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Meet Our Community: Cherie Cox

April 26th, 2017

Cherie shares how yoga has been part of the toolbox that has helped her cope with anxiety.  

I have been going to YYoga for a few years. I used to be an all cardio girl and would primarily go to the spin classes, but over the last year I have switched to the YHot and Hatha yoga classes. I have a terminally ill, almost 8-year-old, daughter, so there is a lot of stress in my life. Charlie-Anne has SMA type 1, which has stolen her ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, or breathe properly. She wasn't supposed to see her first birthday, but she's a brilliant and brave girl who will turn 9 in June!

"The breathing helps IMMENSELY and has helped me escape many anxious moments."

Last May it got overwhelming. I started looking for anything to naturally help me cope. I saw a counselor at Canuck Place Children's Hospice, and started practicing meditation and yoga. It helps a lot. My friend calls it her "exorcism", I agree! I have way better coping skills after a class and it is one of the few ways/times I can focus on that exact moment instead of worrying about tomorrow. The breathing helps IMMENSELY and has helped me escape many anxious moments. It really helps to reset my mind and day. I am so grateful for this practice.

Here is an excerpt from a Facebook post I published recently, on the eve of my 40th birthday, in which I was vulnerable about my experience with mega anxiety this past year. I hope it helps anyone going through the same thing:

What I Learned This Last Year Of My Thirties (whether I wanted to or not).

I can honestly say this past year has been a tumultuous one. It tried to break me. The first few months were pretty routine...I was a good mom, had good carefree times with my partner and friends, enjoyed my job, loved to cook, and loved my workouts. Then one morning I woke up and BAM! I was punched directly in the chest with the WORST anxiety I'd ever experienced.

I have always struggled with anxiety, but I had never met this extreme form of it before. My brain got obsessed with the dark and it just would. not. shut. off. The harder I tried, the faster it worked overtime. I couldn't outrun it no matter what I tried. And the constant headache and jaw pain...it was such a claustrophobic feeling! I'd go to bed and think, think, think. Wake up in the middle of the night, about 4 AM almost every night for a while there, to a panic attack out of a dead sleep! There is not a lot worse than minding your own business sleeping, and then having anxiety relentlessly tapping you on the shoulder to wake you up from your only 'break' from it, and groggily opening your eyes, only to be met with straight up PANIC.

I kept Ativan and a cold cloth by the bed every night, it was part of my nightly routine...wash my face, brush my teeth, glass of water, cold cloth and Ativan by the bed for expected middle of the night sheer terror session. I hated to take the Ativan but on nights like these, I had no choice. To think that I was in my room struggling to breathe and covered in sweat while my little girl was connected to a breathing machine in the other room and could need me at any time only made me panic more. The next day I would tell Drew what happened and he would get frustrated and ask, "Cher, why didn't you wake me up, you need to tell me so I could help you." But, I couldn't, because if I said it out loud I was afraid I'd unravel even further and never be able to catch my breath. Instead I'd lay there and tell myself, "Cherie, it's just a panic attack, just breathe, nobody dies from panic attacks...breath", and wait for the medication to kick in and the exhaustion from what I just went through to knock me out again. I also found some solace in the fact that Charlie's night nurse could help me if I was in fact dying, as the panic attacks would often make me feel.

I'd wake up in the AM and open my eyes, one at a time..."Is it still there?" I'd worry. Seriously. Scared to open my eyes every morning wondering if panic and anxiety were waiting there to greet me. Anxiety never took a day off and panic usually preferred the evening shift. I always felt completely depleted too. From the meds and from lack of sleep. Around that time my doc gave me a prescription for a regular anti-anxiety/depressant. Oh man how I wanted it to work! I tried two kinds. They only made me tired and didn't help my symptoms, and I gained 12 pounds after 7 months so I weaned off of them. I know many people they work wonders for and I wanted the same for myself SO BAD, but the two kinds they prescribed didn't work for me. If this continues in the future I have no qualms about trying it again.

During this time (and still) I went to counselling at Canuck Place Children's Hospice where I worked on mediation and mindful breathing, I bought books, saw a psychiatrist, went to acupuncture, got cupping treatments and massages, started yoga more intensely, took supplements, got an essential oil diffuser...I tried everything. And still do.

When something like this happens you wonder if this is your new normal. Will it ever stop? And thank God, it does. There WILL be good days. And then, more good days then bad.

Trying to be a good, PRESENT mother through all of this was almost impossible. I am thankful for Drew and my friend Sandi who were and are always there for me and Charlie and who played with her when I just couldn't. Sandi had a few months off work at the beginning of all this, and let me tell you, it could not have come at a better time (for me!). Just having her around meant so much to me. She helped me more than she could ever know.

Eventually the anxiety got quieter and more manageable. I still have some pretty rough days, but just the fact that I've learned through experience that the violent waves can and will die down and things will get better, has been a saving grace. When something like this happens you wonder if this is your new normal. Will it ever stop? And thank God, it does. There WILL be good days. And then, more good days then bad.

I spent a lot of time wondering how I got here. And then I realized, "How could I not get here?" It was about three months after two back-to-back hospital stays for Charlie when this anxiety hit me. Just three months prior, and for about the 60th time, I thought my daughter was going to die. I started to try to recall the numerous times we were taken aside and asked our wishes regarding resuscitation and interventions to help her possibly not die. I thought about how many times I've been in the room seeing her get 'bagged' and deep suctioned aggressively to save her life. I realized that often I'd have to look back on a post I wrote about her to remember these times...my brain tried to forget but my body wasn't forgetting. Trauma. After 7 years of it my body and mind had enough and they were letting me know. You can't run from your story. You have to look it in the eye.

"The whole "gotta love yourself" cliché is real talk."

Being open, sharing, seeking help, and researching has helped me BEGIN to deal with and get through this. That and a whole lot of GUILT-FREE self-care. The whole "gotta love yourself" cliché is real talk. If mom's not happy, nobody is happy.

Oh 39, you seemed to last forever and showed me more than I wanted to see. See you tomorrow 40, looking forward to finally meeting you. Please be easy on me, i'm too old for this s*!#!

Cherie End

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