You know that friend you have who always assumes the worst? She thinks your stuffy nose will lead to bronchitis and you’ll end up missing your vacation. She worries late at night about that bill you forgot to pay on time and wonders if your credit score will be ruined so when you need to replace your car–and you know that 2001 Toyota is going to need to be replaced soon–you will have to pay a higher interest. In the house where all the parts of me live, Anxiety is that friend. She has spent the last several months running around my internal house like Chicken Little, sure that the sky is falling.
In earlier times, I have been able to calm her down with logic. Sometimes slow breathing has helped. But when I became so worn down this summer, these approaches didn’t work anymore. Three weeks into my leave, she was still running around with eyes wide, hair sticking out in every direction, gesticulating with her hands and raising her voice to make sure we knew it was REALLY IMPORTANT. I couldn’t figure out how to sooth her; nothing was helping.
Then I took us all to yoga class. Instead of a yin or restorative class, I tried a more demanding and energetic class. In the middle of our second sun salutation, as the heat built in the core of my body, I felt a sudden release. A knot in my center let loose, and Anxiety sat down for the first time in many weeks. At the same time, the little wounded girl came out of the room where she’d been hiding and smiled.
Later in the same yoga class, we swung our legs from side to side “like grass in the wind,” and the girl said she wanted to go outside and see the grass in the wind. She wanted to read and draw and sit with the wise woman and start to get to know others in the house. I took her to the toy store, and we looked at the dolls and the fairies, all the things she liked. She kept smiling.
‘Where have you been, little one?” I asked her.
“In my room,” she told me, “sometimes hiding in the closet. Anxiety was making too much noise.” The little girl is so hesitant and uncertain that it doesn’t take much to send her back hiding. But now I have learned that the same thing that quiets my often painful anxiety also brings out the willingness of the girl to engage with the world.
Anxiety fell asleep in her chair; she had worn herself out. I’m going to let her sleep for as long as possible, while I sign up for more yoga classes.