No Passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear: Edmund Burke

The first time I became acquainted with anxiety, I remember the overwhelm of feeling completely debilitated. I was no longer in control of my own body. Something else had completely taken over. A force I’d never experienced before. It terrified me. The more I tried to calm myself, the sense of overwhelm would magnify. I was driving on the freeway, two hours interstate before I suddenly made the desperate decision to swing my car around and drive all the way home again.

When I finally reached home, I was engulfed with feeling the greatest disappointment in myself. I couldn’t believe I’d succumb to feeling so defeated.

Fear & Anxiety and how they've become my greatest teachers

photo via Carla Coulson

There were a number of other incidents that each produced the same results. I could almost pre-empt it. The minute I would begin to feel a sense of threat, it would trigger panic. My heart would race, palms would sweat and I would feel a complete disengagement with my body. What disturbed me most, was that this fear and anxiety was robbing me of my day-to-day. The most non-threatening incidents would suddenly have me white-knuckled, gripped with panic. I was in disbelief that what was once a normal part of my everyday, suddenly became an imposter.

greatest teachers, Fear & Anxiety and how they've become my greatest teachers

Open Road, Lake Prespa

I wrote about it in my journal, spoke about it with those closest to me, confided in practitioners I valued the opinion of, but that torrent of emotion still lurked beneath the surface. Each time I ventured on the outskirts of my comfort zone, I would be struck with the terror and panic of anxiety rippling through me.

Fear & Anxiety and how they've become my greatest teachers

stone houses, peloponnese…

The more I made an effort to ignore it and shut it away, the more it grew. There was nothing I could do to run from it. It followed me everywhere I went. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was taking the completely wrong approach. I was treating it like a problem that needed to be fixed. Desperate to find anything that would make it go away. A conversation with my acupuncturist delivered for the first time the stark realisation that this wasn’t something that would just simply go away. His sage words of advice both daunted me and forced me to shift my perspective. Paula, he started, in answer to my desperate plea, It will be here for as long as it needs to…

It took a long time for me to realise and accept that the arrival of this foreign entity traumatising me had presented itself for a reason. But that’s exactly why it was there. It was mirroring what I was neglecting to address about the circumstances I had found myself in. It was reflecting how much I had completely lost myself. How limiting I had made my world. How disconnected I had become with my life force.

greatest teachers, Fear & Anxiety and how they've become my greatest teachers

still waters, mani

I pay much closer attention these days to feelings that stir me. What arises and why it’s there. Instead of shrugging them off, I coax them closer towards me. I recognise that any sense of discomfort is asking me to pay close attention to something I have failed to deal with. A personal, embedded dark place that still lurks beneath the surface.

Fear and Anxiety have become my greatest teachers. I recognise the value in their presence and understand that they are merely the vehicle to support and elevate my growth. It doesn’t mean I don’t still experience moments of struggle. I’ve just become better at managing how to navigate my way through it and recognising that the more we resist, the further afar we venture from facing our truth and the enormity of what can be learned when we decide to give in to trust and walk through it…

Happy Travels…Paula x