The Most Powerful Medicine to Soothe a Rupture of Anxiety

by | Aug 4, 2019 | Anxiety, Holidays/Holy Days/Seasons, Intrusive Thoughts, Transitions - General | 37 comments

Life moves along in flows and eddies. The more you attend to your inner world and heal the long-standing and deep-seated pain and trauma that live at the root of intrusive thoughts, the longer the stretches of eddies and the time you’ll stand amongst the reeds, flowing with the small moments of life as they arise, both the poetry and the pain. But we cannot live in the eddies forever, and it’s often when the earth tilts and its relationship to the sun shifts – in the crack between two seasons – that the next layer of grief bubbles up to the surface. This is not an accident; it’s how we remain open-hearted, it’s how we release what is no longer serving us and continue along the spirals and layers of growing closer to wholeness.

The transition from summer into autumn in the Northern hemisphere and from winter into spring in the Southern hemisphere has begun. The earth is tilting, and for the sensitives, we can feel this shift, as if the earth is cracking open ever so slightly. Nature’s tremulous changes initiate our own tremblings, a quaking within as the familiar defenses fall away and we touch into our most vulnerable places.

If we don’t name what’s happening in the natural world it’s frightfully easy for the anxious mind to try to grasp onto something tangible – its favorite story or current hook – as a way to gain a foothold amidst the groundlessness. If we believe this story, it’s a short hop onto the hamster wheel of intrusive thoughts, where the mind spins and spins in its futile attempt to answer a fundamentally unanswerable question.

I found myself on this very treadmill last Saturday night. It was late, I had stayed up past my usual bedtime to finish reading Dani Shapiro’s memoir Hourglass, and it stirred me up. In this ungrounded place, and with the seasonal shift undertow, I could feel restlessness enter my body. Had I chosen to journal in that moment, I likely would have been able to name what needed containment and process it through.

But I was tired, and laziness took over, and instead I allowed my mind to ruminate. It searched frantically like a cat in headlights for a foothold: A significant change of career path for my husband. Anxiety anxiety anxiety. Our son’s recent health scare and a current symptom that anxious mind said must be related. Anxiety anxiety anxiety. I finally fell asleep, but slept fitfully, my mind unmoored and floating out to sea. In the light of the next morning, I knew that neither of those stories were the source of my anxiety, but I couldn’t grasp into the core.

It wasn’t until the evening of the next day that I remembered to name the shift in seasons, and once I did everything inside of me settled into exhale. As I closed my eyes, I sent my imagination out the window, into the darkening night of a waning moon and placed myself next to the chirping crickets. I rode their wings into memory, remembering when I read “The Cricket in Times’ Square” to my son, Everest, when he was about seven years old. He’s turning fifteen this week. The first tinge of grief landed in my heart.

When I allowed myself to soften further into memory, I saw myself sitting at the ocean’s edge, belly full of my unborn son, mind full of the hopes of new motherhood and innocent to the storm of grief and shattering of self that would accompany his birth, blind to the journey of loving a child-into-man that would eventually land me a week before his fifteenth birthday. This teenager who pilots gliders, who soars above our small city and next to the Rocky Mountains in a wide-winged plane by himself. The pride, the grief, the fear, the nostalgia…

“Eleven days,” he informs me that day. “Eleven days until I turn fifteen. And then one more year before I can get my glider rating and drones license and driver’s license.” His face is aglow with growing up. “Do you think I’ll go to Space Camp next summer?” he asks. “Yes, I do,” I say. This requires him traveling across the country on his own.

My husband, a sensitive himself and deeply attuned to the seasons, says, “He’s growing up too fast.” Everest has informed us that he wants to go to college in three years, not four. He simply cannot wait to sink his teeth into the intellectual material that he hopes college will offer. This young man is running toward adulthood while his parents try to slow things down. Wasn’t it just a blink of an eye when I sat on my bed in Los Angeles and held this baby boy, crying then about the day he would leave for college?

I think of my clients whose young toddlers are getting ready to start preschool, mothers whose hearts are breaking at this first separation, and I want to hug them across space and time. I want to tell them, “I’m here with you. Every time you grieve these transitions they prepare you for the bigger ones down the road. It gets easier in some ways and harder in others. But when we remember to link arms and hearts and grieve together, it’s all okay.”

The medicine for these seasonal ruptures is grief. Once the grief-gates open, my soul settles further into the channel of sadness that opens like a river during these transitional times, inviting me to soften my heart and ride on the inner tube of memory. It is through these liminal zones, in fact, that the opportunity to remain soft spreads out more easily before us, like the golden light across the fields, like winter’s chill that is beginning to warm in spring’s new light.

It’s a nostalgic time of year. Memories will float to the surface and grief will roll down your cheeks if you let them. This is how it’s meant to be: the earth’s cracks crack us open, and when we unravel into the grief we remain in the flow of the river, accepting life as it comes. When we resist, anxiety takes hold, and we’re left hovering above the waters, hovering above our bodies, trying to get back inside.

If you’re finding yourself on the treadmill of your intrusive thoughts – whether about relationship anxiety or health anxiety or money anxiety or whatever the hook – instead of attaching onto the familiar escape-hatch fantasies that are telling you that you would feel more grounded or certain if you had a different [house, partner, job, city, etc], try saying to yourself, “The earth is shifting. What do I notice when I name and validate this experience for myself? What mind-chatter quiets down when I give myself a healthy foothold into which my soul can land?”

Then shut the screens, step outside, and ask nature to guide you into your open places, resting into her comfort and wisdom as she reveals whatever it is that is ready to be known.

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37 Comments

  1. Hi Sheryl,

    This last week I had several times where it felt like I landed in my heart and body the grief of knowing that my partner isn’t right for me and I can’t be happy here.This has happened a lot to me and then I resist it because I wish it were different. Is this a bad sign if that creates a drop into my body with opening feelings of grief flowing more effortlessly making it feel true… when this happens? Is it possible to change this? Connection and being drawn to him / attraction has always been an issue for me… This is so hard because I wish it were different. But I can’t connect with that within. :/

    Reply
    • As I’ve shared with you before, my sense is that because of your trauma history the wires are crossed inside of you. What registers as truth and “body knowing” may not actually be your truth. The healing path would be to work specifically with a somatically-based trauma therapist.

      Reply
    • Anonymous,
      Have you done the Break Free Course? Are you on the Forum? Have you posted about this on there? Asking because I think that might be constructive (as well as the specific therapy Sheryl suggests, but the Forum is likely quicker to access)
      Best wishes

      Reply
  2. Beautifully written! Definitely feeling the transition.

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  3. This happened to me today! I got anxious and drew my husband into an old conversation about our differing faiths and it was so very anxiety based. It is a conversation that always is unanswered, unfinished and ultimately, a vulnerable place for me. We ended on a good note and went about our afternoons and while folding laundry and tending to our baby, I was struck by grief. I knelt down in my prayer corner and let it flow and then swooped the baby up and walked around the yard. I let it all be transformed by tears and prayer and grounding. Fast forward to the evening and I have been able to effortlessly connect with my husband and children tonight. I feel like the grief welling up and flowing has welcomed me back into the flow of life!

    Reply
    • I love this! You’re aligned with the transition and following it into the flow of tears, then back to connection. Beautiful!

      Reply
  4. This is so validating. I started feeling the transition and grieving a couple weeks ago and I thought, “no, it’s too early, no one else is feeling this.” So reading this was very helpful and affirming. It makes me feel I have community in the grief and transition. Thank you. <3

    Reply
    • It’s always a surprise when the transition happens before we’re expecting it!

      Reply
  5. As I turned inward to see where the phrase “the earth is shifting” would land in my body and if it would bring me relief, almost immediately a voice completed the sentence for me: “the earth is shifting, and I am growing up”. From there, a well spring of grief and tears for the childhood I never had due to neglect, as well as the fact that becoming an adult and taking responsibility for my own emotions means accepting that I will never actually have that childhood (grieving the fantasy). It sounds sad, but oh, what deep relief came from the tears! THANK YOU for your truly life saving work.

    Reply
    • Beautifully shared. Yes, there is deep relief when we tap into the grief and allow it to move through.

      Reply
  6. Hi sheryl
    How can I get my marriage back on track after a baby? We rarely have sex, I don’t want to. The thought of it repulses me. When my husband touches me it repulses me. We dont have as much affection anymore but when he does give me affection it’s because he wants sex which he has admitted. I knew our relationship would change and it would be harder but I didn’t think it would be hard because of my feelings. I hate knowing these issues are being caused because of me. My husband feels unloved and that I don’t love him anymore. I lie and say I do love him, I don’t feel like I love him anymore but I know it’s there somewhere hence why I lie at the time. I’m hopeful I can bring old feelings back up or find a new way of loving him and accepting this new way but right now I feel lost. 🙁 I just want everything to go back to normal….

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  7. Thank you for this beautiful piece. I can definitely feel the shift in seasons. August is often a difficult time for me and I can definitely feel the nostalgia in the air…

    Reply
    • I’m glad it resonated, Suzanne.

      Reply
  8. Hi Sheryl,
    I am engaged to be married next year and I keep having these horrible feelings that my fiancé is not my ‘soul mate’ and that we do not have a special connection. I compare him to friends and family and I feel like he does not have much of a sense of humour and this is starting to worry me. I feel he is too serious. However, apart from that he is a very good man indeed. I worry if I leave him I may not find anyone as good but the lack of spark is really concerning me. I feel so anxious about it a lot of the time and sometimes I feel like I am living a lie. I daren’t tell any friends or family how I feel as I feel so embarrassed about how I am feeling…

    Reply
    • Keep reading through my site and you’ll find many articles that speak to your struggles.

      Reply
  9. It’s the same for me. I feel so much nostalgia about my ex-partner even if today I’m with a partner I deeply love. Especially as I’m travelling to Paris and visiting places we enjoyed going before. How can I grief about that? Is there any practical advices?

    Reply
  10. After months of serious anxiety, depression and feeling broken, I can now start to see the light. This new light of heightened consciousness and awareness is helping me to realise that the focus or hook where I’ve attached myself onto is in fact not the root of my problem. I have learnt that a lot of the answers lie within us and that it is up to us to delve into those fearful areas within. It does take a lot of courage and it is very very scary but once confronted, our feelings, emotions and anxiety start to make sense. Most of the voids that we often seek to have filled up by others or material things can only be filled up lovingly by oneself. We seek external reassurances and often think that having a different partner or the next new thing will make things better. The truth is that we carry ourselves with us regardless of the new relationship, new car or latest shopping spree or holiday. Peace and content comes from within, it’s a work in progress and one I’m working on daily. A journey of acceptance, surrendering of expectations and finding answers in the stillness of our bodies. I repeat, it is scary but I do feel that when this balance is achieved within, we subconsciously arrive to a place of peace. From this perspective, our demands become soothed. Our behaviours and desires are then informed from a deeper place of honesty, one that lives in the present and has released all expectations and fears.

    I am also finding counselling hugely helpful in managing my anxiety and learning to heal from the root, from places and experiences I had never dared to firmly look into. Seek support and talk, talk to your partners, I’ve been doing so and it can only make out relationships stronger if done from a place of love and honesty. We are not alone and this is all part and parcel of living. Sending you all love and light as I know too well how lonely our intrusive thoughts can make us feel.

    Love and Light
    G

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your journey, and your words of hope and healing.

      Reply
  11. Thank you for this reminder of the shifts and also of the grief that comes with our children’s seasons shifting. I was wrapped in intrusive thoughts last week and projecting some of pain onto my husband. My son (youngest) turned 7 on Saturday. I realize now that my anxiety last week was tied to this milestone. On Tuesday, I felt like a leaky faucet (but kept it under wraps while at home w the kids). While I did let the tears flow, I am only now connecting to the underlying grief of watching my boy grow up, his question to me last week “why did they invent guns?”, and the pain I feel for the grief I was submerged in when he was born as we had a lot of tragic losses during my pregnancy with him. After reading your words here, I will tend to more of this grief. His question about guns inspired a poem I wrote which was helpful to process the grief that comes from guns and gun violence. Thank to Sheryl for walking this journey with us and gifting your work, teachings, learning, and words to us here. Next Saturday is my daughter’s (oldest) 10th birthday so I will take some time to feel the shifts that this milestone is bringing me as well. Light, love, and warmth to you and your family’s transitions ahead.

    Reply
    • Our children share a birthday. My oldest will turn 15 next Saturday ;). Yes, let the tears pour through. They’re medicine. And you don’t need to shield your kids from your grief. It’s healthy for them to see us grieve.

      Reply
  12. It’s wonderful that you name what so many are feeling, but isn’t talked about so much. I never realized why I feel nameless dread every year at this time, and it all makes sense now. Just have to ride the wave… ❤️

    Reply
    • Yes, ride the waves! They always pass.

      Reply
  13. Beautiful and wise, Sheryl. Thank you. Your work and words mean so much to me. I’m glad to have found you.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Joanna. I’m so glad my words resonate.

      Reply
  14. I am struggling with finding a sense of peace or calm when facing many stressors. My husband has early onset dementia and my teenage daughter has been unwell for eight months with an autonomic nervous system disorder, made worse by the stress in our house. I also have my elderly parents nearby and I am losing my eyesight. How does one deal with being consumed with anxiety about what the future may hold and the inability to find much happiness or calm amongst the caregiver demands and potential increased demands?

    Reply
    • You’re carrying A LOT, and I feel your burden. It’s very challenging to maintain peace when facing this many stressors, and I only know two remedies that make it bearable: 1. The support of community/friends and 2. A spiritual practice. Sending you a big hug.

      Reply
  15. Astrology says we’re not compatible. How do I go about that? 🙁

    Reply
  16. I’ve been feeling unsteady of late and found my intrusive thoughts and anxiety simmering on the surface and this article makes so much sense of what’s going on, and, in hindsight, makes so much sense of what’s come before – looking back, periods of anxiety and panic have almost always cropped up around Summertime (end of the school year), or in more recent years, around the changing of the seasons in March and August. I can feel something needs to be released from within me; a mass, a heaviness. And yet I’m struggling to release it. I feel like with every passing day and every passing journal account I’m digging closer to the source (oddly, my relationship anxiety and intrusive thoughts have been particularly potent in recent days since I’m started to slowly dig further) but not QUITE tapping into the root cause and it’s almost like I’m frustrated with it now – I know where it is, how it feels, I just can’t quite grasp it. My boyfriend’s away at the moment and I’m away from home working and we’re currently going through a stage in our relationship where the honeymoon period is over and we’re learning about conflict and how to resolve it effectively, and my anxious mind is feeding off this challenge and using it as fodder to, I know now, deviate me from the true source of my pain, and it almost angers me that I can’t get to the route of the problem even though I can make out it’s outline. Any tips Sheryl on making it through this quagmire?

    Reply
    • Knowing the exact root is less important that recognizing that the source of your pain lies within you and needs your loving attention. If you can locate the pain in your body and become curious about it, it will start to move.

      Reply
      • That’s a really interesting way to look at it! I know where the pain is and have been able to track it over recent days – the heaviness I had last week was just atop my stomach, like a weight. Now, everytime something spikes me, it feels like what I call a ‘clamp’ feeling, or a rib squeeze in my chest. And although my mind automatically leaps to the relationship anxiety, it’s a bodily reaction that I’ve realized arises for a collection of things that spike fear in me, and I think I’m starting to see how they link. It just hurts me because, I know me and my boyfriend have things that we need to decipher together especially in the realm of conflict and conflict resolution, but it upsets me when my mind leaps straight to the old comfortable thought vines and tries to cloud my judgement of what I know is a good man who cares for me and just has his own well that needs filling at the moment. But, I must trust that this pain will present itself eventually, call out the thought vines when they arise, and by remaining curious and alert it will make itself known. Of course, any other advice is most welcome Sheryl, but thankyou again for your insights.

        Reply
  17. I have been in an amazing relationship for a year now. My boyfriend is an amazing person. In the initial stages of my relationship, I would get anxious about losing him. A few months back in our country, there were several fire incidents in different places and I would get really anxious that I might lose him to an accident. I was worried and sad for a few weeks. One night, I finished talking to him on the phone and my first intrusive thought came: what if you don’t love him anymore? what if you have no feelings for him anymore? I quickly prayed to god to remove this thought and fell asleep. The next morning I woke up thinking that the thought would go away but I was wrong. I felt really guilty for having doubts which kept increasing in amount and I cried to my boyfriend and confessed to him. I kept reassuring myself from time to time that I love him, and I don’t want to leave him. When that stopped working I started seeking reassurance that everything is fine from family and friends. This was during my holidays when I didn’t get to meet him a lot. I would lie down in bed doing nothing. It felt like I was going to lose what I valued the most because of the thoughts. I had images of breaking up with him which made me anxious initially, but slowly that anxiety started reducing which scared me. I would cry over the phone every night. I researched my symptoms on google all day long. When I went to dates with him, I would mentally check for feelings. And our “honeywood phase” just ended which made me feel worse. I felt like a horrible person. The next intrusive thought was one that I had about someone I used to talk to and liked two years back but never had a relationship with. He used to take drugs and drink and I knew he was bad for me and I stopped talking to him. After I got into a relationship with my boyfriend, I never thought of him. One day, a song reminded me of that guy and I started having thoughts like what if I cheat on my boyfriend with this guy? What if I miss him? And kept ruminating about it day in and day out. I started going to a counsellor after a month’s suffering. I would still feel sad all day long. I started doing yoga and reading books on mindfulness and depression which made me feel a little better. Later I had thoughts about my partner’s appearance, I had thoughts like what if I don’t like it when he hugs me or kisses me? I’ve even had extremely thoughts like: what if I’m a lesbian? what if my boyfriend once forced me to do something intimate? Everytime I said I love you, O felt like I was lying to him. And I felt horrible. I felt like I was making up excuses to leave him.

    Reply
  18. Thanks for this site, it’s giving me a bit of hope amidst a lot of conflicting advice. A few weeks ago I was on the verge of buying a house with my partner or 18 months and moving in with him and his 2 part time kids. He then asked me to marry him and within days I was in a serious state of distress, which was so strong (and the house purchase was so close) that I ended everything. I felt completely numb. I went to him a couple of times in the following weeks just to see if I felt anything for him and I didn’t feel a thing.
    Here and there in the relationship I had lots of the familiar thoughts that Sheryl describes about him being right for me but nothing so extreme that I wasn’t happy and contented with him. But this feeling was so overwhelming that I felt the only way to relieve it was to leave. It’s been a couple of months now and I miss him all the time (or do I miss the ‘relationship’? many ask me). I still don’t know if I love him or not but leaving has made me miserable. I’m not good outside of relationship so perhaps this is also a reason why.
    Has anyone else actually left their relationship because of overwhelming anxiety?
    My spiritual beliefs have so far led me to the conclusion that this was my body’s ‘wisdom’ telling me this was wrong. Most of my friends and my counsellor tell me that it’s likely that my gut was shouting loud to make sure I didn’t make a mistake.

    Reply
    • Gut is code for fear. Are you scared of real love and the deepening of the commitment? That’s what it sounds like. If you haven’t done so already, read through this Collection and consider the course, as both will help you discern between true fear and relationship fear so that you don’t potentially walk away from a loving, healthy relationship:

      https://conscious-transitions.com/relationship-anxiety-collections/

      Reply
      • Thank you Sheryl, I’m reading through the site bit by bit. At this point in time I feel like I don’t love him enough to be able to try again – too many hearts involved (his and the kids). Perhaps if I take the course I might get some more clarity on this.

        Reply

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