any words are greatly appreciated…

  • Sharan

    Hi Sheryl,

    Reading this for some reassurance but wondered what you meant about the anxiety staying with u for “7 years”?

    Thanks
    Sharan

    • Hi Sharan: Yes it was seven years of hell. But remember that I had no guidance during that time, no one helping me understand what I now understand about anxiety. Once I started working with a highly skilled therapist, my anxiety moved through fairly quickly.

  • Sharan

    Ah i see! Wow… Yes i was thinking i’d be the same and don’t know if i would cope at all if i didn’t come across this website! You are incredibly brave for powering through it without guidance x