The decoding


I can’t remember exactly when it started but anxiety has lived with me as long as I can remember. I showed up for it and it was there to greet me so generously! The severity was always dependent on the circumstances surrounding that time in my life. For example the years post college of living in New York having to worry about paying my rent, which part of my teacher salary would be for food and drink or a train ticket home to see my boyfriend, at the time was the big anxiety. I associated anxiety with peripheral stress rather than looking within my emotional capabilities and my own beliefs. Not to mention I assumed everyone was living with anxious stress just as I was. Wasn’t everyone living with a racing mind, tight body, constipation, looping narrative and other anxiety induced symptoms? Again, not much conversation growing up about emotions and what we were feeling. Going through the daily riggers and “existing” was what my dad, brother and I were extreme experts at. As a result I had limited tools and I neglected to take responsibility for how I was showing up and processing my emotional weight.

When I got married I was anxious about getting pregnant and when I got pregnant I was anxious about having the baby, being able to care for the baby, and performing as the good mother and wife I felt was expected of me. I truly had no clue of my own identity much less my emotional suitcase. When John arrived and didn’t appear to have “easy baby” behaviors my anxiety and stress took a more intense physical and emotional turn. Having been a teacher for many years I never pictured myself the overbearing mother but thats what I became seemlessly. I would plan out my days to try to make the tough days with John easier. *insert the out of body unconscious thinking! We walked for miles to try to pass the time and keep him calm and happy. The minute he was fussy or upset I would start to sweat, my body would tense up, the anxiety would rush in seemingly innocent and the looping would begin! The fears and stories in my mind of what COULD/WILL happen later in day if he’s upset now, and of course the next plan of action to make him feel better aka not crying or upset. He was becoming challenging and I was living on edge about to crack at any second. I was determined to spend as much time with him as I could and prove to myself and everyone around me I could do it, maybe not as pretty as my constant comparison to other mothers who of course I assumed had it all together. I could be the good, present, caring mother he needed, the good wife that had us all together, and lose the baby weight as quickly as humanly possible. The fear began to paralyze me and my relationships. Fear of John not being a typical developing happy child, fear of not pleasing my husband and fulfilling my role, fear of keeping the 50+ pounds I had gained on my body, fear of the future with our little precious family …. you get the point!

As John approached a year old my husband remarked I was slightly (he was trying to be delicate) falling apart and maybe we needed to get a sitter to help out. John was becoming increasingly more unhappy, defiant and in general physically not feeling well. My emotional state was like a jack in the box, ready to explode at any moment. So thats how I showed up for myself and my young family- a mess of fear and pushed down feelings mixed with a lack of true communication. At 14 months I was aware John was not reaching age appropriate behaviors such as babbling and completely engaging with us. One day when I took him to open play with some new neighbors one mother turned to me and said “why isn’t he talking yet?” My body froze, my fear paralyzed, and I discretely grabbed John and went home. After putting him down for a nap and landed face first on my bed sobbing. The fear, anxiety and showing up for myself in a minimal way had finally caught up with me. Wishing so badly I could call my mom to cry and tell her how sad, embarrassed, mortified, stressed, emotional, and miserable I felt, without any judgment.

Since that wasn’t an option I muddled through the next few years in a weighted cloud or tornado at times dragging myself lonely, scared and anxious all while getting everything done that needed my attention. I wasn’t able to show up for myself but I was able to present as much of a happy family life as possible. On the outside I spoke optimistically and realistically all while playing the victim in my own mind. I truly felt I was a victim with a lot of lack when I really had all and everything I needed at that moment. Few people in our lives knew how hard we struggled to keep John happy, ourselves together, and find some semblance of a marriage at the same time. What I was unaware of at the time was how the unhappy stress was deteriorating my own body of its normal functioning process.

My body was out of complete alignment physically and mentally so attempting to have another child was not easy naturally. After two rounds of insemination, three rounds of IVF, and a massive amount of stress we were finally pregnant. Again the voices of anxiety began. this continued as my small kids grew up, John’s journey on the spectrum got deeper and my marriage took the brunt of the stress. I was somehow able to bandaid my feelings for our day to day life and raise two happy and very loved kids. however looking back and even looking at pictures of myself the last few years I see someone holding so tight. I was listening to the inner words of not being enough while also struggling to substitute efficiency and happiness for being able to listen to my true inner self. It was so easy to ignore and truly slowing down an anxious mind is an art and something Ive only learned in the last five years.

I quickly realized this pleaser ego voice wasn’t going to go away so I might as well learn to hear whats its trying to say and decipher the code underneath. Through my meditation practice ive learned my thoughts are not me, they are there but I don’t need to buy into every one of them. Up to this point I was buying everything my thoughts were selling! I don’t want to dismiss the rapid “what if” thoughts because they teach me to bring an awareness and sensitivity that is necessary- like distress flares for me. However, when I stop, breathe and take a deeper listen I look to my favorite question; “what are these thoughts protecting me from?” This question brought so many feelings of fear to the surface. Making this shift took a while; I had no idea how my thoughts were covering up something deeper mostly unworthiness and control. My insecurity of being liked, loved, fitting in, how I looked, being social, work, raising nice and happy children, then to being divorced, dating, single parenting etc.. I was using incredible control to cover up the uncertainty and insecurity.

Yoga helped me begin to break down the control but it wasn’t tripping me up hard enough. I consider myself stubborn yet open minded however when your thoughts take over its like turning the titanic around, so slow and intentional. I was able to push through yoga class after class without breathing into my body and looking deeper. it was a workout and a hard one but at the time it wasn't engaging my fears to the surface. I think of it as transformational wack-o-mole game. Each anxious feeling was popping up and I was stuffing it back down only to come back in some other thought or form.

In January of 2017 I went through a very tough breakup and it was as if the hammer and all the “moles” began punching me all over my body and didn’t stop for 9 months to a year. Although it was one of the hardest times it became the opening of growth for all of the controlling, anxious, fear based thinking I had existed on for what felt like a lifetime. The flood gates opened and the decoding of the anxiety flares had no choice but to start working- and hard! During that time, which included a couple very difficult moments, I was able to look so far inward - become friends with my ego voice, stop believing the thoughts which turned out to 80-90 percent false (and they usually are), address fears, insecurities and most of all raise my own vibrational reaction to what goes on around me. That outside layer that is completely uncontrollable by all of us yet we find some need to try so hard to manage as much as we possibly can. It falsely gives us a sense of peace until it doesn’t. Whats left is a lightness, a more intentional, relational, even more loving open mind. The daily life lense isn’t always weightless but seeing it with flexibility and compassion shifts the outcome. Whats left is a peaceful gratitude for all the tough moments and days that lead me here, to continue decoding with love…

Jennifer Duffie