Remember how in my last post I was talking about how I often had the briefest moment of anxiety upon waking that was swiftly swept aside by joy? Yeah, well, a couple of weeks ago the sweeping aside was not so swift. In fact, there was no joy to be found and the unrelenting fear that comes with anxiety disorder moved its way and set up camp as if it were prepared to stay.Any of you out there who also suffer from anxiety know exactly what I meant. Man, does it suck. My husband asked me what it was like and the best way I could describe it was that it felt like I was being chased by Dementors and all hope had gone out of the world. Not because I was sad or depressed but because all hope was now being overshadowed by the fear of my worst possible fears.A couple of days before the anxiety set up shop, I attended the first in a series of small group shamanic healing sessions with my favorite yoga teacher, Angie Knight (www.angieknightyoga.com). The focus of the series was the Path to Empowerment: Turning Pain in to Power. As I showed up for the first class, I was already wavering between being totally pscyhed to be out of my corporate job to being completely terrified.I shared how I was feeling at the beginning of the session and Angie responded that there was a fine line between being excited and being terrified…the difference was in whether or not you could learn to relax into the unknown.Aaah, yes. The old relaxing into the unknown thing. Not so easy for a recovering control freak like myself. And yet I know that is exactly the place in my path that I have finally arrived. I have been oh so careful to follow the signs and trust that the Universe was calling me to leave my corporate job and still…there is some part of me that is scared shitless.Later on during our ceremony, Angie spoke about how we had to see the gift of our pain before we could release it completely. The gift? What the heck was the gift of anxiety?! I mean, it is true that my anxious nature has kept me safe from time to time in my life. For instance, when my college friends began using cocaine and heroine, I was always way too scared to touch the stuff. I just stuck to my Natural Light like a good girl. :)But besides that, what purpose had my anxiety played in my life? What was its purpose for showing up NOW? Angie was careful to instruct us to ask the question but then give up on trying to “figure out” the answer. Instead of analyzing it with our mind, get outside and look for answers in our surroundings and in nature.Of course, I was trapped in my home office working away at my new business so my exposure to nature was pretty much nil. After a day or two of basically hibernating, it did finally dawn on me that there was this giant fly buzzing around my office and it had been for the last two days!I quickly searched my favorite animal totem website (yes, I have one favorite one) for the symbolism of fly and this is is what I found: “Reevaluate your thoughts about yourself. You are worth far more than you think!” – FlyWow. I quickly shared my finding with Angie over email and her response was, “Now you are beginning to see!” But see what?Over the next several days, I had a string of great conversations with all the wonderful people in my support group and their messages began to seep into my anxious brain. I talked to my therapist who reminded me that my anxiety was not my fault. My husband’s therapist had me talk to a teddy bear as if it were my three-year old selfand reassure her that everything was okay and she didn’t have to worry. I sobbed with grief as I told her that she didn’t have to take care of everybody anymore.Of course, all of this culminated when I finally broke down and went to a yoga class early one morning. And there on my matt, I began to understand. First, I remembered that every time in my life that I have experienced great anxiety was around the same time as something amazing happening in my life.For example, the last few months before I quit drinking (the first time) were the first time I felt my anxiety. I have had wicked postpartum anxiety after the birth of each of my three, sweet boys. The day I married my husband I was wreck…at least right up until I walked down the aisle and then all the anxiety vanished in an instant when I met him at the altar.If you’ve never experienced anxiety before, you should know that it usually fixates itself around a single, terrible fear. Your worst fear. For many sufferers, they are afraid that they are dying. For me, initially, it was the fear that I was going crazy. But the fear of going crazy has shifted over the years to reveal its true self, which is the fear of abandonment. My worst fear is that my husband will leave me…like my dad did and like my mother spent the next 20 years reminding me.There on my matt, I began to understand that the anxiety was coming from the little girl in me who was freaking out. She had always been the one responsible for keeping everything together and for taking care of everyone for as long as she could remember. And yet, I was in turn perpetually abandoning her (myself) when I let myself get caught up in the overwhelm and mayhem that can be my life if I let it.For the last few years, I had totally let it. But I had promised myself that things would be different once I quit my corporate job…more yoga, more fun, more freedom! And yet I had been working so hard that fun and freedom had already quickly moved to the bottom of the “to do” list. My inner three year old wasn’t just freaking out. She was pissed.She was pissed because I have spent a lifetime not honoring her needs, which are, of course, my own needs. As a “good girl” and a textbook co-dependent, I have perfected the art of not expressing myself or asking for what I needed for fear of a million different ways express what is really just abandonment.My fear of being abandoned had led me to abandon myself. Over and over and over again.The gift of anxiety is that it requires me to take of myself. To put myself first. It leaves me no choice. And it requires mindfulness because my brain feels like it has been filled with mud and even the simplest task feels overwhelming. I have to be completely focused and present to get anything done.”Slow down,” my inner three-year old says, “play with me. You promised you’d play with me.” So, I did. I began an experiment. At the suggestion of my mastermind partner, in every moment that I was deciding what to do next, I asked my inner three-year old what SHE wanted to do. We went to yoga. We went to get green smoothies. We played with my kids. When that part of me was finally happy, then I would work.The first few days of this were a little daunting and I realized that another trigger of my anxiety was this absolute freedom of not having a job to go to anymore. No emails to write or phone calls to return. It reminded me of the first time I left my kids and husband at home for a yoga retreat in Mexico. The first few days there were tough. I was actually anxious in one of the most beautiful and relaxing places on earth! But the anxiety was created by my not having any idea what to do with myself! It took a good three days for me to settle in and find my solo groove.I was driving in my car when I remembered the anxiety in Mexico and how similar this situation was and I literally laughed out loud.After a few days of focusing on what I wanted and plenty of loving reassurance for my little girl self that she could relax because I was going to be taking care of us from now on, the anxiety began to lift. It finally disappeared altogether while I lounged by the pool and watched my youngest son frolic in the water.I haven’t seen it since. I know that it is not likely gone for good but at least now I know its gift…and how to receive it.