I am coming through an intensely anxious period. In 2014, I had multiple surgeries culminating in a partial hysterectomy. I got to keep my ovary, but my uterus hadn’t been a team player for quite awhile. It had to go. The result was extreme hormonal confusion that sent me back to dark teen-ages. I was catapulted back into ADD and relived all my traumatic triggers, sometimes daily. During that time, an individual who had harmed me found me on Facebook and tried to reconnect. Um, no. I blocked that fool.

I got myself mostly under control through supportive friendship and medication. It was a long haul. Nearly two years later I am just coming off that medication and regaining some energy. My ability to focus is returning. Along with it has come clarity that while I was in deep recovery, I had reestablished multiple trauma-based patterns that have blocked both my creativity, joy and sexuality. Survivors, you know what I’m talking about, right?

When I came out of the darkness, it felt like a birth experience. At the same time, there was a profound shift, I lost my footing, regained it on completely different ground and, lo and behold, there was my creativity and joy. (I’m working on the sexuality with this course. It has been an excellent experience.)

Now I’m working on finding a way to straddle two planes without sacrificing creativity and joy or stepping backward with the other parts of my psychospiritual self. I tried to force my balance, but I overshot and ricocheted. So I’m committing only to what I can be sure is healthy until I figure the rest out. I can’t tell you how hard it is to exist in the between. All I know is I can’t go backward. 

My fear is staying lost, living in the Upside Down. It’s relying on patterns that hold me (and others) back. It’s silencing my intuition or boxing up my heart or ignoring my inner wisdom. Why? Because it has taken me years to separate those from my anxiety. Years to establish my self-compassion, self-love, self-confidence because my life was a study in how to remove that from a person. Post-trauma, I had to sort every piece of baggage and its contents to figure out what I was holding that was mine versus what was handed to me. I learned that, under all the baggage of childhood abuse and religious coercion, I was pale, shriveled and nude. Completely unprotected and undeveloped. But I did some heavy lifting and found myself. I was my personal best just before those surgeries. And now that I am back to being me–back to being anxious sometimes instead of constantly riddled–my anxiety and intuition are separate again. 

You know when you eat cookies until you throw up and then you can never eat that cookie again? It’s kind of like that. I was binging on anxiety and it has poured out and now just a whiff of it turns me away. 

That’s kind of a poor example but it’s also not. It’s not anyone’s fault my hormones went bananas. A hormone-regulating organ was removed from my body. But my ovary (way to go, Righty!) figured things out. I thought I was on the path all the time, but now I see I’ve been wandering along a narrows in the brambles and my skin was not protected from the thorns. 

The funny thing is, I thought I was protected. But anxiety is a great deceiver. I saw my way to the other side of the bramble where the sun shines, the path is wider and the berries are ripe. It’s time to take the next steps in the light, and pick what nourishes. I’m happy for the opportunity. I’m also happy I slowed down enough to not charge past it. 

This post was inspired by Day 14 of the 30 Day #LinkYourLife Challenge. If you are trying to let go of fear by unboxing your heart, please check out Alexis Donkin’s amazing e-resource, The Heart Unboxed

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

7 Discussion to this post

  1. Oh my gosh – I love you! Thanks for sharing your journey with us – and I think my grin hit my ears when I read your bottom tag…WOW! 😀

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  2. Charli Mills says:

    So many insights, Shawna. It’s too bad we have to be our own test subjects, but the upshot is that I can learn from you. You’ve articulated important ideas I’ve been trying to figure out. I used to believe my healing was linear and how shocked I was when two decades later I began having issues. I felt kidnapped by my past and hormones. So many of the points you make ring true and give me hope of getting out of the brambles. And that is a spot-on analogy — binging on anxiety.

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    • Shawna Ayoub Ainslie says:

      Charli, I appreciate you validating the analogy. I was full of anxiety writing this, but it had to come out so I can have room for better things. This may be a watershed moment for me. I’ve never quite been back through the forges this way.

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  3. Jennifer says:

    You survive. You heal. You recover. You push forward. Most of all, you inspire.

    Thank you Shawna!

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