A couple of nights ago I had a bit of an episode that I wanted to open up to you about, as I don’t think I’m alone in having moments like this. As with anything to do with our mental health, it’s easy to feel very alone and feel like you’re different to other people, but the more we talk about the way we feel, the more we begin to realise that many of us are going through, or have gone through, similar things.
Having a past with eating disorders, I will always be hyper-aware of my body when it comes to food and digestion and the effect that all has on my mind. Though logically I can type all of this now and see it from an outside perspective, when we’re in a crisis moment, it’s very hard to think straight and see a simple way out. That’s why we need to keep talking and that’s why it’s good to have people or a person in your life that you can be open and honest with, having no fear of judgement from them.
So let me set the scene…
I’d just landed back in the UK after running my retreat in Mexico and was absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. Running retreats is my favourite part of my job, it brings me so much joy to bring like-minded people together and to connect on a deep level through a practice that I love. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Even in the “down time”, as the host, you’re mentally switched on the whole time, so it’s extremely important to try to take time for yourself, to re-energise, especially if you have introvert traits and need to be alone to get your energy levels up. That’s me. The extroverted introvert. I wouldn’t change my retreats for the world, like I said, I love running them, this is just part of the post-retreat process and learning to be even more aware of my emotions.
On the day I landed I needed to stay awake until the evening in the UK – jet lag and all that jazz! Being low on energy, I took the lazy route and rather than fill myself up with nutritious foods, I took in way more sugary and heavy foods that usual, just continuously grazing throughout the whole day and not stopping until around 30 minutes before I went to sleep at 8pm. This meant I was uncomfortably full, but because I was so tired, I fell asleep anyway.
At midnight I woke up very suddenly and had a panic attack. I’ve had a few panic attacks in my time, so even though it’s never a nice feeling, I at least wasn’t totally shocked by what was happening in my body. Learning all of the pranayama/breathing techniques in yoga honestly helped so much when working through panic attacks. I was short of breath, sweating, feeling delirious, nauseas and there were tears, lots and lots of tears. I tried to just keep my eyes closed, curled up in a ball, hoping it would pass, but I knew I needed more than that, I needed to talk to someone. Even if that person didn’t say anything back to me, I just needed them to hold space for me to be with my emotions.
Fortunately my boyfriend is currently in Australia, so I was able to pick up the phone and talk at that time of night. The moment I heard the words roll off my tongue I started to feel better. There were a lot of tears and snot mixed into my words, but with each word spoken, the closure of my chest started to lift. I knew exactly what had happened, I had gone for a quick fix of food throughout the day to keep me going (emotionally and physically) and it had all just got a bit too much. At first I felt guilt, but that didn’t last long. I’ve done enough work to know that guilt is a wasted emotion in situations like this, I just needed to be gentle with myself, be kind and to slowly work through it.
After talking it through, the best bit of advice he gave me was to drink a mug of hot water… something I’ve not tried before. I sat up in bed, read four chapters of my book, drunk the mug of water and started to feel so much calmer. Aside from the hot water putting me at ease mentally (I love that feeling of wrapping my hands around a warm mug), hot water is also said to aid digestion, helping the digestive system function efficiently. Also having a good book to hand was a very welcome distraction. This wasn’t to “escape my feelings”, I was very aware of the root cause and the situation, but now the time was for healing and the book offered my mind a calmer place to go.
Something I feel is important to add is that I let go of those moments of guilt very quickly. I didn’t wake up the following day thinking that I needed to cut calories or go crazy in the gym. I just knew I needed to eat a normal amount of food, colourful and nutritious. This is how I can see how much of a different person I am from being in my early 20’s. Back then, guilt would have taken over and I’d have tried to not eat the next day to make up for it, not only being cruel to my body, but cruel to my mind too. We need to accept those days of over-eating just as that, a day here or there. It’s not something to beat yourself up about, but it is important to understand why it happens.
I’m sharing this little story with you for a number of reasons, with the two most important ones being that you are not alone and to open up to those close to you. Remember that every single person in this world has their own issues to deal with, so rather than feeling like a burden by opening up to them, maybe try to see the beauty in the possibility of an exchange. By you being vulnerable, it might just help them feel like they have permission to be vulnerable in their own time of need. Vulnerability is one of the hardest things to face, but there’s so much strength in it.
I want the generations that follow to know that they need to have real human connection and conversations to keep their minds healthy and that no subject should be off limits. Keep talking, keep sharing. And if you do feel alone, reach out to the many charities that have people on hand to listen to you.
Sending you love and strength,