In mid 2016, shortly after returning home to NZ having lived overseas for close to 12 years I wound up in A&E with what I self-diagnosed as a heart attack. (I'd been born into hypochondria at an early age.)
In the weeks leading up to, I'd experienced regular heart palpitations and shortness of breath, however, following ECG tests, a doctor couldn't find anything sinister so I carried on - settling into my new job and new life in Auckland. The night of my A&E visit, I had been eating dinner at Mum's where I'd been staying, and had pain up my left arm and along the left side of my jaw. By the time I'd eaten dinner, I stood up breathless, nearly blacked out and asked Mum to call an ambulance. I thought this was it; my time's up. Eggs on toast wasn't quite what I'd had in mind for my final meal. We drove to A&E and I was rushed through the packed waiting room, my admission form stamped as a 'Priority 1'. So important and fancy! After spending an hour hooked up to another ECG monitor, the doctor drew conclusion that I had experienced my first panic attack. He sent me off into the night with a prescription for beta blockers (drugs that slow your heart rate). The hypochondriac in me felt short-changed; I wanted a night under observation at least!
As someone who had never really been touched by anxiety or depression in the past, or in my family, I was flawed. I lived a healthy lifestyle, had a job I really enjoyed and was so happy being home in NZ. I surmised that the panic attack had been brought on by a heartbreak I had endured seven months prior. I'd returned to Sydney from a holiday in America to find out my boyfriend, who I thought to be the love of my life, had cheated on me. Several times. He broke down and begged me to stay, which I did. We stayed together another few months, during which time internally and emotionally I ruminated like a boss, and eventually unravelled. I lost a lot of weight (which naturally I thought was so great!) and I developed severe social anxiety; I hated being out in public with him as I felt like everybody knew I was pro-philandering and weak. Public transport was near unbearable - I became paranoid and felt strangers were judging me. I stopped drinking alcohol as I was scared of not being in control of my emotions, and I downplayed my struggles to my friends and family.
He ended the relationship a few months later and I hit my rock bottom. I couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel and entertained some pretty dark thoughts. Friends suggested I see my GP, which I did, and after correctly answering the "do you want to kill yourself" question, I was quickly referred to a psychologist. The honest truth was, I did want to die, I just didn't have the guts to actually kill myself. I spent my therapy trying to convince her (and myself) that my ex and I would get back together. In our three sessions together I didn't cry once, so stoic I was in the belief that he was going to take me back. Thankfully, the universe provided and I packed up my life in Sydney to move home.
My logical mind was confused as to why I would suffer a panic attack at a time when things were, seemingly, looking up.
According to Gabby Bernstein, author of 'The Universe Has Your Back' they can happen when your body is resisting freedom and happiness, and holding onto fear. For me, I was stuck in a pattern of not feeling like I was worthy of being as happy as I was, following the trauma - or that the happiness could be taken from me at any moment - and this fear presented itself in a panic attack.
This was my wake up call.
Since I knew I never wanted to experience an episode like that again, I began a journey of healing and self-discovery. I picked up every self-help book, vowed to be kinder to myself and really feel everything I was feeling rather than block it out or try to invalidate my pain. I saw a spiritual healer who confirmed what I already knew - that my heart chakra was closed. I worked with a life coach, my beautiful high-school friend Seon Venville, who helped me reframe some negative thought patterns. She encouraged me to peel back the protective layers I'd built up over the years and get to the heart of what I really loved doing. I knew I loved twerking, so I went along to a class and put my neck out - this wasn't to be. After digging deeper, I realised that health and wellness had always been a passionate interest, I just wasn't really sure how I was going to make a career of it. Seon encouraged me to revisit a course I'd looked at completing a few years prior with Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York. I enrolled in the IIN health coaching course that week and started my first modules three weeks later. That was March this year (2017) and my life has changed dramatically since. I will forever be indebted to Seon for seeing in me what I couldn't. (Love ya, girl, and so incredibly grateful to be doing 'coach life' with you.)
Through my studies and through immersing myself in the wellness industry, as well as enlisting a business coach - the ineffable Emily Gallagher - I have met the most incredible community of men and women wellness entrepreneurs who I am so proud to call friends and peers. (You'll no doubt meet some of them on the website soon!) They leave me with no question as to whether this is the right path for me. We are in a health crisis, and poor lifestyle choices are at the heart of it. I'm committed to starting conversations that shape the future of health, and to giving my clients a plan of action to create lasting positive change.
While I certainly can't lay claim to a life of 100% whole foods, a regimented fitness routine and daily meditation, through experience and surrendering I've learnt the beauty of balance. I've learnt to just do whatever feels right in that moment; I am 100% in trust with myself and with my ability to know what my body needs at any given time (usually food, sunshine or twerking). I've learnt the impermanence of negative thought patterns and being stuck in a 'story'.
I haven't always had this blue sky thinking, but like most, I've experienced the trials and tribulations of life that have stretched me further than I thought possible and allowed me to see the lessons in each of them.
I'm a child of divorced parents who now represent a large, happy and high-functioning blended family. I have a brother and close friends who have overcome addiction. I've had health scares. I've moved countries several times hoping that a new life awaited on the other side of the airport. I've had severe social anxiety where I've cancelled plans with friends for sheer fear of not having anything interesting to talk about. I've been on 20 Tinder dates in a year that almost drove me to celibacy.
I've been paleo, vegan, sugar free, gluten free, and borderline ortherexic. Friendships have wilted, some have blossomed, and many more have bloomed. (Facebook just reminded me I made 20 new friends in June, which is kinda cool, right?) I wholeheartedly believe that the universe doesn't give us anything we can't handle, but sometimes, you need a coach (that's me!) to help you see that.
Through this journey I have become more connected than ever before. To my friends, to my family, to my community and to my greater purpose which is to help others do the same. When people talk about being 'lit af' I'm pretty sure this is what they mean.
For now I'll be sticking to my full-time job in media whilst completing my certification part time and traveling the world up-skilling as a coach. You'll have to stay tuned as to where this journey takes me next. Eventually, I'd love to be running one-on-one and group coaching programs for women, particularly women transitioning from their twenties to thirties, because we all know that can be a real bitch.
Well that's me for now. Please leave me a comment below, or send me an email if you want to know more (especially if you want to know more about IIN as I'll get a sweet referral bonus which will be reinvested back into my business, obvs.)
ALL OF THE LOVE.
~ Anna ~