Anxiety: A Portal to Serenity

DSCF1608On the other side of anxiety lives serenity. When you walk into the forest and face the fear-vines of your mind – swashbuckling at first then sitting down in the glade and simply watching – you eventually unfold into an open field. You cannot know this until you walk through it. Fear is the test. It’s the revolving door. On one side is anxiety and on the other side is the peace and tranquility of your true nature.

It’s difficult to realize when you’re in the stronghold of anxiety that what lives on the other side is serenity. In fact, until you’ve walked through the revolving door of anxiety and greeted serenity on the other side, you don’t realize that anxiety and serenity are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Just like darkness and light share a sector of psyche and grief and joy share a chamber of the heart, anxiety and serenity are twin experiences, meaning that the more you walk through the challenging twin the more you touch into the calm one.

What does this mean exactly? It means that there are pathways in the mind and heart that are connected. We call this a paradox in our culture: the puzzling experience of holding two conflicting emotions and realizing that in some inexplicable way they are interconnected. It’s the dot of light within the yin and the dot of darkness within the yang. We could say that our entire existence on this plane is rooted in a desire for wholeness, and that this longing for wholeness informs most, if not all, aspects of our existence. The way to wholeness is in embracing the tension of opposites. We hold grief in one hand and joy in the other and open to a spaciousness inside that arises from this holding. We walk through the door of anxiety and open to a field of serenity.

If you’re feeling trapped in the tangle of anxiety you’re probably wondering… yes, but how? How do I untangle myself and walk through that magic door? You fight it and resist it and medicate it and still it plagues you. You ignore it and hate it and judge it and shame it and it grows bigger.

The key is to stop resisting. Stop fighting. Stop running from the places that scare you. It’s like the finger puppet where you put one finger in each side and try to pull them out. The harder you pull, the more stuck your fingers become. Only when you relax can you release the stronghold.

Jeffrey Brantley talks about this principle at length in his book, Calming Your Anxiety Mind: How mindfulness and compassion can free you from anxiety, fear and panic:

“There is a capacity inside each of us to be calm and stable. We are capable of containing even the most intense fear and anxiety. This capacity is not something you can think about and understand. It is a direct experience that is always available. It is not a destination but a way of being.” p. 7

“This is where mindfulness practice is so important. When you practice mindfulness, you make the decision to stay present and examine your own unfolding inner experience. Attention is poured into your interior landscape. You turn toward fear and anxiety, toward thoughts and sensations as object of your kind attention. You don’t expect to fix anything as you pay attention this way. All that is asked is that you bring compassionate attention to what you are experiencing, moment by moment…

“From this perspective of the mind-body interaction, now there is a break in your identification with the experience of anxiety – both the physical and cognitive aspect of it. Mindful attention breaks the cycle of thoughts fueling the fear system. It also gives the balancing activity, the relaxation response, a chance to activate. And by breaking the identification with the fearful thoughts, mindfulness support the natural capacity of the higher cortical centers to contextualize and interpret the situation correctly. They can do their usual job of turning down the fear system by acting on the amygdala.” pp. 53-54

What he’s saying here is that when you develop a mindfulness practice, you grow your mental muscle that allows you to observe rather than get hooked into every thought and feeling that passes through consciousness, and through this observation you develop your capacity to witness. Once you’re in your witness self, you’re no longer fused with the fear and anxiety. This “break in identification” then calms your system and helps restore equilibrium.

The fear that lives in the body cannot be talked through or convinced. It’s bigger than thought. If it originates in the body then it must be addressed in the body. And the more you fight it, the bigger it gets. When fear hits, adrenaline is released – a fear response. The antidote to the flood of fear is learning to activate a calming response, which is what mindfulness teaches. When you bring your loving attention to what is in the moment, the opposite chemical is released. It’s all chemistry, really. And what I’ve noticed is that it’s not only mindfulness but also connection to spirit in any form – music, nature, prayer, poetry – that activates the calming response.

A big part of the work for someone suffering from anxiety, panic and phobias is learning what activates their own calming response. And it’s not about trying to avoid the fear by connecting to spirit; the fear cannot be avoided. One has to walk into the center of the fear with mindfulness and then connect to spirit.

And this is why anxiety is a portal to serenity: you walk through the darkness and arrive at light. And it’s only by going through – not around or above or below – that you can touch into that space of light.

There’s nothing easy about this. When you’re in the throes of an anxiety or panic attack, it feels like you’re going to die or go crazy (the two most common fears that show up in the midst of an attack). It requires great mental discipline not to get hooked into the thoughts, feelings, and sensations but to step back enough to observe and say, “My throat is constricting. My mouth is dry. These are symptoms of fear but they’re not going to kill me. I feel like I can’t breathe. My chest is tight. More signs of fear. I’m scared. My body is in a fear response but if I can notice it then there’s a part of me that’s not it. I’m noticing my thoughts now. My thoughts say that I’m going to die. I can choose to hear that but I don’t need to heed it. I can also focus on the warm blanket around me or the stars outside my window.”

We no longer live in communities where we’re invited to walk through rites of passages that challenge our fears. In lieu of this, I’ve often wondered if our psyches have created our own, self-induced opportunities to learn how to face fear, to initiate us into deeper levels of awareness and courage. In other words, we’re not sent out into the dark forest alone to face the wild animals, but if you’re been taken down by anxiety you’re encountering the wild animals in the dark forest of your own mind. It seems that much of our path in this life is to learn how to manage and master fear, which means walking through it until we arrive on the other side.

42 comments to Anxiety: A Portal to Serenity

  • Lea

    Amazing Sheryl ! You’re a life savior ! I read your posts every day, I’ve read every post, every comment, I’ve listened to every interview but still can’t find my serenity. Yesterday my fiance and his parents came to our place to ask my parents permission to marry me so that the engagement can be official. I had terrible anxiety, I sobbed in front of my parents the day and the night before and they reassured me that nothing will change and everything will be ok. I was about to call off the whole thing hours before they arrived but I was too ashamed. Now, when everything is over, I feel worse, my fear and anxiety is back and even worse than before, I feel like I should have walked away from it all in time because I’m just scared and not ready, I feel constant fear, guilt, depression, I’m sick of my own self. I can’t believe that I’ve made everyone go through this when all I want to do is run away . Sheryl, I’ll sign up for the course these days and hope to find my peace and truth. I just don’t trust myself, I don’t know what is my truth…..should I listen to my fear voice and leave ? It is exhausting….

  • Louise

    Thank you for this sheryl, I was just saying to myself that I need some coping tools to deal with the anxiety after a bad day yesterday. I am really beginning to understand the duality of emotional states recently. Without actually acknowledging the anxiety that has always been there, I would not have been able to find the depth of love I have for my partner too. It’s just exhausting work and I need something to hold me afloat as I ride the waves of all these changes of states. Mindfulness I feel is key

  • Lea

    Louise you are not alone….and Sheryl how do you know your truth? I was just listening to one of your interviews where you said that if you had terrible physical symptoms and nightmares it is a red flag that something is wrong – this really spiked my anxiety since I do have them from time to time 🙁

    • Please read Northernlass’s comment above: nightmares are signs that you need to listen very carefully, but the message isn’t always what you think it is. She writes “once I connect to my true self the nightmares stop”. Beautiful. The key, of course, is learning to distinguish between true self and fear, and that’s where the body-based practices like mindfulness and journaling come in.

  • Northernlass

    Hello Sheryl,

    I read your blog almost every day now and you would not believe how it has helped me with my relationship anxiety and in my spiritual journey. You are a blessing to many, many people. I have moments where my anxiety is so bad that I feel like I want to run a million miles away from everything, from myself and even from my beautiful partner with whom I share the most amazing connection and want to spend my whole life with and love very much. These are things which I realise again when my heart is really open and I’m not listening to the fear. Your blog has really helped me to differentiate between my fear-based ego and my true self.

    Lea, I am sorry that you feel phsycial symptoms and suffer from nightmares. I occasionally get them too but only after a particularly stressful period in my life and when my relationship anxiety has been at its worst. Once I connect to my true self again the nightmares stop, and even if I feel physcial symptoms due to my anxiety I just let them be there and eventually I will relax again and they’ll pass. Hope you find peace soon.

  • ckm06

    I know exactly how you feel. I find myself having bad dreams and then letting the dreams affect my anxiety the whole next day.. I think it’s just a vicious cycle. Just stay strong and try to focus on what you know is real & true and all the great aspects of your partner and your relationship. We have to believe this will get better.

  • Ferns&Moss

    Thank you, Sheryl. Holding duality is one of the hardest lessons to learn. But again, with mindfulness, we can lean into that space that wants to “just get it right” and keep practicing. We are such a black and white culture– taught that we must be “all in” or else we are being ingenuine. That if anxiety is present, we cannot possibly love or move forward. We don’t make space for the two, love and fear, to live together. But maybe the only way to truly experience love is to embrace the fear that comes with her. Maybe the fear isn’t a signal to run, but a sign that we care deeply for our relationships (barring red flags), and that we have a chance to move closer to loving ourselves. Blessings to you and this community.

  • Aimee

    Thanks for this, Sheryl! I want to read this one over and over! Serenity. So that’s the word…huh? I’ve been fortunate enough to discuss anxiety with friends lately who also deal with different kinds and levels of it. When I talk about my experiences and what I have gone through, I always describe my life as two-sided. The side where I feel my every minute is dictated by fear, a painful side that feels out of my control, never ending and miserable. Then I describe a more stable side, that also feels out of my control, but still fueled somehow by me, but my reactions, it feels peaceful, not particularly exciting or magical, yet so unbelievably exciting and magical because I feel free, calm, and at peace. I am so grateful for this peace, because I get to go with the flow of life and feel joy (about all of the tiniest things) and be stronger than fear. I’m so how more able to see beauty all around me where I didn’t see it before. Lazy nights in, Sunday cleaning, and sex with my partner are all wonderful, precious experiences during my “window” of content, peace or… serenity! I tell friends I get a window of a somewhat anxiety free life, my windows, that’s I call these two sides. As I began to understand my fear, treat it like a being itself, give it recognition (both bad and good), those windows of fear based Aimee have shrunk over time. Instead of weeks or months, they’re a few days or just a week. This post made me think about things more though, and actually, as I think clearer during serenity phase, I’m constantly challenged by fear. It doesn’t go away. I say hello quickly and move through it, sometimes it feels effortless, other times it doesn’t. I can’t reflect as much on my windows of powerful anxiety because even after many months and now years of practice, I still put up a fight, resist, judge and scream at it. Why? Why am I like this? Why does this happen? Stop! Only later do I realize again what am I doing…In this stable me today, I promise myself to try to be more compassionate with myself during the next anxiety window. I’m also working on those triggers that push me in one direction or the other. This is very challenging!! Serenity is a great word to describe the other side and it is a great lesson to learn these two sides are a part of one.

    • Jennifer

      Dear Aimee, thanks for sharing such a thoughtful and reflective post. As I was reading it, I was reminded of that joyful and serene place inside of me that I can access at times, sometimes, independent of what may be happening at the time. I am also noticing more times of beauty, that I am sometimes afraid to scarcely acknowledge–the feelings of vulnerable feelings are so intense! I love Sheryl’s work, as well as Brene Brown who talks so beautifully about “joy becomes foreboding when we hit our threshold for feeling vulnerable” (?!). So true for me! Perhaps the increasing moments of noticing the dual side of your experience is developing the capacity for a neutral mind, that is flexible, loving and wide seeing. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Yes, serenity! Thank you for your comment. It’s full of insight and beauty.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much Sheryl. tears…Just what I needed to be reminded of during my anxious moment. Blessings.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    Serenity is a beautiful word it means light and anxiety means dark. I remember hating feeling, exhausted, couldn’t function, I felt irritable. I was in the dark but I did learn from that experience was how courageous and brave I was and I kept going for my relationship. Anxiety can be convincing it will try to make you run and not risk love. Why not risk love? Because Nothing is more important than love.., im not a big believer in text books, this culture has confused so many peoples relationships that I find disappointing., only believe in people’s experiences. Love is definitely worth fighting for.

    • Jennifer

      Angela, so beautiful in your awareness! Thanks for sharing your words that were encouragement of standing with and for people in relationships navigating difficult emotional terrain. I appreciate your insight.

  • Marion

    Thank you, Sheryl! This is brilliant and beautiful!

  • strengthandpeace

    Sheryl, thank you for all of your blog posts and for the inner peace and strength you have helped me discover. This has been an extremely tricky year. Last year my fiance (then boyfriend) told me he was interested in joining the military. It threw me into a fit of anxiety and fear because I do not see myself in a future as a military wife. To me, it means giving up too much of my autonomy and my desire for a life in which my husband is home and present. In the midst of this challenging conversation, we got engaged. I struggled through multiple bouts of extreme engagement and relationship anxiety. I was so scared that we might not be “right” for each other if he was interested in the military and I was not. I got to a point where I couldn’t remember what happiness felt like or why it was worth working for, and I couldn’t decide if I actually loved my fiance, even though I had never questioned my feelings or our relationship in our ten years together. I worried that we had started dating too young and that this conflict was proof that it’s impossible to grow together with someone you have been dating since you were so young. I was open about my anxiety with my fiance and my family, and I took your Trust Yourself course and read your blog all the time. My fiance completely stopped talked about the military because he saw how much it pained me and he felt like pursuing it might mean the end of us. I never thought about setting any sort of ultimatum, but I also wasn’t sure how or if we’d be able to make things work if he did decide on that path. Even though I felt like this was the universe’s way of telling us we shouldn’t be together and that our relationship was doomed, I turned inward and I worked through my fear. I am still scared of the uncertainty, but I feel so much stronger and more serene (your word!) after my experience. But, 6 months later, my fiance is in a very deep depression. He is not happy about anything; he has lost his confidence; he is in a “stuck” place, unable to move forward or make any life changes to reclaim his happiness. I have told him countless times that I feel like my reaction to his interest in the military derailed his confidence. I try not to blame myself in a harsh way because I know that I could not have changed my reaction to the fear and anxiety that set in. I needed to have that experience in order learn about myself and learn that relationships are not about fate but are about a choice to work together to grow your love and help each other over the obstacles of life. Still, I do know that he buried something he wanted in a deep, dark place because he knew it hurt me. And now he is living in that dark place without me. He is talking to a therapist and I have gone to two of his sessions with him. In today’s session I said that we need to talk about the military again because I know that the way that conversation ended (or never even happened) contributed to his current mood state. After the session my fiance and I grabbed lunch, and he told me that he has been feeling nervous. I immediately noticed the word choice because it is not one he has used before in describing his feelings (frustrated, angry, apathetic, and unhappy are all common, but not nervous). I asked what he meant and he said sometimes he wonders if we should really be together, or if the reason we have been unhappy this past year is that we both want different things and maybe we are moving in different directions. Maybe we are doing this to each other, and we would both be happier if we weren’t together. It was a terrifying and incredible thing to listen to my fiance echo the same fears that I experienced this summer. I tried to say a few things I felt like I would have found helpful in that state of mind, but in the end I left the conversation feeling very upset. Even though I understand how scary it is to voice feelings like that or even acknowledge those feelings to yourself, I was scared and hurt to hear those words coming out of his mouth. To hear that he has sunk to such a dark place as to question our relationship is so hard. I don’t know how he managed to hear those same things from me last summer without losing his mind or his faith in us. Even though I am scared and upset after the conversation, though, I feel this sense of inner peace I never would have expected to feel. I felt the emotions come across me, and I was able to think about them in a much more rational way than I would have been able to manage a year ago. If he had said those words to me a year ago, I would have panicked. But I feel stronger than I did then. I feel more resilient. I can tell myself that I, too, questioned my love for him and whether we could keep moving forward on the same path. I, too, thought, when I was in some of my darkest places, that we might not be able to make things work. But I emerged from those dark corners with a flashlight I have been using to find my way again. You helped me gain those tools, Sheryl, and I am so thankful. I am still scared because I don’t know what will happen, but I hope that if we both make the choice today and tomorrow to keep moving forward, one day soon we will walk out of the darkness and meet in the light. I feel so much pain for his pain and for the pain that we all cause each other.

  • searching for calm

    HI All,

    Sheryl, you are such a gift. I can find such comfort in your words – you’re the only person I’ve found who truly gets it right.

    I understand that I need to accept the duality – but I find it hard to do when it affects those around me. My poor husband, I worry, must be so annoyed that I am crying again, and cant put a finger on why I feel blue, or wound up. My coworkers, I worry, deal with my short temper, my lack of attention. My parents, I worry, think I am not the daughter they thought I was. … gee! Lots of worry about worry! That’s one of my issues. I worry that being anxious is a sign of something being “wrong” with me, but I know that’s not *actually* true. I am a highly sensitive person, as you have taught me, and with that comes great highs, and the flip side of that coin.

    You know how some people annotate Bibles? I wish I could annotate your blog posts and hold them in a little book. They really speak to my heart.

    Thank you for all you do – and thank you especially for your posts during these darker winter months.

    With love.

    • Thank you. I’m so glad my words offer comfort. I hope you know from my site that being anxious is NOT a sign of something being wrong, but a manifestation of your deep compassion, creativity, and sensitivity.

  • Angela

    Hi Jennifer, I’m so glad I can be of help. I was grateful Sheryl helped me see light and find my serenity and to allow myself to feel my feelings and to be vulnerable. I was affraid to open up to my feelings because I thought I would make it worse or just go crazy and fall into a depression. My thoughts were so wrong that I actually did get depressed a few times in my life. It’s my pleasure to help and share my experiences. We are all different but we experience the same physical symptoms in relationship anxiety. I hope sheryl can agree with me on that.

  • Lea

    I agree with you on the fact that we’re all different but we all experience the same physical symptoms….Since nobody else understands, this is the only place I feel loved and safe to express my fears and doubts. Today I was thinking about my problem and this is what I found out:
    My fiance and I started our relationship immediately after he called off his previous engagement which was short and as he says , has no regrets about having done that. However we knew each other long before he got engaged and we always had chemistry, there was something in both of us that was telling us that we are going to be together one day. Earlier in our relationship I never doubted my decision, in fact there were times when I would say things like: If only he hasn’t been engaged before…but never bothered me too much to leave our loving relationship. I knew that we’re meant to be. Now, since he proposed, that’s all I can think about, I judge his decision, I feel terrible and often argue with him about this. Is it possible that now the fear is around me….what if I leave because I’m so scared and end up judged by others as I judge him now…..I’ve always been the good daughter, student, employee…was I going to disappoint everyone? Do I judge myself that I am not going to be loved If I make a mistake so I project this fear onto my fiance ( who btw is amazing )??? Please anyone, it is terrible, I can’t enjoy a single day since he proposed… Thanks to Sheryl and everyone here ………

  • Angela

    Hi Lea,
    Thanks for agreeing with me. Lea, I was also projecting everything on my then fiancé and now my amazing husband. What helped me not to project everything to him was to tell him I have wonderful fear teacher named sheryl who is supporting me. I explained everything to him and that actually made a difference. I told myself I will try to stop those thoughts and even if I do have them I will just laugh it off and just sit with it and not feed the thoughts and give it attention. It did work for me. Journaling is the best thing you can do, you will get better… I hope that helps you. You will be fine. This anxiety projection is just a huge bluff. That’s how I describe it.

  • Lea


    Did you take the e-course ? Is this how you’ve overcome your anxiety? Sheryl is amazing,I’ve read trough every comment and every blog but again I have problems defining my fears and finding their root. I’m going to sign up for the course this month, and I’m really hoping that I’ll finally find my peace of mind. I have to mention that I come from the Balkans (Europe) so people here are still judgmental around the idea of calling off a wedding / engagement.
    Thanks for your time to answer, it means a lot 🙂

  • Angela

    Hi Lea,
    Yes, I did do the wedding e-course and that’s how I improved. I highly recommend you doing the e-course, you will benefit from it. I can understand how judge mental people are in Europe, my parents are italian..but I was born in Australia. Very different way of thinking in Europe. You came to the right place no judgemental people on this special blog! I feel so cared for and safe here. Even if I’m on this blog all my life I’m more than happy to keep on commenting on my experience even if I have fully recovered. I like helping people it gives me satisfaction. Sheryl is an amazing person, I’m so blessed to know her.

  • Angela

    One more thing Lea, please be patient with yourself it does take time to get better. Good luck peace and serenity is just around the corner. Time does go fast.

  • Lea

    Thanks Angela, it sounds so easy when others say that it will go away. I’m scared that my problem may not be a healthy anxiety problem, maybe it’s something that needs to be paid attention to. It sounds terrible but I hate the fact that he was engaged before and that he hasn’t got a colledge degree. Otherwise, he is amazing. What was you anxiety about? Thanks again 🙂

  • Emma

    I’m also going through this as many of you are. I decided to take some time and space from my boyfriend of 3 years in order to sort out these feelings (or lack thereof). The tricky part is I caught feelings for another guy, a friend of mine, back in the summer when my boyfriend and I were apart (on his terms). The feelings are still there and they perpetuate my relationship anxiety. I have constant thoughts like “This guy is so much funnier, wittier and charismatic than my boyfriend” and “he loves art and literature just like me” other thoughts of that nature. I feel myself much more attracted to him than my boyfriend. That’s why I asked my boyfriend for a time-out from us, because I felt terribly guilty that this other guy could infatuate me so much. I just couldn’t keep my boyfriend around while I was talking to someone else. I didn’t want to hurt him. I even feel like a terrible person for engaging with him now that my bf and I are on a “break”…and for enjoying talking to him. I know he and I would never be together, he and his ex are not completely out and my friends keep telling me this thing with him will eventually go away. But it’s just a confusing time and the relationship anxiety toward my boyfriend is more than ever. I wonder if Sheryl’s course would be of any benefit to me, under my circumstances. If anyone has any feedback for me, I would appreciate it sincerely. I’m turning 23 soon and I did not ever anticipate things would ever unfold this way….

  • Emma

    Ps. when I said “he” and his ex are not completely out — I meant my friend, not my boyfriend.

  • ckm06

    Today and this whole week has been hard for me and I’ve been at a spike… But I just want to let people know how much this blog and all the comments truly help me. I’m here for everyone and anyone. I agree with Angela, this blog is the only place I feel safe and can truly open up.

  • Angela

    Lea, I had what sheryl calls classic anxiety which means I’m too affraid to be in a relationship in case I get hurt. I knew from the moment I literally saw my husband I knew he was special, he isn’t an Aussie so his English isn’t 100%. But I didn’t care because that’s what made me love him more. That’s just how I felt. And I know he will get better one day so I just thought I will be patient. I don’t think it should matter whether ur boyfriend has a college degree.. If u love him don’t focus on that. It’s not important. It will make ur anxiety worse. And maybe that’s not the reason. It’s ur fear telling u that. I don’t know u only u know what’s best for you. Do the e course and ur thoughts will change for the better. Xx

  • Angela

    Yes, Emma it’s our sanctuary here. People need people. It’s a simple fact.

  • Lea

    Yes Angela and that’s how I felt before he proposed, I didn’t really care about these things because I was “too busy” loving him and having great time. I wasn’t thinking about leaving him at all. There were times when I thought how lucky I was to have him. Since he proposed fear took over and that’s when I started doubting. And it’s been going on for two and a half months so I stared feeling closed off my fiance. I just don’t feel anything………

  • Angela

    Ok, you have classic anxiety like I do/did. Sorry to sound pathetic but im not concerned about you feeling nothing because Like I said I’ve been there and I also felt nothing. It’s a transition ur going through.. I know it’s horrible feelings.. I’m excited to tell you will feel better and wiser than before this happened. Ur not on this journey alone, ur partner won’t be going anywhere.

  • Emma

    Angela (or anyone else),

    Thank you. It’s a blessing to have this resource. I remember the first time I had relationship anxiety two years ago this is where I came. Whenever people mention relationship anxiety I always refer them to Sheryl Paul’s work and her courses. What do you think about my situation? I find myself dealing with a lot of guilt for feeling for someone else. Ever since I asked my boyfriend for space, I allowed myself to talk to the other guy much more, sometimes in ways that I regret, and I decided to stop because the guilt is overwhelming. I’m not sure what to do with this guilt and anxiety. I try to apply mindfulness to them but they are so raw. Should I feel guilty? It’s as though I’ve transgressed my moral compass and now the anxiety is forcing me to clear my conscious. I wrestle with these thoughts all day. Could use some perspective to take with me if anyone is willing to offer. Million thanks xx

  • Louise

    Hi sheryl or anyone else who can answer this,
    I have read about morning anxiety and I’ve read sheryl you said its because you are more vulnerable in the in between states, however I feel harder and more defended with my partner in the morning. Is that because I feel more vulnerable and in need to protect myself? I usually feel ‘softer’ at nighttime

  • Chrissy

    I really need to start meditating again… I’ve been at college for a month now and am beginning to fail math (I have a learning disability); this triggered a great amount of anxiety into me thinking I am going to waste my money and end up failing out of college. My Baby Betta also passed away today, and my boyfriend of a month is leaving me for the first time to go back home for a while…

    I am not sure if any of you read this, but do you guys have any advice of what I can do? I can’t meditate right now nor sleep, I just feel so anxious and am trying not to worry about everything right now. (I do a lot better in school when I am not worrying whether I am going to pass or fail).

  • Krissie

    dear everybody,

    I’m following these posts since last spring and they always help me ease my mind. On the 15th of february 2014, my fiancé suddenly broke of our engagement. We were about to get married that summer. It took me by surprise because I was overwhelmed with love and just the day before, went for the dress with my mom. It was a stressful time, however, both loaded with work.

    I remember it to be a very cold cold conversation where he could not look at me. Followed by e-mails and e-mails of how I was too insecure, that he needed somebody a 100% next to him, not somebody he should help or carry and much more . I tried my very best to gain overview of the situation and I felt that something was not right, so all the insults (who hurt me to the core since in my heart I know I am not that kind of women that he portrayed) I tried to understand, see what I could work with yet remaining in dignity. I moved out, but he never asked me where I was living, yet he kept on mailing me to see if I “did something about my behavior” and we could start again. It all felt very insulting, it really did, but I tried to keep a clear head. Only months before he had an anxiety attack in the city and he called me to help him through it… In some way, this event stayed in de back of my mind. It is a very long story, as every love story eventually is, but trying to make it a little shorter: after 3 months of being apart, I suddenly got a phone call that he was in the hospital because of exhaustation. He wanted me to come. He tried to get back, I tried, we went to a relationship therapist and a lot of his family history surfaced (and mine, ofcourse, you are always with 2 in a relationship, even when it is in front of a therapist). But then, suddenly, a rather small fight made him run away (literally, from the therapist office). Yet untill last month, I received e-mails where he askes me to get the “wonderful insight that we do belong together and that we could not control this from happening to us”. Look, he really is a nice, kind person. But in numerous instances (even before the engagement) he had moments where he turned so so cold, letting me know I should do this/that or the relationship could not continue. He explains to me know that it was all projection, that he loves me very much but when he felt a distance sometimes, that he could not deal with that… This is very new to me and too be honest, I don’t know if this in anxiety? Or just… you know, maybe I was just not the right partner at the right moment (even though I truly wish I was). For now I decided that I need to come back to myself and we finished the relationship. Even though he might not mean it like that, I cannot be “dumped” for a fifth time. Yet. One year later, I am scared, like anxiety jumped over to me. Will I ever find somebody I love as much? Will it be different? Will a be lucky enough and especially: why me… Good guy (for so many) broke up with me before marriage, there must be something wrong? How can I grow stronger out of this? Is it normal that self doubt becomes so big and that you start to believe all the insults even if he explained it afterwards? Too many questions but I want to go forward… Thank you for reading, listening.


    Sheryl, thanks again for a beautiful post. My anxiety has been spiked this week and I have come to your blog yet again for comfort and to put my mind at ease. What I’m struggling with, and wonder if you have/can write something on this, is co-dependency? I get anxious when I do things I feel are co-dependent but the truth is I’m not really sure what is and isn’t all the time. And the times I think I’m being independent, I end up doing something cold and that doesn’t feel great either. I grew up in what I believe to be quite a co-dependent home. My dad drank too much among other things and my mom tried to fix him and stayed much too long. I just don’t want to repeat that pattern but fear I’m on that path. I get wrapped up in my partners “stuff” sometimes and it really can drag me down because I let it. I’m just curious your take on the topic. Thank you in advance if you read this. xo

  • Leah

    Hi everybody.
    I am about to get married in December 2015 to a wonderful man. I have suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember but I have never been formally diagnosed with anything specific.. The last bad bout of anxiety was in 2012 when I suffered a bereavement and I left my now fiancé in Australia to come back to Ireland, he was travelling. I felt so alone. I went on medication and got through it. It’s worth noting that I grew up with my grandparents although my biological mother was on the scene but I never formed a bond with her. I have struggled for years with a sense
    Of belonging. She lied to me for 25 years about my biological father being dead and I now know at 29 that he is alive but im not allowed know who he is. To be honest I could write a book on my past and the psychotherapist has tried to make me realise that my past is now having a profound effect on my present as I am not ready to deal with it. I don’t want to bring it into my new married life.
    Back in August 2014 I decided to go to psychotherapy to deal with my body images, I don’t think very highly of myself and I knew it was time to begin to love myself before starting a new life. It has been good but every month their is a new focus. One minute I am obsessed with my weight, then afraid my fiancé will die and leave me, afraid he may fall in love with someone else or he is cheating on me. The new obsession (at least I hope it is) is the worst yet and it is taking over my life.. I had a dream in which I was a lesbian and in the dream I remember enjoying it. I woke up and said that’s weird but it’s ok..then a couple of weeks later it came back to haunt me,my every waking minute is what if I’m a lesbian, what if I’m living a lie. I keep hearing stories of women who were in love with me and then fall in love with a woman. I would like to point out that I have nothing against lesbianism but it’s not for me.
    The anxiety has got so bad that I have not eaten or slept in weeks and the doctor has prescribed me with Xanax. I have opened up to my fiancé and my family. I truly feel if I had anything to open up about I would tell my trusted family. The whole confusing part in all of this is that I am scared of losing my partner. 3 weeks ago I was shopping for a wedding dress and it was the best day ever and now my mind keeps saying “are you sure you are not a lesbian”.. I say no to myself and then a voice says “you are in denial”.
    I am at my wits end. I get a warm feeling when I think of my fiancé but I get a sense of panic and fear when I think I’m becoming a lesbian. I’m even afraid to look at a female in case I start having feelings for them. I feel anxious typing this now.
    I would love to hear anybody’s insight? Would you recommend a course or book or anything?
    This came like a bolt out of the blue. One minute I was planning my wedding and the next I can’t even think past getting through the day.
    Please help.

    • I strongly suggest the Conscious Weddings E-Course. The perseveration on sexuality is your fear trying to protect you from the risk of opening your heart to love. My guess is that you have an old belief that plays silently in your subconscious that says, “Love isn’t safe,” because perhaps what you knew of love as a child only felt like pain, betrayal, heartache, despair, and loneliness. The thoughts are designed to keep you safe, in a box, and protected from the risk of love. 

      I work a bit differently from the traditional treatment of ROCD or HOCD. I dig deeper into the roots of the intrusive thoughts and recognize them as a cover-up for deep wells of pain and false beliefs that need attention. They’re like flares that your inner self are sending up as a way to get your attention, but they’re not the truth. Working with the thoughts on the surface level may offer short-term relief but it doesn’t address them at the core, which requires pulling them out by the roots. This is what the course will teach you. You can sign up for the free sampler here:

  • Leah

    Many thanks Sheryl for your response. It was a god send to find this website and gain more insight.
    In your professional opinion do you think it is worthwhile going to see a psychiatrist to see exactly what sort of anxiety I have?
    My psychotherapist (who has said HOCD is not on the dsm in Ireland) last week did delve into my past and recognised that all the men i grew up with got married and made their own life. She put it that I probably felt ‘abandoned’. I left her office feeling absolutely delighted that she had made such a connection but the intrusive thoughts kept coming for the rest of the week. The fear is so bad that I’m afraid to go to gym in case I find women attractive. It sounds ridiculous but it is really taking its toll. At this stage it’s almost like not knowing the difference between being in denial and knowing the truth?
    Does your e-course address ways of stopping these intrusive thoughts? I will definitely give it a try. Anything to feel happier and get my connection back with my fiancé.
    Thank you so so much.

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