Today I overcame my fear of suffocating heat. I went to hot yoga. It was 105 degrees and I had to be talked into it, by three people. Before I left my house, I almost bailed. I was having real anxiety about not being able to breathe in a hot, crowded room.
One of my first real anxiety attacks occurred in a small, hot space. I was on a mini-bus in Madrid. Poor planning left the interior of the bus heated to over 100 degrees when we boarded. Silly girl that I was, I sat in the last row, where the air strained to reach me. It was my first real taste of claustrophobia. I thought I was going to pass out. I almost asked the bus driver to pull over so that I could get off. I survived by closing my eyes and breathing.
Anxiety is a funny thing. I remember going to the doctor in my late teens and describing some of my phantom symptoms: random dizziness, upset stomach, shortness of breath. The doctor asked if I had anxiety. I said no. I really did not think that I did. By the time I reached 25, I figured it out. I had anxiety, he was right all along, I just could not believe that something in my head could have so much control over my body. I refused to medicate. I was determined to overcome it by myself.
Flash forward a few years and most of the time I do overcome it. I read a lot of books and realized that I need to face my fears. This may seem simple, but real anxiety can be debilitating. There were days that it was easier to hide from everything, to avoid life. I had a week-long anxiety attack when I quit my job and started my teaching program, but I just kept trucking. If I ever get a tattoo, it will say “Be brave.”
So, yesterday, when I felt anxiety’s nasty little symptoms creeping in, I knew what I was dealing with. That’s half the battle, knowing your enemy. The other half is facing it. No matter how much my stomach hurt or I could not sleep thinking about it, I had to go to hot yoga. And, yes, there were moments when I felt like I was going to pass out, when I sat on the floor and closed my eyes and breathed while everyone else kept moving. But, I also caught myself smiling as I fought through it. Anxiety wins if it stops me from doing something new, I win when I do it anyway. Today, I’m happy to report I kicked anxiety’s ass.
I survived hot yoga, drenched in sweat, but smiling.