Slaying Worry

Slaying Worry

Published in Natural Awakening Atlanta for the column Walking Each Other Home, April 2022

When I was a young independent artist, I became worrisome. I worried I would not have enough money for rent or for food. I would worry that my art was not good enough to sell. My worries became so cumbersome that my anxiety took over my life. My thoughts were hijacked by those of fear. It was a terrible way to live and I knew that I had to change. The only way to do it was to rewire my mind to focus only on the positive. With focus, after a few months I was much more at ease, my worries had subsided.

Another time, when my anxiety became unbearable, a miracle happened to stop me from worrying so much. I was living in an old school bus in the Sonoran Desert, developing a solo art show. When I was down to my last few dollars and I had no idea how I would afford more supplies, the stress over took me. Sobbing for days and feeling powerless, I finally resigned to stop worrying. Within a week an unexpected check for $500 had arrived in the mail. My aunt, knowing nothing about my plight, had sent money to help me with the show. By stopping my negative thoughts, I had escaped my anxiety again and everything worked out fine.

Years later, and just when I thought I had conquered such fears, my worries returned.

Living in New Orleans, I was working as the first henna artist in the French Quarter. Henna temporary tattoos became popular quickly with the tourists. The other artists in Jackson Square could see that I was making good money fast. That is when some of them became envious and the harassment began. Feeling my livelihood and income was being threatened, the anxiety set in again.

This time I was affected in a physical way too. A terrible staph infection developed in my forehead, dangerously close to the brain. Then I really got worried. A trip to the public health clinic included a painful lancing of the large swollen infection, draining it and stuffing it with cotton, along with the strongest antibiotics. This helped to clear up the infection but not for long. When it came back, my body was resistant to the antibiotics. After some research about my condition, I learned that one of the main causes of staph was often stress related. I was back to dealing with the same issue of too much stress in my life.

To start relieving the stress, meditation and retraining my mind to think positive became a regular routine once more. Yet the infection persisted. It was clear that this time I would have to do more to heal myself than just change my thought patterns. Not only my mind but my body was now being affected by my anxiety.

I knew that in order to be completely well, I had to change on a physiological level too. From my facial expressions to how I held my body, I discovered that even the most common behaviors, affected my health. Acts such as keeping my back straight, not slouching as one would if feeling defeated, and smiling, when I found myself frowning for no reason, were my focus. Practices such as sitting still frequently, getting enough sleep, and eating regularly all became critically important if I was to heal. Sometimes I noticed that I was not breathing but was holding my breath instead. It was clear that even this could cause dis- ease.

Finally, after a few weeks, by committing to changing my thoughts and especially my behavior, and without the use of medication, I was well again.

Today I understand that my thoughts and actions determine how my body will feel. I know now that it is important to behave and express myself in a way that is uplifting for my mind and my body. Though I still get anxious on occasion, I am more at ease than ever before. And gratefully, the infection has never returned.

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