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Tonight, I'm Sleeping with Jason

The day my paddle board flew off the roof of my car as I accelerated onto the Northway was the day, I realized my anxiety had changed. My response or lack of response shocked me. I calmly pulled over, waited for the nice couple from NJ that caught it in the grill of their truck to also pull over and walked to their truck to apologize. While waiting for the State Trooper to arrive, I remember wondering why my body wasn't freaking out with that familiar rush of adrenaline that happens when you're in an accident or getting pulled over. When I retold the story to Angie, my counselor, she asked me why I thought I reacted so calmly without any panic, worry or fear. My response...meditation.

Meditation is a tool Angie suggested in one of my first sessions with her to help with the panic symptoms that brought me to her office. She suggested a few different apps or YouTube to find guided meditations or visualizations. It took 4 years, a pandemic, and a break-up to really take that advice but I am so glad that I finally did!

It was YouTube where I found the awesome Australian voice of Jason Stephenson. In the beginning I would listen sporadically to his videos for anxiety but never stayed committed to any real practice. It was only something I did on nights I really couldn't sleep. Wine and Benadryl usually helped with the others.

Then, in April of 2020, I started listening to him every single night. I listened to the same 1-hr video for 21-days. 21-days is all it takes to form a habit, right? I stayed committed to listening to this video and journaling every night, habits easy to form when you have yourself locked in your kid’s bedroom as your wife and step kids move out around you.

After those 21-days, I continued by finding other videos of his. I found 3-hr videos for confidence and self- esteem and eventually created playlists to listen to all night long. Then one day while scrolling, I saw a post about a virtual 21-Day meditation challenge being offered by a local yoga guru, Kayla Craft. I swallowed my fear of lesbians and signed up for the challenge. I was then sent a different meditation every day that ranged in length from 5-10 minutes. It was during these 21 days that I truly learned how to meditate. I learned how to breath to control my nervous system, I learned gratitude, I learned that it was okay and important to take 10 minutes out of my day every single day to sit with myself. To witness my thoughts. To feel and experience my emotions as they were happening. These 21 days are the reason I did not freak out when that nice couple from New Jersey caught my paddle board. Why I was able to calmly (confidently?) walk over to them and apologize for being the dumb ass that let the straps rot in the sun. Why my body didn't react and maybe more importantly, why my mind didn't react. There were no racing thoughts, no panic, and no negative self-talk, not during the incident or the hours and days later. There is no doubt in my mind that meditation changed my response to that moment.

After the paddle board incident, I started to notice other symptoms disappearing, symptoms I had previously denied being anxiety. Symptoms like my legs bouncing under my desk all day at work, nail biting or more specifically, cuticle ripping, and restless leg syndrome. I also noticed the symptoms I knew to be anxiety getting better. The symptoms I was taking medications for, the symptoms I was seeing a counselor for. The obsessive and intrusive thoughts, the mood swings, the crying, the sadness, it all got better. I started to realize how calm I was becoming, how content I was with myself, my life, and the direction I was going. I never realized how bad my anxiety was until I was no longer experiencing it.

By September, I had weaned off my anti-depressants and hadn't touched my Xanax for months. I remember telling Angie how guilty I felt, with the virus still hanging around and the rest of the world seemingly losing their shit, I was finding a happiness I had never felt before. A confidence I hadn't felt since my volleyball playing days. While it felt like everyone around me was struggling, I began thriving.