Finding Freedom in the Mind

Independence Day

Happy July! I can’t believe the 4th of July holiday weekend has come and gone already. Summer always seems to go the fastest for me and I think it’s because I’m always traveling to the beach and spending quality time with loved ones. My business has also been steadily very busy, which I am so grateful for. In these heavier, more anxiety provoking times, I find that my clients need more support, and due to an increase in energetic work, I too need more support. Thank goodness for my lovely reiki and bodywork practitioners who help keep me balanced! OH, and for YOGA!!!

What a heavy few months it has been, huh? As a nation we have seen heartache, deaths, protests, and quarantine being placed and lifted. It has certainly been a year for the history books, and we are only half way through 2020. Here’s to hoping that we all begin to step up and see better days ahead for the whole nation, world, and universe! Put that good energy out there!

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of equality in a country that prides itself on being just that, equal and free. I think as humans on earth, we could do a lot better, and sometimes I am very interested in the Chaos Theory to begin to understand the amount of stress and tragedy we have seen in the past few months. We can do better. I have taken time to reflect on the energy that I am putting out into the world and I have decided that I can also do better, try harder, complain less, and just be a kinder human. This pandemic has given me a lot to think about and a lot to reflect on in my own life. These reflections always lead me back to trying to become closer to my highest self, as we say in yoga, and further away from the monkey mind and the materialistic wants and needs of the modern world. Simply put, I want to spend more time present for myself, my loved ones, and my clients, and release attachments and fears that have bubbled up over the past few months.

“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” – Aung San Suu Kyi

Even if the recent turn of events has not seemed to affect you personally, this collective energy can certainly be felt by all. It is heavy, and sometimes harsh, and makes you want to stay in your house, and at the same time, tear out of it running and screaming. It is a new reality but it is not the reality we all hoped for. No one expected to be wearing masks on the beach or visiting their loved ones outside of glass windows. It feels like we are in a Hunger Games movie or the Twilight Zone. It feels more than ever, uncertain

This could be one of the most triggering times for people with anxiety. How do we cope with this amount of uncertainty? Will I lose my job? Will I be able to pay my mortgage next month? How will food come to the table next week? Will I ever see my grandfather again? These are all questions going through many people’s minds. So many unknown outcomes and little hope for those suffering. 

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

Coping looks different for everyone. For someone with an anxiety disorder, we need all reinforcements on deck. For example, since the pandemic started I have revised my self-care routine many times to support myself. I meditate, journal, exercise, keep a daily gratitude list, and try to ground as much as possible (really I am grounding all the time). I try to pretend it’s normal to work in a tiny room all day, speaking remotely to my clients, leading them through their practices in the sweaty clothes I’ve been in for hours. We navigate sharing a space with loved ones for far more time than we have ever been used to (shout out to all the parents, seriously you guys are the real MVPs). This new normal has taken some getting used to and if we don’t check in to make sure our routines are supporting us, we can easily fall apart! If you are struggling with self care, maybe consider implementing something into your morning and evening routine that will help you feel more balanced and grounded. Some suggestions are:

  • Meditation (there are loads of guided meditations on YouTube and apps to support you if you are a beginner).
  • Movement (walking, biking, running, weight lifting, anything that makes you feel more alive!)
  • Journaling 
  • Reading a spiritual excerpt, uplifting poem, or philosophical book
  • Deep breathing 
  • A nice soak in the bath (bonus if you add essential oils)
My morning meditation with crystals

Everyone is different, so I always encourage my clients to really consider which practices will uplift them and help them feel balanced so that they can take on the day with a clearer mind and a more open heart. 

Independence Day has many meanings for many different people. This year, it carries another special meaning for me. July 4th, 2020 marks one year medication free. Something I was unsure was possible for a brain that had been diagnosed as chemically impaired. I have tried to go off all of my medications before, and was unable to do it due to very stressful circumstances. In fact, the last time I tried to go off of my medications was in the Summer of 2018. I ended up moving, getting a new job, and planning a wedding during that time, not to mention I was also diagnosed with Bartonella infection, toxic mold poisoning, and would need surgery to remove a cyst in my sinuses. Due to all of these stress- triggering life events, I went back to medication. I felt defeated at the time,  but also so overwhelmed and was yearning for more chemical brain support!

I want to be very clear about something before I continue on this topic. I am in NO WAY against being on medications. In fact, I was on medications from age eight to age twenty-seven. Medication is a tool that can save people’s lives and help them live a better quality of life. I just knew my medication was no longer serving its purpose AND I wanted to grow a human baby and knew for a fact that the medication that I was on would be a danger to that baby. So, in the Spring of 2019 I decided that my mental state was very balanced. I was meditating, eating well, doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and tracking my moods in a journal daily. I was seeing a new psychiatrist who was supportive and gave helpful resources and getting regular reiki treatments. I was ready. 

Fast forward, one year. Here I am, medication free and four months pregnant. I have never felt more empowered in my life. A tiny part of me never thought I would make it to this day and be able to write this message to you all considering I had been on medication for nearly 20 years. I am not just talking your low dose anti-anxiety meds, I am talking anything from antipsychotics and mood stabilizers to antidepressants, and I have been on more brands/types than I can count on two hands. I was able to do this because of dedication, passion, but also largely, because of yoga. You see, yoga is a lifelong practice of observing the self, of noticing when we are letting our monkey minds or ego take over and when we need to ground, center, and come back to balance. This constant observing and awareness of the self has led me to the freedom from psychiatric medications. Let me tell you that I am not a stranger to anxiety and depression. It will always be a part of my biology, BUT the tools that I possess keep the anxiety and depression manageable and stable, and more than anything else, they are my teachers. When I am anxious or depressed, I must look within and analyze why, but also allow them as a passing state of being. We will never feel joy all the time. It is healthy to experience a variety of emotions and feelings. It just matters that we understand and allow them.

I quit my government job in 2016 to pursue my line of work in the wellness world. My constant dedication to working on myself and self-studying makes me a better Yoga Therapist and Wellness Coach. It also makes me a better wife, friend, daughter, and sister. My commitment to my healing is lifelong. I will always have to work at it, with or without medications. My greatest teacher always said, “in yoga, practice makes practice.” I am never striving for perfection, I am just striving for balance and connection to my highest self. When you are aiming to connect with the highest version of yourself, you are growing every day.

I now have an even bigger reason to work hard on staying balanced. I am going to be a mother. I am going to raise a little girl. My greatest hope for her is that she will feel connected to her highest self and that she will accept and love herself. 

This independence day, I celebrate freedom in the traditional sense, but I also celebrate the freedom I have created in my mind and in my body. I am no longer at war with my body and I can say with pure joy and gratitude that there is so much more space and freedom in my mind. Free your mind, open your heart, and just be yourself. 

Wishing you all a summer of joy & abundance. May you feel free, may we all be free together. 

Sending so much love,

Maddie Tuohy