the cloak

13 Mar


I’ve alluded here to the fact that I suffer from anxiety from time to time, but I’ve never really been brave enough to let it all out. It feels like my little dark secret and I think I am a bit ashamed of it. Recently I’ve learned that a few people I know deal with it as well and I thought…why not just talk about it! Why keep it a little secret? Of course talking about it in a public way gives me a bit of anxiety, but here goes!

I would have liked to think that I would be the type of person who wouldn’t know a thing about anxiety. I practice yoga. I have a pretty solid spiritual practice. I have faith in something bigger than me. I don’t call it God but I know there is something at work behind the scenes. Why then, do worry that the ground is about to crumble beneath me?

It comes when I least expect it too, suddenly strangling me out of nowhere and leaving me gasping for air.

It feels as if I have a dark and heavy cloak around my neck. It robs me of joy. It robs me of the moment. It takes the fun out of the unknown factor of life and you know what?

I am so fucking sick of it.

When I look at my life right now I can’t help but feel grateful. It’s better than it’s ever been. I have an incredible loving and supportive partner who will become my husband in eight months, a solid freelance income, a great family, the truest friends a girl could have, creative projects that inspire me, a new loft by the beach and I am healthy.

What the hell do I have to worry about, right?

But that’s the funny thing. It seems that when everything is too good to be true, I suffer the most.

So much to lose.

My anxiety-ridden mind turns all those lovely, happy and amazing things into…what if my freelance income stops being so good? What would I do about all my bills? What if I can’t be the wife I hope to be to Brian? What if the wedding doesn’t come together? What if my creative projects never come to fruition? What a mind crushing disappointment that would be. Will I just be a fit model forever? When will my real career start? What if? What if? What if?

I worry about everything. From the morning traffic to where my life will be in five years. Worry is my constant companion.

I wasn’t always this way. I was once a complete free spirit.  I didn’t feel alive unless I was acting a bit reckless and pushing the envelope.

My first full-blown anxiety attack came at twenty-five. Up until then life had always been pretty sweet to me. I believed that “life was a daring adventure or nothing at all”. I lived and breathed that motto. That motto was made for me. But suddenly the very phrase that I lived my life by scared the living shit out of me.

It stopped working for me.

I was on vacation in Chicago, with the man I was seeing at the time.  We were eating lunch in a very fancy room at the Peninsula hotel. Life was good. It was seemingly very good. But something felt off. Something below the surface felt as if it was cracking.

I wanted the universe to tell me that everything was going to work out the way I hoped. I wanted reassurance. I wanted to know everything would be ok in the end. I wanted to know my life would shake out the way I hoped. I wanted to know that all my hard work would pay off. I wanted concrete answers. I was tired of letting the wind take me wherever it pleased.

Was my life where it was supposed to be? Was being with him the right choice? Was becoming his wife and moving to St. Thomas at twenty-five a catastrophic mistake?

I sat there quietly eating my wedge salad, mulling over my thoughts when suddenly the grandiose room began to feel as if it was shrinking. I felt as if I was on fire. I began to see spots and felt incredibly  dizzy. I felt hyper aware of everything, the way the china clanked as people set it down, the way my palms began to sweat, the way my boyfriend looked at me with concern, the way my hands began to tremble. I felt exposed. I felt unsure. I felt unsafe. Life suddenly became so overwhelming. I was flooded with fear.  Fear about everything and nothing. I felt fragile against the world. I felt like every decision I made from that point forward was life and death. I felt like I was balancing on a tightrope with only blackness beneath me.

My boyfriend grabbed my hand with concern and asked, “Are you ok?”

I couldn’t even put into words what was happening to me. I had never experienced fear before. All I could do was excuse myself from the table. I left him sitting there with his fork in his hand, in shock.

I took the elevator to our floor, scurried down the hallway, walked in our room, passed the unmade bed, went to the bathroom, laid down on the cold marble floor and began to sob.

Strangely enough the bathroom floor was the most comfortable place to be in that moment. It seemed safe, confined and cold. I grabbed the phone next to the toilet (these are so strange, huh?) and called Brooke, my best-friend, my other.

I sobbed through the whole story.

And I stayed in that bathroom for a few hours.

That was five years ago.

Since then, my issues with anxiety have come and gone. I’ll go through periods where I feel nothing but trust in the universe. I feel connected. I feel full of faith. I feel like I’m flowing with everything around me. I don’t feel any anxious flutters. It’s pure bliss. I live for those moments.

Then that sneaky little bastard will find his way to me again and wrap his heavy dark cloak around my neck and I become afraid of everything. Every single decision feels huge. I feel like I want to stay in bed and hide. Those periods are rough.

Recently, I decided to give Chinese medicine a try after reading..

“Chinese medicine recognizes that powerful interplay between the body and emotions; the two are, in fact, inseparable. When we become emotionally upset, our internal environment also becomes disrupted, leading to the physical symptoms of anxiety. When we are physically compromised, our emotions can be greatly affected.”

I mean, I have already tried the western route to no avail; anti-depressants, Xanax, propanol, and while it does momentarily fix the situation it doesn’t really FIX the situation, if you know what I mean.

I know on a deeper level that my anxiety flares up when I am spiritually imbalanced.

When I’m blocked.

When I’m not putting my wellbeing first.

When I am overwhelmed.

When I am not being honest with myself.

When I’m pretending to be “fine”.

When I am not in a healthy state of mind.

When I am not connected to something bigger than me.

When I don’t feel connected to my purpose.

My acupuncturist literally said to me…your energy is blocked.

I’ve been doing acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs for the last three weeks and I’ve already started to see little changes.

Where will this lead me? I don’t know yet, but I am hopeful that maybe just maybe I’ve found a key to unlocking myself from my relationship with the dark, heavy cloak.


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32 Responses to “the cloak”

  1. barbarapotter March 13, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Yes Kate I have read some mutual others also unlocking the fear and secrets being held within. I never experienced anxiety but some people I dearly love do so I am familiar with it’s effects. You are on he right path and something good will always come out of these attacks. Just think, obviously, you did not take that path 5 years ago so somebody or something knew something very telling and let you know it. That cloak will get lighter and lighter and maybe not disappear completely but it will become “summer wear” and not “winter wear”:)

  2. JenPastiloff March 13, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    Love you Kate. You know I relate,sister. xo

  3. Katie Devine March 13, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Kate, this touched me to the core. Thank you for writing so beautifully about something so personal. I already knew how incredible you are; now I know how amazingly strong you are as well. I suspect many people will be comforted by this to know that they are not alone…love you girl!!!

  4. cravesadventure March 13, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing and putting it out there:) I feel that it is healthy to talk about these issues – anxiety, worry, stress, etc. Have a Great Day!

  5. Tom Rapsas March 13, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Wow Kate, that was a powerful essay. And it reminded me of…me, twenty years ago when I was your age, struggling to find answers as I stood on shaky spiritual ground. I want to tell you that it sounds like you are on the right path and funny things can happen as you venture down it–figurative gusts of wind, boulders even, that can sometimes knock you off your feet and get you questioning everything. But with time, and I’m talking months and years here, the fears begin to drift away little by little and when the winds and boulders do arrive, you simply wait for them to pass–and they do. And you continue down the path and you know, without any doubt, it’s where you’re supposed to be.

  6. Elyza B. March 13, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Thank you for being honest, Kate. I’ve been reading Katie Devine’s posts and she posted to read this lovely blog today. As someone who’s fought my anxiety my entire life (and oh how great my OCD is), I completely understand when it goes from “manageable” to on the cold bathroom floor. I’ve been afraid to speak much about it publicly simply because it causes anxiety to bare my war wounds. So I appreciate every opportunity to connect with people who understand, even if its through a blog post. So, again, thank you.

  7. maria March 13, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    hi kate,

    I think so many people can relate to this! I’m one of them. Mine started a year ago this April. It was the scariest thing in the world and it still freaks me out just to think about it. I haven’t been the same since and as you mentioned, before it found me I didn’t even know what the hell anixety was!! Never thought about it! I’d just hear the word if someone was talking about it and still not get it….I’ve been trying to find ways for the last years to make it go away and leave me the hell alone. Nothings been successful and I think that’s because I think about it way too much. I keep telling myself I want to go back to the “old me”….the girl i was before this ever started. I refuse to go on meds so I haven’t. Trying to beat it without them. It’s hard! Probably the hardest thing i’ve ever had to fight through. But the mess up thing is I know deep down inside this is happening for a reason – to teach me something, to change me….to become stronger somehow. Please let me know if the chinese herbs help at all. I’d love to know! Keep us posted!!

    maria xo

  8. rachel March 13, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    so brave. ❤ you.

  9. Sarah March 13, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    HUGS!!! this is one of the many reasons I love your blog. The honesty in your writing is so touching. Anxiety is a beast. I know too well exactly the shrinking room, all encompassing out of nowhere feeling when it strikes. It sucks. I’m stuck at home with the flu this week and dealing with what seems like a million life questions… And I can feel the anxiety trying to take over.
    Here’s to hoping that we both find strength to kick it’s ass and find the free spirit that existed before. 🙂

  10. Jen March 13, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Love you so much….you know I completely understand. You are one brave lady. xx

  11. jenweinstein March 13, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    LOVE you…you know I’m always here and I totally understand… are one brave lady. xx

  12. Taline March 13, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    So brave, honest and real. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. Xo

  13. the usual bliss March 13, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    Thank you for sharing! I think the two things that really spoke to me were “when I’m not being honest with myself” and “when I’m pretending to be fine.” I think acknowledging your nervousness about the future and allowing those feelings to have their moment in the sun is super healthy. Then you can let them go and move on to another emotion, instead of stifling them. I have been there. There’s something very empowering about admitting that you don’t have it all figured out, that you sometimes don’t have it together. No one does. And by being real, you’re recognizing weaknesses and that gives you the opportunity to work on them. You amaze me in many ways.
    I love that you’ve turned to Chinese medicine for balance- I’ve really found it to be helpful and I love having a fresh perspective regarding the mind/body connection.

  14. Maria March 13, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Thanks for sharing this. It is hard to admit when things feel wrong inside of us. I suffer from anxiety and have been aware of it since my father passed away 12 years ago. Once I realized it was anxiety I realized that I had even suffering from it since I was a child. The first time it hit me as an adult I was walking to pick my daughter up from school and the weather was beautiful and it reminded me of my dad and I all of a sudden started to feel like I was going to faint. I had to sit down on a person’s front step until it passed. It was terrifying. And so began my medication try outs. And although I am on several things I still suffer. Not always but a lot. Do I have a bad life? No-I’m happily ( usually) married, mother of 2 beautiful girls, recently moved to Orlando from Philadelphia but I still suffer. I love acupuncture and have used it for many ailments such as extreme back pain but after reading this I think I will give it a try for my mental state as well. Again, thank you or being brave and sharing!

  15. SewHaute March 13, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Hands down the best thing I’ve read. Great piece!!! LOVED the honesty. So real. Thank u for sharing 🙂

  16. hunting for bliss March 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I can REALLY, REALLY relate to this post! I have struggled with anxiety on and off my whole life. I think I found where much of it stems from through counseling, which has been really helpful for me. I have learned to recognize and manage it, and that has helped too. I still struggle but less often, unfortunately I don’t think that there is a cure or that I will ever be completely free of it. It seems to worse at the same times as yours, when I’m not honoring myself appropriately. But, I think a huge fuel for anxiety is keeping it to yourself, thinking you must be crazy, thinking you must be the only one feeling like this, thinking you shouldn’t have it because you are so blessed…So, this post is awesome and I hope it ends up being therapeutic or you. Take care, you are not alone in this.

    xoxo, Tobi

  17. Erin Haslag (@WELLinLA) March 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Hugs, kisses & lots of love on your journey!

  18. March 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Bravo! This is wonderful. Love, Mary
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  19. Loni Found Herself March 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Oh, sweetie, I’ve been there, too. I have a seriously anxious personality, one I attribute to a semi-awful childhood. My first full-blown panic attack happened in college, and I still remember the terror – the nausea, my heart racing, gasping for air, the room going black. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. More than that, though, is how I beat myself up over it by telling myself that it was all in my head and that I was to blame. What I’ve learned, though, is that your head IS where it all goes down, and that anxiety and panic attacks aren’t a sign that I’m not good enough or, worse yet, that I’m crazy.

    I’ve been working hard with my therapist to overcome my anxiety and part of me knows that this is work I’ll simply always have to do. In fact, just Monday I spent several minutes venting to my boss about all sorts of stuff and then, at the end, I thanked her for listening and said with a chuckle “Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I get anxious sometimes. I’m working on it.” She smiled, nodded, and touched my arm.

    I think people understand and that, you’re absolutely right, we DO need to all talk about it more. Thank you for telling your story.


  20. amelie88 March 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Coming from a family of worry warts, I can totally relate. I’ve always been anxious, have been fighting anxiety my entire life. I don’t get panic attacks but I am often inside my own head way too much and that alone is paralyzing and overwhelming. You are not alone in your anxiety laden fight!

    Though when I originally saw your post’s title, I thought it might have something to do with the new pope haha. Let’s just say I was following the news very closely today at work on my Twitter feed!

  21. 4livinglife March 14, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Anxiety is difficult to deal with. I don’t experience it as fully as you do, mines is more a separation anxiety, but I feel for you deeply. 😦

  22. Crystal March 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    ❤ ❤ Proud!

  23. Lindsay March 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    This was beautifully written Kate and also came at the right time as I’ve felt my dark anxiety cloak creeping back around my neck. I just lost my grandfather in December who was like a father to me, I’m about to turn 29, just moved to San Diego from Texas to be with my boyfriend who I love dearly and have searched for for-ev-er, AND my search for a new career has begun again considering my new home location. Life seems extremely uncertain so of course my dark unwanted anxious friend has been getting the best of me more often than I’d like to admit. I was just like you most of my life… care free, pushing the envelope, not really afraid of anything. Until I was 25 years old too, two years deep into a marriage with a man going to war in Afghanistan. I think the war situation along with all the communication issues we had are what led me to my new found unwanted panic attacks. I was young when I decided to jump the gun with my now ex-hub into marriage, sadly my gut had even warned me otherwise several times before I took that vow. After deciding to part ways with him and plunge into an unknown world I quickly knew the uncertain foggy world was a much healthier one than what I was in before…. but of course that anxiety feeling never left me completely. I too believe in something bigger and I think your post came at a wonderful time to remind me to hold on to that. I have so much to be grateful for now and so much to look forward to, why let fear hold me back?! Thank you Kate for being you and being candid with us- it helps more than you know!

  24. hotrobyn March 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Thanks for opening up, hope it helps others. You are not alone.

  25. Rebecca Koo March 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Love love love. Will never forget my first panic attack. Sorry I have been out of the loop for a while. So glad to reconnect back here with you and your heart and your writing. Haven’t forgotten about cookies. Still a huge huge Kate fan. 🙂

  26. becca3416 March 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    You know, I’ve been coming to realize that anxiety effects so many more people than I thought. In fact, I had no idea that the feeling I experience from time to time when I become hyper terrified of my own life, is just that… anxiety. Thanks for this.

  27. palomino72 March 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Aaaah bless you 🙂 Isn’t it amazing how many people experience the same difficulties as us ~ (people who you would never think). I and several very successful friends suffer from crippling and the most random anxiety also, so you’re in good company sweets. How cool you are to ‘set it free’ 😉 Have a great week x

  28. September 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a coworker who was conducting a little homework on this.
    And he in fact ordered me lunch because I stumbled
    upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
    Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this topic here on your website.


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