When born we start experiencing the world for the first time, present, just as we are. Free from layers of trauma, judgement, suppression and so much more. What we see is simply what we see, discovery awaits. As time goes by, layers of what we like to think of as protection start building, habits become ingrained based on what we face and how we cope in these different situations. Before we know it, we can become lost. Hidden behind anxiety, trauma, and pain, unable to see a way out at times. Who am I? I asked myself this so often and was surprised with my own response.

Where do I begin? Where do any of us begin?

When we are comfortable to revisit this raw state, no hiding, that’s where we find answers, but is it that easy? Showing compassion to ourselves is tough. Being open to be all we are is also difficult to embody when so much builds up around us through the steps we take in our lives. Each footprint part of our journey. How this takes effect is huge and if not noticed, we can lose sight of who we are.

Growing up I had a loving family and I’m so grateful for this, but it didn’t come without struggles; some of those footsteps dark and downtrodden, that silence manifesting into unhealthy addiction. This forms differently for us all, be it in the form of smoking, drugs, alcohol, late nights, business to escape the feelings and situations too hard to bear. Being addicted to a behaviour enabled me the escape from all the things I didn’t want to face. The thing was, at the time I didn’t feel my suffering was valid at all. The message reinforced again and again, that somebody had it worse than me. Again, my feelings pushed further down, no space for such thinking of shame and sadness. Strength is getting on with it? Is it? That’s not how I see it now. The thing is, we all have our own trauma that is just as valid as the next persons. There isn’t and shouldn’t be a measure on who’s suffering is worthy. All feelings must be felt and processed with open arms otherwise we stunt our own happiness.

Feeling wasn’t an easy option growing up and strength was viewed as getting up and getting on. Living with mental health issues in my family, this had a huge impact on us all but wasn’t really addressed or spoken about in a way I would say was healthy. This was down to lack of knowledge and resources, and in turn more habitual coping patterns took hold. I ran for far too long, not feeling worthy of my own affliction and always in fear of my family thinking I was ungrateful. Or them being ashamed of me saying how I felt. I see more and more how everybody wants to appear to have it all together on the surface, despite what lies beneath. We rise to happiness when fully present with who we are, scars and all.

At secondary school mental health issues weren’t really discussed, nor understood, and having a parent with mental health issues was kept relatively close. Now I’m not saying everything should be broadcasted, but if you can’t be open with what you’re facing, how can you move through it and how can you gain the required support? We must start somewhere. Over time I lost sight of myself, anxiety became my default coping mechanism. I didn’t notice for a long time. I would just be a little anxious and it would pass, as things do. Then the fear stayed for longer periods of time. Google became my go to support – not helpful – and before the day was out on regular occasions, I had self-diagnosed with worst-case scenarios every time.

Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.

I keep hearing it, ‘choose love over fear’, and it’s true.

Before finding meditation and mindfulness I didn’t have the space to hear this message. Fear was all I felt. My energy was so focused on anxiety that it kept showing up. I got used to the habit of exploring my anxious thoughts daily. It became my routine. Panic attacks started to creep in, and my life was being run in this way. Anxiety spoke up once more and became a ripple effect through my life. Over a decade later and this ripple was a wave, a storm inside my body affecting my physical health too. It also affected my daughter who started to realise that she would receive my immediate, unhealthy attention if she had a health issue present. Her anxiety increased and mine took a turn for what would be the last time in this way. I was away from home and my anxiety took hold like never before. I couldn’t sleep and when I returned home, I became quite unwell. I didn’t want to leave the house; I called an ambulance through sheer fear and after this something inside me knew this cycle had to end. I attended an 8-week mindfulness course and again tried meditation. I had tried it before but the thought of having to be still and not have any thoughts was terrifying, how was I to do that? I see now as a teacher of mindfulness and meditation that we can have thoughts; we have on average 70,000 a day, that’s 3000 per hour so to not have any would be quite something. The idea to notice them was something I could do and so it began.

My practice started once more and this time I stuck with it, building it up and simply noticing. Being aware, not changing anything. Fast forward a few years and I trained to teach this and do so now, helping people bring these life changing methods into life and reduce anxiety. The thing is, for me, mindfulness and meditation didn’t exactly remove the anxiety. Instead, they have given me the space to gain confidence, believe in myself and be brave enough to uncover my story; the journey to who I am, to regularly journal, explore the shame, sit with it without judgement and over time I see that the anxiety was a mask. It became my addiction, the thing that was easier to sit with than all the thoughts and feelings I’d shut down for years. Now I could be present with them, no longer feeding it. I didn’t need to let anxiety consume my life, I had space for other thoughts instead.

Of course, it’s normal to have anxiety around certain things; a little healthy nerve ahead of exams, before making a speech, auditioning for a play, but not present all day, every day. Happiness is accessible to us all, we just need to make space for it to rise.

““We rise to happiness when fully present with who we are, scars and all.””

— Kelly Saward

Much of the time now, I see that leaning in is indeed the way out. Running, searching, this takes us away. If we have the strength to just be present with what arises, as it is, space begins to form. Heart wide open, those layers no longer holding back just who you are. I like to say, ‘When we build habits from fear, we can lose ourselves. When we build habits from love, we find ourselves.’

Don’t give up on love. Love carries the frequency to be with something bigger than the fear and the anxiety. It sits softly speaking the truths, waiting and always present. That whisper of hope wants to be heard, start listening to this voice. Why does the voice of fear call louder? It doesn’t have to. Time alone and time in silence, this is often given a wide berth. Spending moments in solitude isn’t the same as being lonely, it’s very much needed. The thing is when in a vulnerable state, with feelings of heightened anxiety present, the last thing you potentially want to do is be alone. Taking whatever steps feel right for you will lead you towards the freedom to more frequently feel happiness and in time you see that when an old pattern rises, it doesn’t carry the same power.

One of the hardest things to do is look yourself in the eye and acknowledge all of who you are, where you’ve come from and hold space for it all to be present. But when you do, when you lean into this, the walls begin to fall, the path widens for you and the choice then becomes yours as to how that unfolds.

Listen to that whisper and before you know it that voice becomes louder, and freedom follows. Happiness Rises.

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