I reached out … now what?

Asking for help has never been easy. It means I owe a debt, and it’s not always a debt I’m sure I’m able to repay, so it’s only when I’m truly desperate that I do what I feel is grovelling to others to request help. If I’m able to repay the favor, then it’s not hard to ask, but without having that balance I struggle with the request.

Experiences can be humbling, can’t they?

I am at what might be my most humble. I’ve had to ask for help before, but not quite like this.

This year has been a struggle, and we’ve kept many details to ourselves. During yoga teacher training I wasn’t able to keep up well with sales so much, as there was so much going on with trying to finish training as well as my aromatherapy certification. There was also a side project underway where a new company became incorporated, and so much effort had been put into getting this endeavour underway. It was ready to go, and we were just waiting for our financing to come through. It would have been so good for us, but that’s when things started to go wrong. That’s when I could no longer make sense of the things happening. That’s when I couldn’t focus on any of the tasks I was working on without making silly mistakes. And that’s when I had to admit that I couldn’t move forward with the company we incorporated, because it was completely a team effort and we were both needed in order to move forward with it.

We cancelled all plans with the incorporation. We still own it for the time being, but nothing has progressed with it. We wanted to wait to see what would happen.

I am short of my yoga teacher training certification by 10 hours because the worst of my symptoms came up during the retreat, where I found out just how much I was affected by the sun and heat. 

I couldn’t finish my aromatherapy certification because of the brain fog, which has made it nearly impossible to not only read, but to retain new information.

I moved my products out of the house in case they were the source of my issues. This makes them difficult to sell.

All of my plans and income sources had to be put on hold because I couldn’t focus on them. Whenever I tried, I made mistakes, or forgot, and I couldn’t stand the idea of disappointing anyone. So that’s when I made the hard decision to temporarily shut down Bohemian Alchemist, with hopes I could pick it up again soon.

But I couldn’t. My inventory was stored offsite, and trying to sell it was difficult to do when I had a hard time managing the inventory. I couldn’t offer services or products out of fear of making a harmful mistake. I was making mistakes, and it was only a matter of time before I made a mistake I’d regret and hurt someone. Thankfully, they were all minor, but they were enough to make me realize that it was time for me to stop. I did the responsible thing by keeping my clients safe, rather than pushing myself further beyond my limits in order to keep everything operational. I was already beyond my limits, which had changed so, so much from the beginning of the year.

Closing was hard. So much harder than I could ever express. I love my business, and I love the products I’ve made, and I loved the direction I was heading with it. But mostly, I loved the connections I made with people. I worked hard to start and maintain it (not without help – I’ve had so much help from so many people!). I found that hanging off of “maybe”, “possibly”, “one day” and “eventually” wore on me so much, and I couldn’t answer people who wanted to know when I was opening again. The encouragement from others was well meaning, but brought my attention continuously to the responsibilities waiting for me. I felt horrible anytime someone wanted a custom order and I had to refuse. I felt inadequate, disappointing and that I was letting people down – but the one that mattered most was my husband. I have not been able to contribute to our income. He has been ever the encouraging, supportive person he always has been, but this is an insecurity of my own that stems from old, deep hurts and experiences that are difficult to keep controlled when I’m at my most vulnerable.

Everything was shut down. I found ways to keep busy and to keep my flare ups moderately controlled. The more controlled my symptoms are, the more productive I am, which is how I’ve been able to reasonably maintain our home. It hasn’t been ideal, but we’ve made it work.

But our expenses added up. Medications and supplements and specific clothes that helped reduce symptoms, fuel to get to and from appointments, window replacement, so on so forth. I’ve listed some of our expenses previously. They continue to add up.

And then our hot water tank decided to die on us right after my surgery. The nerve of it, I dare say.

What do you MEAN money isn’t everything? We are a bank!

And it’s been a struggle since then. 

I hit a low point a couple of weeks ago, which I also shared part of. But not in entirety. I had cabin fever in a bad way, and I was unsure of everything. We had been thinking about getting a service dog to help with certain things in order to get me the support I needed to function better in the day, but I wondered if maybe this was too extreme. 

And so did a few others. A few people have mentioned that they believe I may be bipolar, or that perhaps I need to find God, or meditate more, or to “just relax”. It has been implied that my symptoms are imagined and that I’m a hypochondriac. Perhaps I am just looking for attention.

These comments come from very few, select people, but they hurt, more than they could ever know. I believe they had good intentions, and truly believe the things they say. There were harmful, hurtful words regardless of intent, however. They made me think that, maybe, they weren’t wrong. They made me feel insecure. They made me feel that I was sharing too much about our situation, and that perhaps I should keep it more to myself. I found engagements with people to get less and less, and I wondered if I was believed at all or not.

To be fair, when people see me they see that I’ve lost weight and am rocking a fairly normal body size for the first time in a decade, see me walking and talking  and my clean house and see my rosy red cheeks, unaware that the redness is part of a flare up. What they see seems healthy.

What they don’t see is everything else I’ve previously mentioned. The crippling fatigue, the numb cheeks,  the thick brain fog and confusion, the double vision. I’m functional, but very carefully. They don’t see that. They don’t see the little leg pump I do before I stand up, nor do they realize why I stand up so slowly. They don’t see my balance as that bad. They don’t see me avoiding bending over to avoid passing out. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, if there’s nothing to see.

It’s there, however, if you pay attention.

For the most part people have been kind, caring and supportive. Several have offered help, and have stepped up to help where we need it most. Right now, what we need most is financial. Bad timing, I know. Our bills are paid, the animals are fed, but we’ve been maxed out in all accounts since early fall and we have been just barely getting by. The prospect of catching up hasn’t been promising – which also means no possibility of a service dog. I will not commit to getting an animal that I am not able to afford to care for.

So I  reached out.  I asked for help, as so many people have encouraged if I needed it. And I need it. I presented my case. I made a post on my Facebook page. People asked me, “What can I do to help?”

“Share my page post,” I responded. I don’t expect anyone to buy things they don’t want or need, but sharing my post would help get the word out, and perhaps reach and audience that could help. It costs nothing and is easy to do. But then, I always seemed to follow it up with, “If you can’t, then I understand.”

I don’t understand. I don’t know why I  ever said that. To be nice? To give them permission to ignore it? To make them think that we weren’t in as tight of a situation that we are? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. I really don’t know why I said it that way, but that’s what I do.

When I went to see my psychologist and he asked me how I was, I said, “I’m great! Thanks! How are you?” – which I then had to admit that I lied. When he asked why I said that if I didn’t mean it, I admitted that it’s a trained response after growing up in a place that didn’t admit to weakness. I believe working retail also encouraged said response. Customers don’t want to hear how great you’re not. They’re there to spend money, and that’s all. It’s just what we are trained to respond with in order to maintain courtesy, and I’m trying to retrain that response. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, especially when my defence mechanisms are locked and loaded at the moment.

Anyways, Some people shared my post.

And some people never responded, and never shared it. I see so many people share things supporting other events and complete strangers, but have not supported me where I need it most. Sometimes with excuses explaining the reason of their lack of support – which I appreciate, since at least I know where they stand. Most often the response was silence, however, and it’s the silence that hurts most of all.

And that hurt contributed to my downward spiral, which also caused worsening symptoms and an emotional meltdown, which made my spiral even worse. I spoke with my internist. I was so tired. Frustrated. I was falling apart. He assured me that he believed there was something happening and that we needed to push through just a little longer to try to find some answers. He brainstormed some ideas, agreeing that I needed a break. He prescribed something to help me sleep – something I do not get nearly enough of – and agreed that a service dog would be beneficial to my case. 

This helped alot. The reassurance from both him and my psychologist made me realize that I was spiralling down the hole of other people’s perceptions and expectations again. They told me that I’ve been holding myself together so much better than many other people might in my situation. I don’t know how true that is or not, but I hung onto it. It’s been a source of strength for me to keep pushing forward.

During one of my appointments, I was asked what I would do if I had all of the power in the world. 

I answered that I’d give it away to someone who would use it well.

Then I was asked what I would do if I had all the agency in the world.

I had to think on it, but eventually I answered that I’d use it to become a better person.

Thinking on this…. I HAVE all the agency in the world. That’s not something anyone can control, change or take away from me – only I have the power to do that.

Which gives me all the power on the world to do what I said I’d do. And that’s not a power I’ll hand over to someone else, regardless of their intentions.

I need to stop giving away my power. It’s the only thing I can truly control when I keep it as my own.

I needed that challenge. And I was able to use that to find my calm once again. And my power to become that thing I want to be.

I let things be. Kept my post up, and just gave it over to the universe. A friend of mine told me, “The universe gives you only that which you can handle.” I responded that the universe has more faith in me than I do, but there was an important point in that, and one that I do agree with, even if I struggled with in that moment.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Or, rather, person, and things seem to be progressing in a way I never though I’d see.

I had asked for help, and held unrealistic expectations of others. It was never about them, however. Those expectations were based on my own disappointment in myself and my situation. Once I let go of that disappointment, as well as the expectations of others, things have changed quickly. People have taken my call out seriously and I have found myself surrounded by more support than I had hoped for. There are still those in my corner that hold silence, which is disappointing, but I hold no grudge towards anyone. No one can possibly know how the situation truly feels, and I hope they are never in a position to fully understand – which would mean being in my situation. There are those that do understand it, because they’ve been through a similar experience already. And I have never held more compassion, empathy and understanding for them than I do now.

It’s hard to accept help. Harder than asking for it, especially after the disapproval of some people. But people find themselves in situations, sometimes, and need a leg up. This time, it’s us. Now that help has been incoming, I find myself wanting to offer things to pay them back – knowing full well that we’re not able to. It’s been difficult to say “yes” to the help offered – but I have been. I’m breaking out of old habits and routines, and finding a new way to be.

And once I’m able, I’ll find way to pay it forward again.

The universe knows my gratitude, my fear, my uncertainty and my feelings of personal failure. And I’m learning to trust it to catch me with grace as I’m falling, so that I can later catch others with that same grace and help them back up.

It feels similar to performing the “Angel Walk” at the end of the YTT training during graduation. I may have been short 10 hours from a signed certificate, but I graduated in so many other ways than I ever could have expected.

I reached out for help. And now, I’m learning to accept it with gratitude, and no expectation.


An Overwhelming Taste of Samvega

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for many years. I biked alot in my younger years, and this was felt in hips that dislocated and hamstrings that I didn’t stretch out properly, because I used biking as transportation and didn’t consider the consequences of failing to care for my body properly. When I was 15 years old I dabbled in yoga when I was home alone, and tried it more in my 20s. I would give up easily, figuring I was doing something wrong because I couldn’t make myself bend in the same way as I was being shown.  I didn’t think I had the skill. I got frustrated. It took a few years after breaking my knee in my late 20s to pick it up regularly again, and it was the only thing I could do that provided nominal pain relief.

And then things started to change. I read an article one day about what yoga actually was, and what it wasn’t. What I had been doing wasn’t yoga – it was simply stretching. “Doing” yoga was exactly what I was doing wrong. It sounds like a play on words, but there’s the mental aspect as well. When I was “doing” yoga, I didn’t fully understand what it was.

The more I read, the deeper down the rabbit hole I fell, and it’s something I’ll never regret looking into. Once I learned a bit more and wanted to try incorporating yoga into my life as a lifestyle, however, was when my practice truly began. Yoga has extended beyond a yoga mat. It’s hard to know where to start when there is SO much to learn, though, and I was becoming overwhelmed with so much information.

And this is how I found myself longing to take yoga teacher training. I pined over a class in beautiful Bali for a year. I realized, though, that if I wait for the opportunity to go to Bali I may wait longer than I really wanted. I was ready now, but the opportunity to travel to Bali for a month was just not available. I came across a more local yoga studio offering YTT training, so one day I signed up for the course at Prana Yoga Studio in Edmonton despite never even stepping foot in the building. I didn’t ask the husband, nor did I ask forgiveness when I told him that I had just spent a lot more money than we realistically had at the time. This is something I was ready for, and I found a way to make it happen. I didn’t allow excuses. My intuition screamed at me – but it didn’t need to. I wanted to make this happen, and I found every reason to go for it instead of any reason to hold back from it.

WOYOne of the required reading materials prior to starting was “The Wisdom of Yoga” by Stephen Cope. I was keen to start reading it, but had no idea that it would take me into those raw parts of myself I had so recently exposed during my summer. Those parts of me I was new to and wasn’t quite sure what to do with yet. Those sensitive, raw, vulnerable parts that had never been nourished and were soaking up everything they could.

The author described samvega as what yogis refer to as an awakening and involves “at least three clusters of feelings at once“:

the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle. (p 13)

The first part of the above quote is something I’ve always related with. I fought my teachers in grade school with similar thinking. I fought so hard to be different, to be free, to go against the grain that all I ended up doing was confusing myself and chaining myself into a different cage as my peers. I was so adamant not to become a “sheeple” that all that resulted in was me just wearing a pink suit amongst the flock. I still walked the walk, talked the talk, worked day jobs I hated while bleating a pitiful cry of independence I didn’t really have. I was fighting so hard against not only society – but myself, as well. I wanted things that I thought would make me feel better, and when that failed I tried for something else to fill that gap. I wanted so badly to be different that I wouldn’t even consider embarking on a path that seemed mainstream in fear of becoming a slave to government and corporate slavery.

Something I didn’t stop to consider at the time were the shackles I implemented on myself for putting so many limitations on myself.

What I used to fill those gaps was not what I needed, but I wasn’t ready to face the reality that there was nothing else I needed at all except to just be honest with myself. That’s not an easy task though, so I avoided it by preoccupying my mind with preconceived notions of happiness and tried to do what seemed to be working for everyone else. I tried different jobs, different hobbies, different things that seemed to work for everyone else. It wasn’t working, though, and I just didn’t feel satisfied. (What I didn’t realize at the time was that this doesn’t work for anyone else, either.)

Samvega includes coming to a solid realization that all items are fundamentally void of nourishing one’s life. Those things I thought would fulfill my desires left me wanting more, and it didn’t really give me the happiness I hoped for. No matter what I did, where I went, what I bought – I wasn’t happy with what I had because it wasn’t enough. Rather, it wasn’t the right thing to fit that hole I was trying to fill.

And then – samvega becomes an overwhelming need and desire to break out of that cycle. This is described in yogic texts as a ” ‘wholehearted’ (or ‘vehement’) determination to find a way out of suffering.” This is what I felt during the summer. I was done with old cycles, old thinking, old habits and old ways of being that served no purpose. I was done. Just done, and it showed. Habits have changed significantly, health has improved remarkably, and I no longer have any excuses to hold myself back from myself. It required a lot of honest reflection, which was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I stopped resolving to make changes and finally made the actual effort.

When I read this part of the book I had to stop and put it down. It filled me with overwhelming, inexplainable emotion and I found myself sobbing on the couch. Which drove me even crazier because I had no idea why. My husband, best friend and perfect distraction was alarmed to walk in the room and see the almost-ugly-cry face. He’s been through a lot of things with me, and he knows just what to do when I’m not able to explain what I’m feeling in that moment. Snuggles, smooches and love. And he’s happy to provide, like he did in that moment that made me feel exactly what I needed to feel: loved.

This section about samvega came up on Day 2 of YTT training, and as soon as the instructor opened discussion about it I couldn’t help but start blubbering like I did when I first read it. I STILL didn’t really understand why I was experiencing all of this unknown, raw emotion. I shared with the class, because I was literally melting down and had NO idea what was possibly going on in my head, and I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted to.

The crying I would have preferred to stop, so I could focus more on the emotion. I was ok feeling the emotion so I could try to figure out what it was.

This book had summarized exactly what I experienced so clearly, so why did it make me so upset?

I found it – that EUREKA moment of realization – a few days later. Discussing this with a dear friend, something just clicked into place. It had been meant to be a brief discussion that ended up being more of a novel in my excitement to try to describe how I felt.

(Sorry, D…. (but not really sorry. Thank you for your patience and love in my moments of typed babbles!!))

It all came down to something I had never truly experienced.

I felt validated. Everything I went through last summer was a release. It was freeing. I should be happy! And I was, and still am, but there was also this other feeling I couldn’t put my finger on because I was having a hard time focusing on it. Validation was tied to it, though, and it slowly started to connect.

It’s terror. Sheer, penetrating, debilitating terror. I have known a certain way of being my entire life. I am a product of Western culture, after all. The expectations, the excuses, the “way things are” – these are the things that most people aspire to be because “it is how it is”. This theory has never felt real to me, but I didn’t know what else there was so I hesitantly travelled that same road with everyone else, unhappily onward in a direction that I didn’t feel right going towards.

Suddenly I found myself in a completely different world, with a completely different view, different breaths, different perspectives. It’s all so new, and me and my raw new sense of self and raw vulnerabilities are suddenly faced with great and terrible things:

The unknown. The new. The change.

Validation is not something I would ever have admitted to wanting, but the ego wants what it wants. This isn’t something I’ve ever truly felt I’ve fully received. There was always a string attached to validating moments, whether that attached emotion or stipulation came from myself or another – an expectation, a disappointment, a better way or even outright disapproval for decisions I’ve made. This definition of samvega gave me a sense of validation I never felt I had, and it’s a new feeling. And this new feeling was overwhelming. I’ve never known the calm and stability it could offer. I’ve always been so used to turmoil, so that peace and calm of this new sense of knowing felt more like someone screaming inside my head and wanting out – this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, according to my normally turmoil-filled brainspace. The silence was peaceful, reassuring, soothing – and terrifying. Because it’s new, it’s change, and one of the most terrifying things in the world is change.

I never knew that feeling truly validated would cause such intense emotion, and it definitely took me by surprise. There was a huge emotional upheaval between the freedom and exhilaration of experiencing samvega combined with the panic and shock of what to do next.

When a bird has been raised in a cage all it’s life, all it wants is to fly. When given that opportunity, though, it may be faced with the realization that it has never flown and doesn’t know if it can do it or not, so will decide to stay in that cage where it knows it’s safe.

But, just maybe, that’s what it was born to do and it will find a way to fly regardless of what it has done (or hasn’t done) in the past.

I’ve stepped back into that cage enough times in my life, and this time is different. This time I took that step and allowed myself to free fall. It has sucked the air out of my lungs and the stars out of my eyes, but I’m ready for this. I’ll either fly, or I’ll fall. And if I fall? I’ll get back up again, and keep practising. Fear is just another emotion that doesn’t get to control this flight path – but it’s welcome to join me for a short while as I learn how to live again.

It’s an amazing feeling, and now that I know why I felt so overwhelmed, I’m ready to spread those wings and do those things I know I’m meant to do.

(If this isn’t a Matrix kind of moment, I don’t know what else is.)

I’m perfectly vulnerable in this moment, and I never thought it would feel this amazing.

Always in kindness,