My Summer of Heatwaves, Anxiety and Transformation

I'm a little afraid to put this out there, to reveal myself to the world, to be this vulnerable, but all signs point to how I must share my gifts with the world. I have wanted to be a writer since before I can remember. I wrote my first book, as soon as I learned how to write. It may not be perfect, but it is my gift nonetheless, and I have been called upon to stop resisting it, to stop denying it. To transform my struggles into gifts. So I present the following from my raw heart.

What a summer it had been. It feels like it has been one of the hottest Summers I can remember. But maybe that is because of all the mental and physical illness I’ve struggled with this summer. I wish I could say that my anxiety and pretty much mental breakdown hit me out of nowhere. But If I am honest with myself, all of this has been brewing for a long time, probably years. Anytime I have felt moments of anxiety in the past, I manage to find a way to deal with it momentarily and then pretty much push it down somewhere so that it doesn’t bother me on a daily basis. At the beginning of this year, it started coming on stronger and longer, but I just kicked my management techniques into high gear until it leveled out. I went to therapy, I started meditating more, journaling, etc. But again, as soon as it subsides, as soon as it seems I have a handle on things, I let all those techniques go, I stop going to therapy, I don’t’ meditate as much, etc. And then came the end of June, and for the first time in my life, my anxiety was so bad, I could no longer keep it a secret. I had told Tommy before, but I don’t think he ever understood to what extent it was. My mom the same. And then one Friday I woke up and I could no longer bare it. I became immobile. I did not want to do anything, go anywhere, or talk to anyone. And simultaneously I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. My heart was racing constantly, there was a pressure on my chest, and tears welled up in my eyes, my throat closed. Tommy, and my mom saw for the first time, the outward manifestation of the suffering I had been able to hide for years. I even told my brother, which for some reason was the hardest. I guess, I always wanted him to think I was this strong person just like him. To show him my vulnerability and the extent of that felt very emotional. I was glad to talk to him and hear his words of support, kindness and love. I also told my best friends how deep I was hit with this anxiety episode. It felt like I was sharing a secret that I had worked so hard to keep hidden, like I was “coming out” as someone with a mental illness and as hard as it was it was also very liberating. I no longer was alone in this struggle, I did not have to be ashamed of how I felt.

However, I still thought this was a momentary episode, I would take some days to rest, and soon I would feel better. I went back to therapy and I did start to feel better, and so again, I just went back to my normal ways, just coping, just trying to survive, pushing down the thoughts of anxiety at any sign they would return. And then the week of my birthday came, and my body, mind and spirit no longer had the stamina to pretend anymore. This was not a momentary episode, this was a full on mental breakdown. I had several sleepless nights, so I thought all I needed was a weekend away to feel better. But alas still no sleep, and feeling worse than ever. I returned to home to more sleepless nights, until days later I completely broke down. I cried and cried, and was so frustrated. I cried the whole morning getting ready for work, I cried all the way to work, not knowing how I was going to compose myself enough to teach class. I told my students what I was experiencing, but I managed to lead a good discussion and I got through the day. Yet, I was still at my wits end so I contacted a psychiatrist to discuss going on medication. That was an interesting meeting, with talk of side effects, and the commitment it required to be on medication. It scared me as I have never been on medication before, and have never been one to want to put things into my body that I don’t trust completely. I cried again, because it didn’t feel like medication was the answer I was looking for. And then in that moment, I realized there would be no quick fix to the problem. That whether I decided to take medication or not, it would require a commitment, it would require consistent work. It would require patience to find the right combination of modalities to find a way to manage my anxiety and move toward a place of stability in order to thrive. I thought I could just go to therapy once or twice a year, and that would be enough to address my struggles. But alas I realized if I wanted to truly live a happier life, one where the ratio of happy to sad times was more positive than at present, I had to make big changes to my life. Basically I had to make myself a priority, make my self-care a priority, commit to me own well-being. For so long, I put other happiness before my own, as a means to make me happier, but that way does not serve me. I need to work from the inside out not the other way around.

I also realized that the timing of all this is not coincidental. There is space in my life to think about all of this because I am no longer writing a dissertation that consumed my life for the last 8 years. Which by the way left me with feelings of PTSD, because grad school is traumatic for sure. The other thing that allowed more space for this mental breakdown is my beginning to process my ancestral trauma. In my last blog post I talked about motherhood, and processing generations of trauma that was passed on to me both by nature and nurture. The generational trauma in my DNA was triggered long ago, and the emotional scars of my childhood shaped my present ways of being. After that blog post, I was interviewed on the Somos Pades podcast, where I dove deeper into that generational trauma, and then we had a follow up Instragram live, and it felt like those moments opened up the flood gates. I had named the trauma, and now it needed to be released.

 On top of all of this, the thing I’m most afraid to say out loud for fear of judgement, is: my ancestors have also been coming through to me much clearer since the beginning of this year. I had a spiritual transformation after a medium sent a message from my great grandmother. My great grandmother Rosa, was a deeply spiritual person, both a devout Catholic but also understood the nuances of spirituality to also read tarot cards. According to my grandmother, she would read for friends in her home. She had a deep connection to the world beyond ours, she might have even been called a witch at some historical time, which I think was her fear. Since I was a little girl, I have also had a deep connection with the world beyond ours, my dead relatives always visiting me in my dreams. My dreams are the place of psychic visions, of spirit messages, of spiritual connection. For a long time I was scared of those dreams, scared of the messages, because they were unclear, and I had little faith in what was really going on. But this spiritual transformation I am in has been trying to make clear that my dreams are nothing to fear, that my life long hunch that I could communicate with the spirit realm is real. My great grandmother has come through to me in more ways than one and everything leads back to her. All directions point to my spiritual gifts. And yet, when we open ourselves up to spirit, our human form requires adjustment, reconfiguration, and recalibration. Thus the mental breakdown. On a spiritual level, I have had to practice surrendering control, surrender trying to figure out the future, stop resisting the sometimes pain it requires to truly transform. Stop resisting my destiny. I am a deeply spiritual person, a deeply emotional person, a deeply empathic person. These can be difficult to navigate on a daily basis, when mundane responsibilities require me to silence those parts of me. But they cannot be silenced anymore.

On a practical level, the feeling of anxiety will not go away over nigh, this journey is not a short one. In fact, my body mind and spirit, are no longer accepting temporary band aids on the situation. They are requiring fundamental change. They require me to release old negative though patterns, in lieu of mind, body and spiritual consciousness. I will need to be more consistent with therapy, making it a priority in terms of time and money. I need to prioritize self-care, meaning really taking time to slow down, give myself a break, and give myself some compassion and love. I have integrated holistic modalities as part of this commitment, including acupuncture, exercise, yoga, sound bath, reiki, breathwork, CBD oil, and a tiny bit of weed. For now, I will spend my money on these rather than medication, but I don’t dismiss that route altogether. I have deep compassion for those who chose that route.

I would be remiss not to mention that included in this revelation is of course putting this struggle in context with societal institutional oppression. Aside, from the mundane pressures of life, I cannot deny the ways in which cis-hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism have impacted my mental health. When women, femmes and other gender non-conforming people walk into the world, the threat of sexual violence is always lurking and we know it, which of course is a daily hit to my mental health whether I am conscious of it or not. When I have to make hard choices on whether or not I will be able to afford to practice these self-care modalities consistently it is yet another hit to my mental health. The fact that we have to pay just to be/get stay healthy is unfathomable and yet a central reality. I recognize I hold some privilege when it comes to white supremacy, yet the oppression of my Mexican culture is felt deep in my bones. Many of my ancestors did not hold the light skin privilege I do, and thus have passed on the trauma of racism through my DNA. And I could go on and on describing the ways in which institutional oppression impacts my daily life and mental health. While also, a deep feeling of responsibility to harness the privileges I have been gifted, as a means to dismantle the institutions of oppression also sit heavy on my mind, body and spirit. In other words, I sometimes feel the weight of the world, the sadness that plagues our earth because I so deeply want to contribute to changing the world. I address these knowing the best thing I can do is hold space for those who are most vulnerable to this systematic oppression, do my part in dismantling these systems, be self-reflective of the nuances of privilege, and speak my truth without apology.

I don’t want to just survive this world, even though some days that is the best I can do. I want to thrive in this world, I want to feel comfortable in happiness, in joy. I want to embrace the abundance of love that is available to me. In a world where cis-hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism bank on our unhappiness, bank on mental illness, bank on our inability to access the resources we need to thrive, bank on oppression, one of the truest decolonial and resistant acts we can do is to choose to be happy while working to dismantle these systems of oppression. That is my goal, but it requires work, commitment and a lot of self-love. This is my vow, to myself, to my family and friends, to the world.

Renee Lemus1 Comment