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anxiety

Meet Kourtney: On Fear, Stress + Moving Forward

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Meet Kourtney: On Fear, Stress + Moving Forward

By Kourtney Meldrum

@kasualkourt

Stress is normal; an unavoidable part of life- a lot of times it can even be healthy. All this being said, stress can also be unwarranted, it can be dangerous, it can consume our lives, and in many ways, it can harm us.


In September of 2018, my health started to turn. It still unclear to this day what happened, but suddenly I was exhausted beyond belief, I had no appetite, and the migraines I had been plagued with my whole life had been joined by a constant dull head pain that clung to my skull and refused to leave.


My usually packed schedule and active lifestyle was no longer an option. There were days I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few hours and would have to nap before continuing with my day.

I didn’t feel like myself.


Previously, my life had revolved around adding more things to my plate, always challenging myself, and continually searching for a new goal to conquer. Suddenly, everything I was working on and working towards was put to a halting stop. I physically couldn’t keep up. I was mentally exhausted. I was stressed.


I was stressed because I couldn’t keep up. I was stressed because I was in pain. I was stressed because I was too exhausted to fight through it. I was stressed because I was falling behind. I was stressed because I knew I could never keep up. I was stressed because I felt like a failure.


This was not me. To say no to opportunities, to miss deadlines, to forget to reply to emails, to stop chasing dreams, skip classes, nap instead of going to the gym, to give up.

I felt like, if I wasn’t the person who could do it all and take everything on, then who was I?

I was having an identity crisis with no energy to find my way back, and I was stressing TF out.

The word failure consumed my life. It flashed across my brain like a news headline, and I couldn’t escape it. It defined me, and I wrestled with it. Over and over again I would tell myself that I wasn’t a failure, but deep down I felt like one, and it was a pain I couldn’t let go of.


Since September I had taken on big projects, had stressful school classes, experienced the death of a friend, and felt isolated in a city that months before had felt like home. Stress and anxiety had become uncomfortably comfortable and built themselves a little house to stay. The stressors in my life had been given so much energy that they had grown into nasty beasts that reared their heads in the forms of panic attacks that hit me harder than I’ve ever experienced in my life- on the streetcar, in Ubers, on the sidewalk, in my bed, in coffee shops, in school hallways- I’d hyperventilate and try to count my breaths. Sometimes I’d catch myself being so lost in my streams of thoughts that I would forget to breathe.


When I went to my doctor back home in December, I had been dealing with this pain for over three months there were still no clear answers. One of the suggested reasons for my new head pain was tension headaches. These tension headaches, my doctor recommended, had been brought on by stress.


This hurt. The realization that I had made myself so stressed, that I had become so incredibly sick broke my own heart.


Beyond feeling like a failure for the past four months, I felt I had truly failed myself. I had done this to myself in many ways.


While this does not solve the entire puzzle of me feeling unwell, my constant stress and anxiety put a considerable amount of pressure on my physical health.


Following this conversation with my doctor, I went on a month long vacation with my family to Hawaii. I took the time to recharge. I knew it was vital for my health and wellbeing. I left Calgary on December 17th as the most broken down, worn out, anxiety-filled, stressed out, and exhausted version of myself I have ever been. I took the month to disconnect from my life in Toronto, to spend real and meaningful time with my family, to be outside, to reevaluate my priorities, and in many ways decide what I want from life.


For a majority of people taking a month-long vacation is not an option but I'm grateful that I could. I still came back home with stress, the same problems, and new hurdles, but at least I had had some distance and a fresh perspective.


My priority is my health right now. Both finding answers for my physical health and making sure I’m taking care of my mental health. Everything else comes second to that.


The past sixth months have felt like the worst in many ways, but have also taught me incredibly significant lessons.


My idea of failure and success is distorted. Living my life in a state of being constantly busy is not healthy or sustainable. Sometimes I go for things to prove I can; not because I want them.

Both my pain and my stress are real, and it is okay to feel them.


All of my ‘failures’ built my greatest successes. Being able to recognize my pain and put my health first is the biggest win, even though it meant saying no and letting things go - ‘failing’ in many ways. But I have come to recognize that this isn’t failing: This is learning to win in the ways that matter.


Stress is unavoidable in life. Stress can also kill you. I allowed so much stress and anxiety to fill my life that I made myself incredibly sick.


I will leave you with this.


We live in a culture where being consistently on the go is idealized and where stress, never-stopping, never-sleeping, and working yourself to the limit, is put on a pedestal. It is not a healthy way of life. It is toxic, and it physically and mentally tears you down.


You know your  limits, listen to them.

You know who your support system is, so lean on them.

You know when you don’t feel your best, pick up on those clues and patterns.

Where do you find the light, the love, and the joy in your life?

Follow that.

(Everything else has a way of figuring itself out)




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Yoga for Anxiety- Breath Work

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Yoga for Anxiety- Breath Work

Hi All!

It has been awhile since we posted- we have been working hard behind the scenes to make our website a little more functional.

Also- Big news- we are now on YOUTUBE! All of our videos will focus on how to move your body to help your mind (we would LOVE if you could view and hit SUBSCRIBE!)

Todays video is a simple video that focuses on a little grounding + breathwork. It also prompts the question- how are you breathing day to day? Are your breaths fast and shallow or long and deep?

Sometimes just shifting how we breathe can have a huge effect on how we feel anxiety in the body.

Do you have any tips or tricks for navigating your anxiety? We’d love to hear from you!

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 Meet Jill- The Founder of The Burpee Project

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Meet Jill- The Founder of The Burpee Project

Meet Jill. This is her Story

People are always surprised when I tell them I suffer from Panic and anxiety attacks.

The reaction I get is usually the same, “ Really? but you are always so calm and chill.”

So- what does a person with panic and anxiety disorder look like? Hard to know. I think panic is associated with frantic behaviour; so maybe people expect a nervous, jittery person or maybe expect to see a ‘freak out’ of some kind. For me, when I’m having a panic attack it’s actually quite the opposite. I may look calm and chill on the outside, but on the inside it’s nothing but that. My mind is racing and my catastrophic thoughts are consuming me. Its a mix of irrational thoughts and self-loathing for being the way I am.

I hate feeling anxious. It’s the worst possible feeling. It can be embarrassing and scary and the mind is so powerful that it is easy to sometimes feel completely overtaken in that moment. Most often it feels like I can’t breathe and I instantly think I’m going to die right here right now; sometimes my heart rate gets so high as if I’ve just finished a sprint. I have been told the reason for this is the adrenaline in me- the “Fight or Flight” feeling.

I vaguely remember my first panic attack. I was around eight years old; it was a regular day at school when I was hit hard with what I thought was a stomach ache (a feeling I never forgot- and I didn’t know this in that moment, but it was a feeling that would end up returning many more times). When that feeling came over me all I knew was that I needed my Mom and I wanted to get out, escape, go home. It wasn’t until my adult years that I associated that exact feeling with an anxiety attack. What made me feel safe, like most, was to be with my Mom and to be at home. The feelings of not wanting to go to school happened quite often. If I had it my way I would stay home every day (avoidance) but that wasn’t the case.

Throughout my elementary school years there were certain situations I hated being in; situations that gave me that stomach ache, the anxiety. I would panic if I was ever left home alone or if I was at a friends house and we were alone. Mostly the panic happened when I was separated from my Mother. I also had this terrible fear that my parents were going to die. At times I would do anything to stop my Mom from leaving the house. I would block the door, scream and yell and even throw myself at her legs and not let her go (no joke- I would be on the ground holding her legs until she would stay- sometimes even chasing her down the street hoping she would stay home and never leave me.

I couldn’t explain what I was scared of. But I always felt safest when she was nearby.

My mom did a great job dealing with the panic attacks then and she still does a great job dealing with them now. She was familiar with what was happening because she too had suffered from panic and anxiety attacks- not to say I didn’t get my way when I was little and begged her to stay home with me. There were many times I would tag along with her and my Dad, or join her on a power walk with her friends. Her friends learned to accept me being around. (Or if I wasn’t around I was calling every five minutes to see when they were coming home). Over time as my behaviour and reactions to her leaving the house got worse, she started putting her foot down. I wasn’t allowed to be her shadow anymore. I had to face my fears. I’m not saying these feelings went away completely, but as I matured I could put things in perspective. I became a bit more rational, for the most part. Eventually I learned to manage and was ok when my Mom left for a deserving night out.

I can’t remember many situations of panic and anxiety when I was in my teens. For the most part it disappeared. I could stay alone, babysit, go to summer camp. For some reason this time of my life was was not so panic-stricken. I actually became pretty independent as a teen and young adult. I could do things then that I wouldn’t dare do now. I wasn’t fearless, but definitely less inhibited than now. I even moved away from my home in Winnipeg to start a new life in Toronto. I pursued my passion for fitness, and started personal training and teaching fitness classes full time. I married the love of my life and we started a family. This is not to say I didn’t have any panic attacks during those years; they were just fewer and far between.

My panic and anxiety made it’s return with a vengeance as soon as I became a Mother. I have three amazing kids and am so blessed for my wonderful family. In 2003 came Maya, 2004 Charlie and 2006 Tyler. However- three kids under the ages of three can make anyones life hectic and stressful, which in turn can cause anxiety.

For me, it wasn’t the chaos that made me anxious. I loved being immersed in this new busy life.

I think that particularly crazy time in my life kept me distracted and focused on my kids and not on me and my feelings. The odd mild panic attack would creep in here and there, but I never really let it get in my way, until my husband left town for one week and I was staying at home alone with the kids. For most this is not such a scary event, but for me it was terrifying. My fears grew strong and my catastrophic thoughts were out of control. My fear was that I would die and leave my kids without their Mom. The recurring feelings were mostly around bedtime. I would worry that I would die in my sleep and my kids would find me in the morning!

It was a long five nights for me.

My mind and body was in such a state of fluster over those few days. I was relieved and more relaxed when my husband returned, but I developed fear and anxiety about staying alone with the kids. Panic would even set in at the most random places. I avoided taking the kids to a movie alone, or to indoor playgrounds alone. I always felt better if I had someone with me- it was kind of a safety for me.

Each panic attack seemed to be getting worse than the last.

One morning during school drop off I was in such a frenzy. My heart rate felt like it was so high. I could feel it pumping, I was panicking. I remember exactly what I was doing. Checking my pulse, checking my breathing while trying to remain inconspicuous about it. I even went up to a parent at school who is a doctor to see if she thought my heart rate was too high. So embarrassing!!

My nervous thoughts were getting worse and worse, in turn making my feelings elevated. I was scared to go home and be alone.

Instead I drove myself over to my husbands office and sat on the floor behind closed doors hiding from others trying to cope. I wanted to call an ambulance because I thought I was dying and these feelings were stronger than they had ever been and were not going away.

However I didn’t. So why not? Well deep down I knew this was a panic attack and the thought of calling 911 and explaining my symptoms was too embarrassing. Eventually my heart rate came down, I pulled my self together and went home.

I developed a long list of situations (which seemed silly) that I started to dread or avoid. I started to fear I would have an anaphylactic reaction to foods at restaurants (note: I have no allergies). I would feel better knowing if a hospital was near by, or if there would be a Doctor amongst the crowd! On top of all that I became scared to exercise! I have a career in fitness and now I am scared to exercise!!! I hated and dreaded the feeling of my heart rate getting too high, I was always worried it wouldn’t come back down.

This list of fears were exhausting and were disrupting my life.

Those fears and catastrophic thoughts would bring on such strong feelings of anxiety. So much so it became debilitating. This is when I decided to seek help. I tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It definitely gave me the tools to conquer many fears which I still use today, but my panic was still too much. With the support of my Doctor we decided meds were the way to go. This is what changed my life for the better. Aside from the fear that the pills were killing me at first and I was allergic to them (true story called the pharmacist to see if that was a possibility)they gave me a life again.

After going on medication, it felt like such a relief to be back in the world of the living.

I started to enjoy things again. I wasn’t as fearful to go on a run, or to eat at a restaurant. I wasn’t as distraught if I had to stay alone overnight with my kids. Things were just better, I was just better. I was in control again.

I spent a lot of years feeling weak and scared, and during this time I was looking for something to make me stronger; this is the feeling I got when I discovered Crossfit; a fitness program that combines a wide variety of functional movements into a timed or scored workout.

For me, there was no better feeling than proving to myself that I am strong and able. Lifting a barbell and pushing myself to do things I could never have imagined before is such great therapy for me. I feel empowered in every way; mind and body. I truly believe it has been a natural outlet for me. It has given me a focus and has helped me conquer many fears.

You should know that I still get the odd anxiety attack from time to time. There are situations that to this day I am avoiding, but hope to conquer those fears one day soon. I’m not cured, there is no cure. It’s all about learning to cope with what you have. Talking, sharing and not being embarrassed about your struggle can change someones outlook on panic and anxiety disorder.

Jill is the Founder of The Burpee Project- Their mission is to do 25 thousand burpees for Youth Mental Health! JOIN IN Nov 17th Toronto, ON- MSG through our contact form on this site for details!


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Meet Fran. This is her Story

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Meet Fran. This is her Story

In the beginning months of 2016, I can honestly say I was the worst version of myself.

I was stressed out unnecessarily at a job that didn’t fulfill me (or treat me well for that matter) and I let that flood of anxiety trickle into every facet of my life- making my thoughts and behaviours unrecognizable.

I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) in third year university, and although I handled it well for several years, the flare ups started to make it feel unmanageable.

I often sought refuge in exercise and movement.

However, Yoga-which had often been a ‘cure-all’ for the ailments in my body and mind-no longer helped soothe me; so much so that I dropped out of my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training (something I had wanted to do for SO long). On top of that, I couldn’t focus at work or at home and was constantly angst- ridden- to the point where my physical health fell apart. I was sick constantly, not sleeping, exhausted and eating sparingly or not at all. Because of what was going on in my mind, it felt like my sense of self and my life were spiralling out of control.

My anxiety eventually got so out of control that my doctor recommended I consider anti-anxiety medication.

On April 4th 2016, I held my Dad in my arms as he passed suddenly from a aortic aneurism.

In that instant, the safe, comfortable, self-indulgent 20-something life I had known had vanished forever — and in a way so did the anxiety that I had been struggling with. His passing came as such a shock to my system, that it caused a full body and mind reset. The day of his passing felt like the first day of the rest of my life.

And in the midst of that restart, I felt myself go numb.

There’s no guidebook for life, and even less of a guidebook for when someone dies. In the immediate moment you’re surrounded by so many friends and family. But- then the funeral passes and friends and family fade into the background as they resume their normal lives. The person who is grieving is left surrounded by a pile of tiny shattered fragments of their former life with no instruction as to how to rebuild it again. Although well intentioned, folks will share their thoughts as to to how to pick up the pieces, which looks a little something like:

“You should go out more”

“You definitely need to stay in more”

“Maybe therapy would help”

“I’m starting a new XYZ cleanse I think it could help you too”

“You should try and push yourself”

I think you get the idea. Sadly, not one of these stamens is a ‘cure-all’ for tragedy.

At the time of my Dad’s passing it made sense to withdraw a bit and to take stock of my life, my goals and my relationships. I knew movement had played an important part in managing my mental health in the past, but something about this circumstance was different.

Due to the sudden nature of my Dad’s passing, and having had to respond to his calls of distress, I developed severe anxiety around being away from my phone. In my mind, if I was near my phone I could react and help if someone needed me. “What if something happened to my mom?” I would think. Because of this, my regular yoga classes weren’t an option. I remember trying to go to yoga a few days after his passing to clear my mind and having severe panic attacks because of not knowing what was going on in the outside world. Classes were no longer an option for me.

However- I was still operating with an urge to move- so I began running 5k a day. Just far enough from my house that I could make it back in time (should something happen). Those runs were my time to feel free, to think, to cry and to sweat. I became so focused on making each run better than the last. It was the one thing I had control over while my life seemed to be spiralling out of control.

I was at a followup appointment with my naturopath in the spring of 2017 when she suggested I try a mix of HIIT, weight training and intensive cardio in order to better manage my stress. The thought of trying a class worried me, but I was also committed to getting myself on a healthier path.

Indoor cycling was becoming popular in Toronto and my friend encouraged me to try a class at Spokehaüs with her. I wish I could say it was love at first pedal-stroke; but it wasn’t. I was out of breath, my lungs burned, I couldn’t keep up with the class at all and I kept panicking about not being able to get to my phone.

It was a mess.

However, something sparked in me — if I was struggling to keep up with a class like this, it meant that I needed to boost my cardio health. For obvious reasons, heart health had become very important to me since my dad’s passing. I knew I had to keep at this.

In the following summer I began bouncing around a few indoor cycling studios during my lunch hour at MOVE. During this time, my Mom began experiencing severe back pain- so between her doctors appointments and visits to the emergency room, I was finding it hard to commit to class times. From June to August we were back and forth between Doctors, Physiotherapists, Acupuncturists and Orthopaedic Surgeons.

My Mom was rushed to hospital the last weekend of August 2017 for emergency surgery after she had lost feeling in both legs.

During her surgery, they found a tumour. A biopsy and more waiting lead to the news that would again, alter my life forever: The excruciating pain my Mom had been experiencing was a rare, incurable cancer known as multiple myeloma. She would have to stay in hospital till she was strong enough to come home.

In that moment, our roles became reversed. My childhood officially ended.

I was no longer a daughter, but a caregiver to my Mother. I made it my mission to ensure she received the best care possible. My brother and I couldn’t afford to lose her, especially so soon after losing my dad. This meant doing things like attending any and all doctors appointments, coordinating second opinions, cooking or picking up dinner along with anything else she needed everyday after work and keeping her company on the weekends. It was a role I slipped into wholeheartedly. It was difficult but I was determined. And she was too.

I knew I didn’t want to slip back into a state of acute anxiety, so I knew I had to keep moving. Worries about not being close to my phone became an afterthought after my Mom was diagnosed.

Phone or not, if life was going to change, there would be nothing I could do to control it.

In addition to weight training, I pushed myself to attend my first class at SoulCycle. It had taken me a few indoor cycling classes to psych myself up for it and (truthfully) it was also conveniently along my commute to the east end of Toronto for work.

Before I knew it, 7am SoulCycle classes became part of my routine.

I would call my Mom and the nursing station at 6am to check in on her before going into class. Within the dark room, those 45min became my refuge — in my SoulCycle class there was no cancer, no sickness, no anxiety.

Just me, the bike and my breath.

I left each class feeling a little bit lighter. I was able to leave everything that weighed me down in that rom. In a way, SoulCycle became my good luck charm. Before any big follow up appointment of my Mom’s at Princess Margaret Hospital (appointments that were truly life and death) I would be sure to book a morning class so that I would be in the best headspace possible to ask the doctor questions and advocate for her care.

On one such appointment, however, it seemed that my good luck charm had run out.

“You have one more line of treatment left to try, but if it doesn’t work and it doesn’t seem probable then we will have to have conversations around palliative care.”

Time froze as the words left my Mom’s oncologist’s mouth.

It couldn’t be. I had made sure to do everything right. I got my Mom a second opinion at the best cancer centre in Canada, I had done my research, I made sure she was eating the right foods, I was trying to take care of myself — how could this be?

One thing I knew, is that we weren’t giving up. Following that final follow up at Princess Margaret Hospital, I began researching doctors and hospitals in the USA. Call it fate or circumstance, but I was connected to one of the top specialists and grandfathers in the treatment of multiple myeloma, Dr. Barlogie who worked out of The Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC.

Within a week, I was riding in the back of an ambulance transport in the middle of the night with my Mom in a stretcher as we made our way to New York City. My caregiving commitment went from the after work, weekends and the odd workday to 14-hour-a-day bedside care. My Mom had received a second chance and I wanted to be there for every moment. She needed me, and I needed her.

The highs and low’s of a cancer journey are so incredibly extreme. The highs of a successful round of chemo are euphoric and intoxicating. The lows of recurring disease or complications are so bad that you find it hard to even wake up in the morning. Also as an aside, that’s just my caregiver’s perspective. The patient feels these peaks and valleys tenfold.

After a particularly difficult day, Anna, my Mom’s Physiotherapist noticed me upset in the hallway and came over to comfort me. She asked me what I had been doing for myself since moving to NYC to be with my Mom.

“Nothing,” I said simply. “But I was really enjoying SoulCycle when I was back in Toronto.”

“Oh no way!” She said, “My friend is an instructor there, I should connect you.”

I didn’t think anything of the gesture until she found me in the hallway a few days later and told me that she had told her instructor friend Becca about me. She handed me Becca’s number.

“She’s expecting you to message her.” Anna said.

I knew I had met someone special within the first few exchanges I had with Becca that evening. She was positive, kind, vibrant and it felt like her loving heart radiated through the phone. She invited me to ride in her class anytime I needed to as a guest. I couldn’t believe it.

During the 4 months I was in NYC with my Mom, I rode with Becca as much as possible. My days were committed to the hospital and her care, but my mornings became time for me. Time to just let go, connect to myself and centre my mind for the gruelling days ahead.

Outside of class, Becca and I became fast friends. She was a constant reminder of how important it was to take time for myself amidst my circumstances. She also gave me support in remembering who I was before my Mom’s illness. It gave my Mom and boyfriend comfort to know that I had made a friend in the city that could support me.

On July 13th, 2018 in the Intensive Care Unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital, I held my Mom as she passed away from complications due to her stem cell transplant. She had achieved her long sought after remission, obtained her healthy stem cells but succumbed to a virus due to her compromised immune system. Again, only 2 years after losing my Dad my world was shattered.

I had lost both parents before turning 30.

I was silent most of the car ride home to Toronto. My boyfriend, his uncle and his Mom tried their best to keep my spirits up and positive. But all I could feel was disappointment. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had let my Mom down.

I returned to SoulCycle a few days after coming home to Toronto with a few friends. I needed a place that felt familiar and like home. I walked into the studio to find ‘Welcome Home Fran!” spelled out in big letters under the front desk. My eyes welled with tears. Becca had told Jenna — our instructor in Toronto- that I was coming home that day.

I knew my SoulCycle bike would always feel like a safe place for me.

After the funeral had passed, and ‘normal’ life began to resume again, I was left with thousands of pieces. Some that were leftover from when I had lost my Dad- but now, there were new pieces to fit together: those of having lost my Mom and those from losing both my parents. I began feeling very, very low.

One Friday evening, my friend Chelsea told me a few of my friends wanted to take me for dinner. I was told I didn’t have to plan anything and was told she would meet me after work that day and walk me to dinner. As we were walking up King Street, Chelsea said she had to run into SoulCycle to buy a few credits because the site wasn’t working.

I walked into the studio to see a crowd of people. After a few moments I realized the studio was not hosting a Media event and the crowd of people that had formed was everyone near and dear to me!

As I looked around the room, I took in what Chelsea had organized: A raffle to collect money (to be donated to the International Myeloma Foundation), a hair braiding station (my Mom LOVED braiding my hair) complete with monarch butterfly hair clips (I’ve seen so many butterflies since my Mom passed) and most importantly: the space was full of love.

“Get ready to ride!” Everyone exclaimed!

In my shock I managed to change into workout clothes and head into the studio.

I was still in tears as Jenna began to lead us in a ride in memory of Maria.

But the best surprise was yet to come.

The doors opened after the second song and a silhouette appeared. As it moved towards the room, I unclipped right off my bike and ran towards it for a big sweaty hug.

It was Becca.

For her last week working at SoulCycle, she had asked to be flown to Toronto to ride for Maria. She took the podium and I rode (read; cried) my heart out.

For me, SoulCycle and really any of the movement I undertook to heal was never about the equipment, the physical gains or the athleisure. It was always about love — for myself and for the community I cultivated and gained.

We often don’t realize how much we receive when we put our bodies and minds into a beautiful space through movement.

The healing journey ahead of me now is one that will last a lifetime. Each day will be different with it’s own advances and detours. Healing is the furthest thing from a linear process.

What I can always come back to is this small space in the world I chose to carve out for me:

45 minutes in the dark to think, cry and breathe.


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I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

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I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

 

When I was little, my Mom told me I was what the doctors called "flop-jointed"- which essentially means that I moved like I had no bones. I could easily put my leg behind my head, do the splits, distort my body in whatever way I wanted and I didn’t feel a thing.

I used to move like I had no bones.

Now, Twenty-two years later all I am is bone.

Life can feel so sadistic.

 

Chapter 2

 

I am lying in a heated room in the middle of Montreal, drenched in sweat.

I’ve been here for 22 days. Not 'here' in this room- but here in this training where I am learning how to teach hot yoga.

I know we left off around the time I was sitting in the car, staring at the windshield.
The story may eventually loop back here- it may not.

But for now all you need to know is that the intense pain that was plaguing me in the car is still present . On top of that, I'm starting to become aware of more pain in my body, and how I have learned to live with it; sit inside it. Sometimes the pain is systemic- sometimes it shifts into certain parts of my body. Today it has shifted from my stomach and into my wrists.

This pain is deep and stiff and lingering so bad I can barely wrap my fingers around the yoga block that is strewn on the floor next to my mat.

When I was young and learning how to Rollerblade, I never learned how to brake properly. Instead, I’d hold my hands out in front of me and my wrists would snap back whenever they caught the wall in order for me to fully stop.

Up until now, this is the narrative I have been telling myself as to why I live with pain in my wrists.

Isn’t it funny, the stories we tell ourselves, in order to avoid facing the truth?

The air is foggy and thick and the longer I am lying here the more my mind drifts off and for one full minute I am mentally pulled out of the yoga room and flashback into my old bedroom where I am lying directly on my wrists.

It’s 530am and I can hear her in the kitchen. She is rustling around looking for a spoon- presumably to stir her coffee, which she takes with her every morning she works in the OR.
I am definitely not sleeping.
I’m not even half asleep.
My body is flexed the way one might hold themselves as they prepare to walk down a back alley in the middle of an unknown city.
My jaw is clenched. My right cheek is pushed into the pillow and my eyes are fixed on a streetlamp that is still lit in the dark light of the morning, just beyond our house, just beyond my window, just beyond the blinds.

All of a sudden the clink clink clink of the spoon in the coffee stops, the rustling stops, and I hear that swishing noise paper makes when it lifts off a surface and I know now she is reading the note I have written her, the bomb I am dropping on her, the family tree I am uprooting in this exact moment.

My eyes are fixed on the street lamp and, although the entire weight of my body is on my hands right now I can feel my fingers instinctively curl around the sheets beneath me.

She’s coming.

My friend that is a dancer told me you can always tell how someone is feeling by the weight in their footsteps, and the weight that is drawing nearer to my bedroom door is heavy, thumping, filled with rage.

What little feeling I have left in my arms drains out of my body.

The colour drains out of my skin.

I hear the door fly open.

I pretend to be asleep. Which is funny in hindsight, because the adrenaline rushing through my veins is so strong I wouldn’t be able to close my eyes even if I wanted to.

So maybe a better way of putting it is:

I am immobile and praying she won’t ask questions.

“What the f*ck is this?”.

Her voice is stern, loud, hot water about to boil over.

I can’t see her in my peripheral but I know she is fisting the paper with one hand, holding her coffee spoon in the other, a dark shadow in scrubs standing in the light of the hallway, in the small glowing slivers of streetlamp.

I don’t respond, which pushes her over the edge.

She screams my name and when I remain unresponsive she grabs the corner of my duvet and yanks it completely off my bed exposing my body- rigid, frozen, distorted.

“ANSWER ME”.

She orders me to follow her into the kitchen, she turns to exit the room, she is a dark outline in the doorway just like he was- and for one moment she is Him, and He is here and I am small and clenching the sheets and curled into a ball pretending to sleep while his 6 foot frame engulfs me.

Everyone knows he is here, but no one knows what he's doing except for me.

I am both the witness and the victim.

His arms are long, clenched, immobile, and they are stretched over the top of my head like a bear trap. I feel his breath slink across the back of my neck and into my ear. I crank my head to the right, I cross my arms into an X, I roll onto my wrists to try and keep him out. I search the room for something to land my eyes on so I don't have to look at him.

There is a stationary bike in the corner. It's white and blue. I focus on that.


There are cut-outs in the white wall, they are filled with Grandmas jewelry. It's ornate, elaborate costume jewelry and I imagine myself wearing it. I focus on that.


I climb out of my body, and all of a sudden the next few moments aren't moments, they're polaroid's.


Bike. Jewelry. Him. Window. Door. Darkness.


I focus on that.


He has evil rushing like water underneath his skin. When he touches me my skin crawls and hours later when it's still crawling I question whether his evil has become a part of me.


I easily detach from my body now.


Some nights I just stand in the shower until the hot water runs cold. I stare at the droplets of water running down the white tile. I lose track of time, of feeling, of space. I learn to avoid mirrors because I see the grooves of his face in my jawline and it reminds me I will never fully be free, because blood is thicker than water.


In a small moment of email confrontation he denies everything, his girlfriend speaks up, says he was only acting in love.


"Do you have children?" I type, my blood boiling.


"Allow me to demonstrate on your children, exactly how he was being loving" I reply. There is sarcasm rushing off my tongue, vengeance running through my veins.


I press send. I dry heave into a garbage can.

 

I feel small, I am still. The air is foggy and thick. I have grown used to seeing the shadow of Him exiting the door.
My Moms voice, panicked, angry, prying, calls to me from the kitchen.
I grab my duvet off the floor. I wrap it around me, walk out the door and down the flight of stairs.


I'll probably need therapy for this, I quip

 

I am lying on my yoga mat. The air is foggy and thick.

I take my left hand and use it to bend my right wrist back and forth, back and forth. It's thin; frail. Exactly as I would expect it to be after sleeping on it for 15 years. The pain is pointed, raw, inscribed. I keep bending.

It's slow and methodical at first but then it builds into hysterical flapping because maybe if I bend it enough the stories will release from the fascia, pour out of my bones, I'll be free.

My teacher Dina- her footsteps are soft and kind and she comes over to me as I'm lying in Savasana the way a Mother moves to protect her cub. She places her hand on my knee, I deflate, I begin to cry. Tears spill out of me the way my sweat is pouring off my skin- quickly and without permission. 

This is the first time I have allowed myself to cry. In my entire life.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she mouths.

 



 

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How Hygge is Saving My Life

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How Hygge is Saving My Life

By Kirsten Rosenkrantz

 

I had my first panic attack almost a year-and-a-half ago, but I remember it so vividly: the rapid pounding of my heart, the hot and cold sweats, the light-headedness, the invisible weight on my chest.

 

I literally thought I was dying.

 

I didn’t figure out what was happening until the third one in the span of two weeks. Finally being able to label what was going on was equally comforting and overwhelming.

 

Now that I knew what it was I felt, I could find a solution, or at the very least a coping mechanism, but I knew that would be so much easier said than done.

 

I’d been in therapy fairly regularly for most of my adult life and had been deeply aware of my anxiety and depression since I was a teenager, so this new manifestation of my anxiety wasn’t exactly a surprise to me.

 

But what was next?

 

Traditional therapy obviously wasn’t working well enough for me and I knew that I had to make changes in order to find myself some type of calm; a sense of peace.

 

A few weeks later my aunt gave me a copy of The Little Book of Hygge as a Christmas gift. My dad grew up in Denmark, so I imagine she thought of this gift as a nice little gesture, perhaps a bit silly and trendy, but generally something I might enjoy.

 

I don’t think she realized how perfect her timing was in giving me this book.

 

When I got home I began flipping through its pages and realized I already knew most of what was in the book. It did not teach me much but it served as a vital reminder; I had the key to finding my peace inside my head all along. I had to find my hygge again.

 

Hygge is hard to define exactly because it’s not something you can purchase or a class you can attend, and it means something slightly different to each individual. Generally speaking, hygge is rooted in being present and pausing to feel a deep appreciation for the simple, cozy, warm moments spent with loved ones.

 

Growing up with a Danish dad, we lived hygge every day. My fondest childhood memories are both hot and cold, surrounded by a warm yellow glow or the frigid navy blue of a night sky. They smell of fire and crisp snow, they feel like knit socks and warm blankets.

 

Summers were spent camping in Algonquin Park learning about nature and how to build a fire. My dad taught me which plants I could eat, which bark would burn even while wet from the rain (it’s birch, FYI), how to make the perfect morning oatmeal and cup of instant coffee. Our time together in the wild showed me how profound simplicity could be; that being quiet without constant distraction or entertainment opened you up to imagination, creativity, and ultimately, freedom.

 

But the winters were by far my favourite. Sitting in front of the fire after hours of skiing while my dad read to me, curled up on a sheepskin with my knit booties on. My dad built a sauna in our basement when I was young, and we would spend hours running back and forth from the freezing snow into the hot sauna. Christmas smelled like clementines and cloves, pine needles and the crackling fireplace. My dad would drink mulled wine (or glogg as we called it), while we listened to Bruce Cockburn, as my parents each read, my brother and I likely ruining the quiet night.

 

The happiest memories of my life are these ones, the ones that sit precariously on the fence between hot and cold. And while everything changed (as it always does) and most of the magic that surrounded my childhood faded away, it was always something I craved deep down inside of me but had ultimately forgotten.

 

Now as an adult struggling with what I can only describe as a deep unrest within myself, my sense of hygge had to evolve. I had to learn to feel that profound sense of appreciation when I was alone. I had to redefine what hygge meant to me, what it felt like living alone in a big city, how I could find those small moments of presence and comfort and genuinely be thankful for myself and the life I had created.

 

Even as I sit here now writing this I have a candle lit on top of my bookshelf, the glow of a hundred Christmas lights casting warm shadows all over my walls. The old sheepskin from my childhood home cushions my back, a glass of wine on my desk, a pair of knit slippers keeping my feet warm, and a hot bath just minutes away.

 

It’s the return to simplicity that is bringing me back to life, calming the part inside of me that has manifested itself as panic over a dozen times this past year.

 

Some people joke that I’ve embraced my inner grandma (they’re not entirely wrong), but what it really is is the craving for comfort that I’ve allowed myself to satiate. It turns out that I really am my father’s daughter, and returning to the way of life that created me is proving to be the way back to calm; to peace.

 

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Meet Nolan. This is his Story

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Meet Nolan. This is his Story

I’ve always felt a bit sad; Not the 'breaking up with your first love'/ 'not receiving the mark you thought you deserved' kind of sadness, but a sadness that I can only describe as a rotting feeling that plagued my entire perception of happiness.
 
                  When I was in high school, the words 'depression' and 'anxiety' were terms most definitely not universally used to describe the mental agony people could feel. Instead, they were used as placeholders for when students were feeling a sense of nerve or disappointment.
 
“Ugh. I’m so depressed. This gives me anxiety,” became a sentence I became far too familiar with.
 
During this time, the best example actually came from my parents when I told them that I was sad but couldn’t explain why:
 
“Son. You’re just in a rut. You’re fine and you’ll get out of it. Depression isn’t real,”
 
With stigmas surrounding these words, where did it leave the small margin of people who actually identified with these forms of mental health?
 
I carried this feeling of deep uncertainty inside me for years. It wasn’t until I moved out of my parents’ house and fled to Toronto when I accepted that I was living with both depression and anxiety. Over the years I had spent countless moments buried in self-loathing, emptiness, exhaustion, frustration, and pain. There was once a point when I wouldn’t even allow myself to feel happiness because I was convinced that it was temporary and unrealistic. As I'm writing this, my mind is running 1000KM/h and my fingers are flying across my keyboard; even I’m in disbelief that I have felt this way too many times over.
 
Although my mental health latches on like weights on my shoulders every single day, today I am a stronger person.
 
The key to a resilient and fit mind is treating your body in the same respect. Although I have been boxing on-and-off since I was 11, I dove heavily back into the art when I began to feel myself slipping away like sand through my fingers—contained yet falling beyond control. For the first six months getting back into it, I vividly remember mentally projecting myself at the end of each jab; each hook; each over-hand right; hoping to beat my demons out from within. I was frustrated. Mad. Hurting. I wanted change so badly.
 
Through boxing I restored my body with discipline, a hard-work ethic, drive, passion, and purpose. Today I am reminded of all these things: I AM FUCKING STRONG. I AM A WARRIOR. AND NOT A GOD DAMN PERSON WILL EVER TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. To my friends who seek change mentally and physically, TOMORROW IS TODAY. Get after it. Move your body. Every day is your chance to make things count.
 
-n

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Waking up During the Night? This can mean different things depending on the time!

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Waking up During the Night? This can mean different things depending on the time!

So- I am a frequent night-waker. It's rare that I get through the night without waking up multiple times. This has been something that has been happening with me for years- and also something I've never really given much thought to. I've always chalked it up to not being able to shut my brain off before bed.

I've had so many conversations about so many things with my amazing and intelligent friend, Dr. Camille Krause- and this came up in one of our chats awhile back. I had NO idea waking up at different times in the night could mean different things.

In regards to the Move to Heal Project- a big learning component for me over the years has been looking at how to love and care for myself. Getting a good nights sleep definitely falls into this category, which is why I wanted to share it here.

If you're wanting more info on Dr. Camille Krause, you can find her info under our FEEL TO HEAL page, as well as through the link at the bottom of this article.

Happy Sleeping :)

**********************************************************

Dr. Camille Krause, ND

So, you're waking up in the night?
 
Different times of waking can actually mean different problems. Sorting these problems out is the type of thing I do daily with my patients to get them sleeping through the night. 

(I'd love to share some of this information with you below!)
 
2am Wake Time

If you start waking up at 2am, the likely culprit is blood sugar.

When blood sugar gets too low the body thinks it’s a matter of survival and will send out alarm signals.
The alarm signals are sent out as adrenaline, which may feel like different things depending on the person:
Some people may feel this as being wired and wide awake in the middle of the night without knowing why, without anxiety or hunger signals.
Some people may also feel ravenous in the middle of the night.
Other people may experience this as sweating, jitteriness, heart palpitations - ie, anxiety!

START NOW:
Try a snack before bed. Something that includes fat, fibre, and protein. The easiest example would be a small handful of nuts.
Balancing your blood sugar through the whole day is also important!


Alcohol

This pattern of 2am waking is also seen in some people when they have had alcohol in the evening. Alcohol causes blood sugar to rise and then drop off suddenly within a 1-3 hour span.
The type of alcohol doesn’t necessarily matter – so even though wine actually has very little carbohydrates, it’s not the sugar that is causing a blood sugar spike, it’s the body’s response to alcohol.
 
START NOW:
See if you notice a pattern of whether your sleep is affected by alcohol. 

 

5am Wake Time (or, 1-2 hours before your alarm)

the likely culprit here is cortisol.

This means you're feeling wired (as if it's time to start the day) even though your alarm hasn't gone off yet.
Cortisol is known as a stress hormone, but it’s also an integral part of our circadian rhythm.  It’s our "get-up-and-go hormone", and helps us feel awake and alert throughout the course of the day.
You may notice that if you sleep in past this early morning wakeup, you actually feel more drained and groggy – because the cortisol is no longer as high and helping with alertness.


The goal is to calm down the cortisol overnight, so that it isn't overactive in the early mornings, and lets the person get those restful last few hours of sleep – then have cortisol be available to them during the day, when they need it to focus!
 
START NOW:
Many things calm down cortisol before bed, including exercise (earlier in the day), mindfulness, no screens or stimulating content before bed, and a bedtime routine that shakes off the thoughts of a busy day.   

If you are waking throughout the night, and the times aren't constant, there is more complexity to the issue - but of course it is still solvable!

Nighttime waking may be related to hot flashes, progesterone deficiency, or serotonin deficiency, as a few examples.
 
Lastly, if someone is waking multiple times in the night to use the washroom, this could mean they are not sleeping DEEPLY enough.


The body should be able ignore signals of a full bladder (within reason), while still maintaining sphincter function, and allow you to sleep.
If those bladder signals are making it to your conscious mind, you are sleeping too lightly!  I use the number of nighttime trips to the bathroom as a marker for how deeply someone is sleeping. We cannot always increase how long you sleep for, but we can certainly improve sleep quality.


START NOW:
Track your sleep and your wake times. Note how many times you’re using the washroom in the night, and whether you’re able to fall back asleep easily when you do wake.  
Do you notice what wakes you up in the first place?


With regard to the root cause of your different wake-up times, both the

1) 2 am pattern of blood sugar dysregulation AND
2) 5 am cortisol dysregulation

can also be rooted in burnout.  Burnout can be treated!  Sleep is a foundation for all the other hormones and biochemistry of the body to work properly. When someone is able to sleep deeply through the night, their body can function better on many different levels.

Often tracking the pattern is a helpful place to start, and a healthcare practitioner can better guide what those patterns mean, and what to do about it.


You’ll find more information on burnout atwww.FatigueFixWaterloo.com

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