Anxiety is a bitch. It’s not chic or trendy or something that someone just magically has. I should know. I have anxiety associated with PTSD and Trauma. It has shaped who I am and how my life has changed because of it. It all started in 1982 when I had a trauma event from the military. Back then (and probably still today), you didn’t talk about it. You weren’t allowed unless you wanted kicked out. Yup! You never talk about trauma, anxiety, depression in the military. If you do, your chances of getting a General Discharge or an Other Than Honorable Discharge. Throughout my time in the military (active, guard, and reserve), I didn’t talk about it. When more and more symptoms came about when I was married to my ex-husband, I never talked about it. Never shared it with friends, any company I worked for, my students…no one! It was taboo. At 60 years old, I’m not silent any longer.
How it started
In May of 1982 I was sexually assaulted by 6 men. When it happened I told my parents. My father was former military. They advised me not to say a word. I told one of my instructors. He too told me if I said anything to anyone, I would probably get an Article 151. So, I never said a word to anyone. Because I never said a word, I blacked it out. Totally became numb and slept with so many men.
Then came my marriage. I got married in 1988 to my ex-husband, had a baby, and got out of active duty. I thought in my head this would fix everything. I would have the perfect life and everything would be ok. Right around the time the ex retired, the abuse started. More trauma. By the time 1997 came around I was mentally broken. I left my ex-husband with my daughter. I ran and never looked back. Still, I didn’t talk about my trauma. At all.
This is when the physical issues started happening. I was working three jobs: I was active Guardsman, part time at Michaels, and another part time job, plus being a mom. It started with migraines, then joint pain. It became harder and harder for me to get to work on time. My anxiety was through the roof. I could hardly function. But wait! It gets even better! When my anxiety was high (which was a lot), I would get the “anxiety poops.” I’m not talking about just having to go, we’re talking about racing and hoping you make anxiety poops. I had to start carrying extra clothes. To compensate, I started drinking…a lot. It was the only way I felt like I could be “normal.”
I met a guy who changed my whole life. While working for the Air National Guard, I became friends with a guy I worked with. I was not even looking for anyone because I was so broken (and not telling anyone). In January 2000, this amazing man told me he loved me. My response, “oh, don’t love me. I have way too much baggage.” I fought my feelings for him. I didn’t want to love this great man. I couldn’t fight these feelings. My daughter loved him. I had long talks with my aunts on what love really feels like. It’s scary and frightening and yes it took my anxiety to another level. Eventually we got engaged and married.
This is where the mental journey begins…
After my lovely husband and I got married, I decided to go to college. I got my bachelors and my masters (it’s good to note that I sent a copy of my degrees to my ex because he said, “I was too stupid for college.”). I was still having the physical and mental issues and not saying a word to anyone. It started getting worse. I was doing my PhD program and had to do a residency. I got even sicker. By the time I arrived in Minneapolis, I was deathly ill; so bad the hotel staff was taking care of me. I crawled to my classes till my instructor told me to go back to the hotel because I was gray. After surviving the week, I headed home. Sick. Really sick. I could feel my life ending. I was slowly dying. When I got off the plane, my husband wanted to take me to the ER. I refused. My family doctor said it was, “just a virus.” The next day my mother found me on the floor in my home. I flatlined in the ER. I got diagnosed with even more fun stuff. Legionnaires Disease. No wonder I felt like I was dying. I WAS! Even though I survived Legionnaires, I felt like I was dying. I was married to the greatest guy ever, and the best daughter ever, but yet, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I wanted to end it. I thought about suicide. Knew exactly how to do it too…pills and booze. I laid in bed just thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me thinking this way? There has to be someone that knows what’s wrong with me.” I knew then and there I need to get my shit together…mentally and physically.
Dr G & Tom
I did some research and found a doctor who could possibly help me. Andre Garabedian saved my life. He said to me (after going from doctor to doctor to figure out what was wrong with me) “if you listen to me, I can help you get better.” He diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue along with a few other fun things. So, I did; I listened. Took so many supplements, got IV treatments, and started doing yoga. All of it started working! I was starting to feel better. I added acupuncture too. I was feeling amazing! But I still didn’t fix my brain. Then I met Tom Fink, PhD. Tom was my psychologist. I told him things. I shared about my abusive marriage, the traumas of the military (excluding the assault…I wasn’t ready). We started doing neurofeedback2 which really helped so much! I finally realized I was healing from the inside out. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could breathe. Slowly I’m healing. I was with Tom for over 10 years with my healing journey. Between him, Dr G, my husband, my daughter, Tom, and the acupuncturist I felt like I was getting better and better.
My husband was starting to talk to me about reporting my assault to the VA. I wasn’t even ready to talk about it. I couldn’t. It wasn’t until I took a class on Military Sexual Trauma for my yoga teacher continuing education credits. Very good class but it triggered me; I was starting to remember what happened. It was haunting me in my dreams at night and during the day. So after three years of my husband saying I should tell someone, I decided to do it. I started the paperwork with the VA. It was scary. I figured they wouldn’t believe me. I started talking to Tom about it for the very first time. Just saying it out loud to someone was fearful. He asked me why I never shared it. I explained it was a trauma response not to say a word. I told him everything. I cried. I got angry. I was reliving it over again. However, Tom (and if you knew him, you would love this old hippie as much as I do) created such an incredibly safe space for me where I felt ok to share. We talked about it all. I’m finally heard and seen.
The VA Saga
With the VA, anything that is anxiety, PTSD, or trauma you get a psych eval. For anyone who hasn’t had one, let me just say it is extremely frightening and triggering. I got lucky though; I had a forensic psychologist who even before I got there, pieced it all together…my whole life. From the assault to the not caring about who I slept with to the horrible choices in men I made, and more. He was really good. Again, I was heard and seen.
Still a Work in Progress
Today I’m better than ever. At 60, I feel like I’m in my 20’s. I have a job I love and my great husband. I still see Dr G every six months. Tom and the acupuncturists have since retired but I still keep in touch with them.
However, there’s one thing I still have, the morning anxiety poops. I really needed to get this fixed. I’ve had to change my entire life over this darn issue. I do meditation, tapping, and more to help it to no avail. My career is really taking off so I have to get this under control. I reached out to try hypnotherapy. It’s helping. Normally in hypnotherapy, you go for three visits. So far, I’ve done two. It’s actually the best it’s ever been! I can do things! I can take my dog for a walk in the morning or run the to the store or even work! All things impossible before.
So why do I tell you this? It’s simple, don’t be like me. If something happens, tell someone. If they don’t listen, tell someone else until you’re heard. As you can see, all this trauma that I never talked about manifested in my body to make me sick. When they say, “the issues are in the tissues” that’s no BS. It’s true. It’ll find a way to make its lovely appearance somehow sometime somewhere. Your mental health is incredibly important; it’s as important as your overall physical health too. Yoga has taught me in order to have the “mind/body union” you have to fix the brain and the body…not just the body. You can fix and workout your body all you want, but if you don’t fix your mental health, it’s all for nothing. You can be all the people pleasing you want, but if you don’t address the issues in front of you, all that people pleasing is for naught. You can be the best marathon runner out there, but if you don’t work on your brain, all that running won’t mean a thing. Listen to me. Listen to Cindy. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Yes, I’ve said it twice. Do get the hint??
Article 15 Fact Sheet: https://www.in.ng.mil/Portals/33/Resources/Troop_Resources/Office%20of%20the%20Staff%20Judge%20Advocate/PDFs/Article_15_Fact_Sheet.pdf?ver=2019-03-15-153028-603 on 4 April 2022.
What is Neurofeedback? Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/what-is-neurofeedback-therapy/#scrollto_what_is_neurofeedback_therapy_section on 4 April 2022.
Garabedian Clinic – https://iwc-philly.com
Cindy Beers, MS 500ERYT is a yoga teacher in Mechanicsburg, PA where she lives with her husband Bob and their dog Molly.