I choose happiness

by Caroline Stewart

It's easy to forget the importance of our personal happiness and wellbeing.  In this Western world of ours, we are constantly surrounded by distraction.  Overwhelmed by comparison, ideals and competition.

It's exhausting.  And crazy making.  

The last few months have been probably the most anxiety-inducing time in my life to date.  I have felt more overwhelmed, confused and discouraged than I could reasonably handle.

And so I didn't handle.  My body tried to keep up and finally threw in the towel.  I started experiencing what I have now discovered to be panic attacks.  

Painful chest tightenings, difficulty breathing, numbness in fingers, tunnel vision and blackouts.  The worst thing about them is that I really couldn't predict with any certainty when they would happen.  And when they would stop.  Not pretty stuff.

Even though I was experiencing all this on an increasingly regular basis, I couldn't bring myself to get any help.  Truthfully, I was scared that it was a reoccurrence of heart issues I experienced as a teenager and I didn't want to go down the road of endless testing, prodding, and general frustration that comes from exploratory testing.

It finally got so bad, with one of these episodes lasting way longer than I was comfortable with that I ended up in Emerg.  

Here's where I'm going to shorten the story a bit. Basically, the experience and testing I had in Emerg helped me realise that a) panic attacks are real, and b) I am totally overwhelmed.

Of course I knew that I was overwhelmed.  But I really had no idea of the extent and what to do about it.  I kept turning circles in my head over why this was happening and why I couldn't just suck it up and meet all these responsibilities that I had taken on.

Like really, why couldn't I just take in stride a drawn out divorce and active relationship healing with a man I still care deeply for?  

Who says I can't be super mom - offering my kids an endless supply of love, energy, and stability, while at the same time teaching them how to adapt to change and be inspired?

It goes without saying that I should be present, understanding and endlessly loving in my romantic relationship.  Asking for support and showing weakness is just a copout, right?

It should have been a walk in the park to take on the work of running a Yoga studio again, while simultaneously managing my coaching business and planning for a move to BC.  

And those finances.  I can totally handle all that planning and management on my own.  Why ask for help when there's credit?

Oh, and of course I can maintain that positive body image.  Feeling good about what I'm eating, how my clothes fit, and how others perceive me.  Can't forget about that one!

Man it feels good to get that all out!  Ok, so maybe I took on a bit too much.  It happens.  Quite often.

And I'm starting to realise why.  Some of this is mine to own.  Mostly the parts about believing all of these responsibilities MUST be done, and without faltering, struggle, or asking for help.

But this is only part of the story.  I'm not at all alone in this overwhelm.  The seeds for self-judgment were planted far before I was even a twinkle in my Mama's eye.  It's an epidemic in the Western, capitalistic model of society.

The doctrine of “you can get ahead if you work hard” breads competition, disconnect and judgment.  I succeed at the expense of someone else, and vice versa.

Purpose and fulfilment are then linked to how flush our bank account is, or more realistically, how much stuff we have.  Cause really, we can just leverage our ‘potential’ for credit to get this stuff.

That was a big one.  ‘Leveraging our potential’.  Meaning, potential to earn.  Potential to compete and succeed and be a picture perfect example of the societal ‘ideal’.

No wonder studies have found that eating and anxiety disorders are experienced more in Western society.  We’re competing with ourselves!  

We are born into this insanity.  We grow up in this insanity.  And then we act as though it is normal.  Because really, we no longer know another way.

I’m happy to say that I’m totally on the upswing.  Not without extensive self-reflection, support from family and friends, and a pretty intense questioning of where all of this shit comes from and why I’ve bought into it.

I’ve had enough of this persistent indoctrination.  It’s mind-numbing and spirit-destroying. 

And so, I choose to release the expectations of others, and even of myself.  I give up on the capitalist model of competition and success.

I choose to listen to the whisperings of spirit and trust in the guidance I am given.  I choose happiness.