“Your peace is too high, a price to pay to make somebody else happy.” – Wendy Tamis Robbins
“Love yourself and then love other people.” – Wendy Tamis Robbins
Wendy says, “mental illness is so often a terminal condition and I don't think people think about it that way, but gone untreated it can be terminal. I mean, suicide. It's really disturbing. I would love to see us all come together to deal with these things the same way we come together for cancer and you know, all of these other physical conditions that are just as devastating. This is why you and I do this work, right? To take that generational cycle of mental health issues, addiction, all of those things that if we don't do our own work and free ourselves, we'll just hand down to the next generation.”
This is such an important conversation to have NOW more than ever. We need to recognize we only need to give ourselves permission to do anything that we want to. Just by the nature of being human beings, the nature of the fact that we are here, we exist, we're taking a breath into our lungs, makes us worthy, enough, perfectly imperfect, lovable, and enough.
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PTH 44 Wendy Tamis Robbins
[00:00:00] Welcome to permission to heal. I am Marci Brockman. I am thrilled that you are here today. We have Wendy Thomas Robbins. Wendy is. Well, you heard the intro, so I'm not going to go through it all again, but she's just amazing. She's here to talk about her book, the box, an invitation to freedom from anxiety, which I poured through. I sucked me in and I couldn't stop reading for days and you're just going to love it. So welcome, Wendy. Hi, it's so good to be here. Thank you. Thank you. We had a rescheduling snafu last week. I fell in this big dramatic.
[00:00:33] Face down face plant thing. In my driveway, I was a big puddle of tears and scabs and blood, and it was gross and Wendy was gracious enough to reschedule with me. I think I was in a rush to get into the house and didn't watch where I was going and splat. Right. So excited to do this, that yeah. Yeah. And not wait to get it right.
[00:00:54] And I tripped over my own feet and that was the end of that. So, when I was a kid, I never got [00:01:00] punished for doing anything wrong because I always got hurt in the process. So my mother always said that mother nature was punishing me for her. Nice.
[00:01:12] So, welcome Lindy, how are you? I'm great. I'm great. I'm trying to enjoy August before it slips out of my, you know, through my fingers here, but God things are busier than ever so, but I'm good. Cause he's good. Yeah, no, it's, it is good. To be just completely ignored in August for me, bad, I guess, but yeah, restful but ignored.
[00:01:36] So you're in marble head mass. Yeah. My daughter goes to school in Beverly, which is not so far from you. Really? Yeah, no, not at all, but it's a beautiful place to spend the summer that's for sure. A lot of people come here as, you know, a vacation destination. So when we're not inundated with people, it's, it's just so beautiful.
[00:01:57] It's gorgeous and, and impossible to get. [00:02:00] An Airbnb or a hotel anywhere between the end of September and Thanksgiving. Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, you would know better than, yeah, I'm sure. Trying to come out here, but yeah, that is cool. Salem is this big draw, you know, everybody wants to go to Salem around Halloween, you know, do the whole crucible, which experience thing and yeah.
[00:02:21] yeah, we don't re we can't really leave our, our little area over here because we have to go through Salem to get to a major highway. So we kind of hibernate hibernate now, little area during October that's for sure. Yeah. It's gorgeous though. So beautiful. And you know what? I teach the crucible every year.
[00:02:39] I'm at 11th grade English teacher also. And, and so I, I have this, this I, this poem. To Salem to that portion of Massachusetts because of this play, you know, and it just, when I found out my daughter was going to go to college there, and one of the characters from the play is actually [00:03:00] from Beverly mass and gets pulled into Salem as part of, part of the, the judiciary of the, the trials.
[00:03:09] Yeah. And so when I see, you know, when and Miller wrote the play, he is this totally going off topic. But when Arthur Miller wrote the play, he poured through old historical documents from the 1620s to, to be as accurate in his historical fiction kind of play. And so all of the names of the characters are names of actual people involved in the actual Salem witch trials of the 1620s, so, or 1690s or whatever.
[00:03:41] I don't know. Anyway, that's neither here. So Wendy, so you, so you're an attorney and you're an anxiety coach and you're an author and a speaker and a mom. And how, how do you do that? All that sounds exhausting. [00:04:00] That's why August is so busy. All of those things, those things don't take a break. Oh yeah. I'm at a point in my legal practice where, it's not those first anxious years, you know, when it's so all consuming because you don't really know everything, you don't know, I'm in like a comfortable sweet spot now after two decades.
[00:04:23] Right? Exactly, exactly. Lovely. Find your way there at some point. So it's still a lot of work, of course. It's a full full-time job, but I started writing the book about, it was like six years ago and, you know, I was writing at night and on the weekends and it was my therapeutic process to find out if I could find freedom from my own disorders.
[00:04:47] So it took longer than I would have, you know, to just write a book. I think then it would have taken, you know, for most people. But yeah, so that was taking up you [00:05:00] know, a lot of free time, but. I was finding pockets here and there. And then now in the last year with the book launch and starting the coaching and the speaking and that all layered in.
[00:05:15] Has definitely kept me busy every waking hour, essentially, you know, but taking time out, um, to still be a wife and a step mom and a daughter and you know, all, all of those things that come up that, um, yeah, so time management becomes a very honed skill. Oh, I know that. Well, yeah, otherwise the balls just drop.
[00:05:39] Right, right. And taking time. I mean, given that anxiety is the topic here. I mean, it can get quite overwhelming if you don't manage it. And, you know, you become the student pretty fast after thinking that you're you put on your teacher hat and I've gone through some spells of, you know, really having to take a little bit of a step back, [00:06:00] take a deep breath and recenter myself to, um, to not just get yeah, totally in that downward spiral caught up in it.
[00:06:08] Yeah. So our, our self care can't be. Yeah, it can't be forgotten. You know, like I know from my own, my own process teaching full-time and I'm a mom and a stepmom and a step grandma. And although I don't think I'm old enough for that. Um, and I was writing my own books and, you know, it was, there was a ton of stuff going on all the time.
[00:06:33] And if I, I found out the hard way that if I don't schedule myself in that, it's easy for me to forget me. And then everything else falls apart because I can't do it if I'm sick or injured or mentally not in a good frame of mind, so right. If you, yeah. If you have nothing to give then, and yeah, my mantra, like during this time has really been, [00:07:00] my peace is too high, a price, like I'm not willing to give up the piece that I've found and.
[00:07:09] My, you know, my legal, my legal career is my base. That is what it is. The clients need what they need. Right. But the other things I can control and I need to always remember that if I'm, you know, my, my personality type is to full throttle, you know, um, press that gas all the way to the floor. But at the end of the day, like we're saying that self care requires you to, you know, go back into neutral sometimes, or just pull, pull off the gas a little bit, pump the brakes, whatever you want to call it.
[00:07:46] And yeah. Just protect your peace because you know, I could stop doing all of it at any time. And I have to always remind myself of that. There's no one cracking the whip, but myself. Exactly. I remind myself audibly out loud when there's no one [00:08:00] else in the room. I'm the boss. You know, school, school students, or students that pays the mortgage, you know, that's my lifeblood, my meaning, my everything, but I have all this other stuff that I am also passionate about and yes, they take time, labor of love, but still take time.
[00:08:19] But I'm the boss of it. And if I decide that I'm too tired or this has to wait for tomorrow because something else just happened now, then so be it right? Yep. Amen. Amen. Yeah. Okay. Okay. So let's dive into the six quick questions before I forget about them again. Um, I have this habit of forgetting about them and then doing it at the end, but I liked them in the beginning.
[00:08:41] So whatever, again, I'm the boss. I can do what I want. Yes. Six quick. Okay. What six words would you use to describe yourself? Um, seeker. Survivor athlete artist [00:09:00] in perfectionist and dreamer love that in perfectionist. I have never heard that before, but that says it all. Oh yeah. I'm writing it down. Any perfectionist?
[00:09:13] Fabulous. Yeah, exactly. Better. A better done than perfect. I always say, well, the perfect got me anxiety and isolation and you know, more fear than I could handle. So you got to really embrace the imperfections as Bernay brown would say, right there really are gifts. Yeah. Yeah. That there, I call myself a quirky artist cause that's me.
[00:09:39] I'm just quirky. And I try for perfection, but it doesn't happen. And what is it anyway? I don't know. I don't know. So, and so I, you know, I, if I'm working on a piece of art, you know, I like it enough and it makes me happy and I'm done when I'm done. And that's that, you know, you know, when I, [00:10:00] when I was writing my book, I had gone through the editing process.
[00:10:03] I'd sent it to my editor back and forth and back and forth. And then I finally got it to a place where I'm okay, this is as done as it's going to be for me was April of 29, April, 2020, when I finally finished the whole thing and sent it to the book designer. And wouldn't, you know, six months later, I'm like, I would like to just get rid of that whole chapter.
[00:10:29] Oh, like I could've said that better. The conclusion isn't, you know, but I've grown six more months and I'd started a podcast and I'd been talking to all of you, beautiful experts in your brilliant wisdom. And, and of course I've grown so much. My vision of, or my way of explaining what I had learned a year ago was different than what I had learned a year later.
[00:10:54] So, you know, it's published, it's out. It is what it is. That's book number two. That's what I kept [00:11:00] telling myself. If it's such a long process that you do learn more, right. And you have to think, okay, this is what I did then. And put it aside. And it's in the past now. And I love that quote from Alice in Wonderland, where she says like, why would I look at yesterday?
[00:11:14] I'm not that person anymore. You know, I'm just not, I'm not there anymore. And yeah. So I think Don and being at peace with it is more important than. Perfection, you know, is just being obedient because someone else is telling you what society views as perfect. Right. So you're not really reaching a different standard.
[00:11:37] That's just really subjective. So it's really just being obedient. And I have really very little, that's all you've been through obedient screw. That is not the word, not a word I would use. Not one of my six words. No, definitely not. Okay. What's your favorite way to spend a day? Um, to [00:12:00] linger in bed a little long with my husband in the morning and then get up and do something very physical.
[00:12:06] Like we play tennis together, which I love, and I love driving somewhere, getting on a beautiful long drive in a convertible, playing tennis, having a good meal. And then, uh, Yeah, maybe sailing doing something by the ocean at the end of the day, watching the sunset. That's like my perfect day. Wow. Yeah, that's it.
[00:12:31] I used to take tennis lessons and I I'm just not coordinated. It does take ordination front hand. Okay. Hey, whatever that's called backhand. Not a possibility. Just, just doesn't work. Just not going to happen. Yeah, no, no, no, no. There was a reason why in elementary school, they used to fight over who got stuck with me on time.
[00:12:54] Oh no. What happened to me too? It wasn't like just, you know, Marcy gets picked [00:13:00] last. This was no, we don't want her. You take her. No, we'd like, yeah. Okay. Great. For my self esteem. So I graduated high school in order to get my gym credit for graduating high school. Way back in the day, you could get away with these things.
[00:13:16] I would change into my gym clothes and then go into the office where the teacher, the teacher's office. And I would do all of her paperwork because I was a liability. I would get hurt. I fought over who got stuck with me. It was a total mess. So I just spent my whole senior year doing her paperwork for her.
[00:13:33] And it was a good system. Yeah. Right. It was a system. This explains the fall in the driveway last week. I guess. It's just been this way for a long time. It justice. Yeah. I try to envision myself as a graceful athlete and I'm really just, I've got three left feet. I don't know, just two left feet. Isn't quite enough.
[00:13:55] I need three. Okay. Let's go to question three. What is your favorite childhood [00:14:00] memory? I think it's really, and this is, I don't know if this counts as childhood under 18 is childhood, right. Essentially I would say my first year would be under 43. You know, I would say my first, uh, falling in love for the first time I had a very John Hughes movie, if anyone listening, even remembers that reference.
[00:14:24] Um, yeah, that was my first experience falling in love. It was really amazing. Yeah. I lucked out. That's awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Really like movie worthy. So. Like the 16 candles kiss across the table, you know, across the table. Oh yeah. Yeah. John Hughes movie, like Molly Ringwald that pat just, just insane fan when I was a teenager.
[00:14:54] Oh my right. It was my, that was my, generation, you know, I graduated [00:15:00] in 86. So all of those movies, all of those teenagers were my age. It was just this perfect metaphor for me. Of course my life looked, nothing like that, but, but we can, we can fantasize. Yeah. Okay. What's your favorite meal? Question four.
[00:15:18] My favorite meals are meals. I don't eat anymore, unfortunately. So I would just say like spaghetti, just straight up or pizza, like very, I'm a very like Italian food girl then I don't really get to indulge anymore. Is that self-imposed yeah, pretty much. Yeah. I'm like a gluten-free pescatarian. Hey, ju yeah, it's really, most of the things I eat all day, a green starting at, you know, 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning.
[00:15:48] And like, step-kids are like, I can't even, I can't even watch
[00:15:55] I out of myself when I have like a couple of meals a week that [00:16:00] are just vegetarian based that don't have like an animal protein in them, but it doesn't happen often. I don't know, I started a while ago and especially during COVID I dropped chicken and Turkey. I dropped a red meat a long time ago, and then I just found, I felt so much better.
[00:16:21] And then if I'll do like a week of just plant-based everything, I have more energy than normal than I normally do. I just love fish and I feel like I do need a little bit more at times depending upon how much I'm working out and whatever, but yeah, I feel far better than I ever did. And there's a lot of that in the book right around just like try, I, I had my, I went on my first diet, the summer of, you know, going into freshman year in high school.
[00:16:50] And so I've been focused on it for so long and tried everything. And this is really the, the best I've found for my body, but everyone's different. [00:17:00] Absolutely. But I remember you writing about your mom. And her body image issues and how that translated into your own upbringing and, and directly contributed to your own body image issues.
[00:17:17] But what I find interesting bless you. What I find interesting to me about that is because I was raised by a mom who had significant body image issues and didn't do anything about them. She'd complain and she'd feel bad about the way she looked and she feel bad about herself. And instead of changing her diet or adding exercise or movement or activity, she would just.
[00:17:49] Dress better for her changing body type. You know what I mean? So she never wore sleeveless things cause she didn't like her arms or she didn't, you know, like whatever. [00:18:00] Let's just say that as an example. And so in. So instead of being raised with an idea that if I don't like the way my body looks or feels, I can at least empower myself to do something about it.
[00:18:12] What I'm saying is that, that there was total inaction and a sense of diff being defeated before you began that I got from my mom that at 53 now I'm still trying to undo.
[00:18:29] Well, failing ahead of time is a big thing, right. Because of the fear of failing in God-forbid you tried and now there's more shame involved, right? If you just don't even start, I think there's, there's less, less to lose. Well, I start and I get really good and I'm motivated. And then something happens either in here or out there and I crap out and I go back.
[00:18:55] Yeah. That's probably a whole different show with eating [00:19:00] disorder. People I have booked in the fall, so that's good. Okay. So number five, what piece of advice would you like to give your younger self? I think you wrote a whole book about it. This is your advice to you. Yeah, pretty much. This is where we're going to go.
[00:19:16] And this is yeah. Yeah. I think for one sentence though, I thought about this. Cause several things came up for me, but I think love yourself and then love other people. And that would have, that would have sold a lot of problems for me right there. Because the external validation I was looking for from a very young age, you know, I did so much mental and physical damage to myself to try and be enough to be loved and feel connected and belong to, you know, my, my family and my friends and my culture and whatever. So yeah, if I had been taught, you know, [00:20:00] to really look for that validation internally and love myself and make sure that that was solid. I had a solid foundation there first, before, you know, your choices are just motivated by something completely different.
[00:20:13] Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that that sentence or that group of sentences right there is what allowed me to connect to your story the way in the visceral way that I did, because although our stories were different, our upbringings were different. I'm pointing here for people who are looking on pointing to the left of me for her book and to the right of me, it looks like a dance.
[00:20:37] It's like a little dance. Although our upbringings were very different. The pathology of our own neuroses were different. The fundamental reason why it all developed was exactly the same. And it was that sentence. And we were both looking for external validation for some sort [00:21:00] of external confirmation that we were worthy.
[00:21:03] We were lovable. We were enough. We were, we were important or valuable. And I didn't, I didn't get that from my upbringing or any of my early formative years in the same way you didn't. But so it just was this visceral connection, because I could identify with all of those feelings that you were having.
[00:21:30] And, I just can't recommend this book enough. It will be linked in the bottom of the show notes. You just click on it and it'll send you right to an Amazon link and you just have to buy it. You just have to have two, that's it. You don't have a choice. No. All right. Last question. What is one thing you most would like to change about the world?
[00:21:53] God, right now there's so many things going on. It's really a lot to bear, but I would say given the work that I'm doing to end the [00:22:00] stigma surrounding mental illness, I think that we are in a state of crisis in terms of mental illness. Really in the world post pandemic, if we ever get to the post pandemic spot there, and we've seen it play out recently in sports, right?
[00:22:19] With Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles and people like that, you know, particularly women and women of color being being vocal about taking care of themselves in that way and seeing the pushback because it's just still not where it needs to be around the empathy, the education, and, you know, on both sides.
[00:22:42] I think it's really important that we help those who aren't suffers and can't relate. Understand and empathize by telling our stories. We need to educate them around. What's really happening on a biological level. And then we also need to empower [00:23:00] them so that they don't feel helpless. I feel like, you know, a lot of times people don't want to recognize it or don't even know how to step out and ask if you're okay or, or, or even they don't have the tools to help.
[00:23:12] So that's not an empowering position to be in. Right. A lot of people just want to gloss over it, help yourself go find a psychiatrist. Let me know when you're better type of thing when and done thing. It's not like going for a shot or going for an x-ray, you know, like this is an ongoing process that could take a very long time.
[00:23:33] It takes a very long time to, to create an, a very long time to undo, so to speak. So, you know, for, to have somebody say. You know, just let me know when the psychiatrist says you're better is, is, is dismissive and disrespectful and the opposite of loving, you know, it's, I, I agree with you about the whole mental health thing.
[00:23:53] And I talk about this a lot with my students, just, you know, [00:24:00] 27 years of teaching, I've been talking about being in therapy, my entire adult life with them, you know, we have to de-stigmatize this, these are the things that have happened in my life. And, you know, I'm sure you're all dealing with very similar things or at least things that make you feel similarly, even if the experience itself is different, but we have to talk about it, living with it in isolation, doesn't help anybody.
[00:24:24] And, and we all have to get to a point where we're able to talk about it. I know you wrote about a lot about wanting to ask for help and for various reasons didn't have the agency to do. Right, right. Just giving suffers and non suffers the vocabulary so that they can start conversations because literally they can save lives.
[00:24:47] Mental, mental illness is so often a terminal condition. And I don't think people think about it that way, but gone untreated. It can be terminal. I mean, suicide, I [00:25:00] don't know the specific suicide rates, but they're astronomical when you look at them, it's really disturbing. So yeah, I think as a collective, I would love to see us all come together to deal with these things the same way we come together for cancer and you know, all of these other physical conditions that are just as devastating and, you know, yeah, yeah.
[00:25:23] It was a terminal condition. In my mother's case, her for undiagnosed by polarity and her. I used to think narcissism, but it really, I don't think was, I think she was just stuck, had stopped her emotional development when she was sick for a year. And when she was about 10 or 11. And so I don't think that her, her personality ever aged or matured past that age.
[00:25:52] So she was stuck in that egoic. I'm a child. I need to be taken care of stage, which from the outside [00:26:00] looks like narcissism, you know? But her, her mental illness just led to addiction because she kept trying to numb out everything that she was feeling and didn't know what to do with, and eventually led to opiate addiction.
[00:26:16] So yeah, that's devastating. Yeah. So, you know, that's part of the reason for this podcast too. You know, we, we need to recognize that we, we only need to give ourselves permission to do anything that we want to do. And that just, just by the nature of being we're human beings, just by the nature of the fact that we are here, we exist, we're taking breath into our lungs, makes us worthy, makes us enough, makes us perfectly imperfect, makes us in perfectionist makes us lovable and enough.
[00:26:51] And, and that the only tools that we need in this world to be happy, we already own inside of [00:27:00] us. And so looking for external, anything isn't going to get us there. And I think if my mother had known that if she had really like in every cell of her body known that she would have been able to heal herself.
[00:27:17] Or find healing and wouldn't have died early, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's the gift I would give my mother as well. And I think that that's why you and I do this work right. To rake that generational cycle of mental health issues, addiction, all of those things that if we don't do our own work and free ourselves, we'll just hand down to the next generation.
[00:27:42] Right. Right. And I'm happy to say that I had done enough digging deep and, and hard work on my own and detoxifying my life so that I didn't pass this on to my children. So they are [00:28:00] great. They don't have any of this Michigan. It's good. That's good. I mean, you know, I'm sure I pass around some neuroses. We all do, but the big, heavy hitters.
[00:28:15] My mom's generation or gone, so, yeah. Okay.
[00:28:22] So take a, give us a little step backward, Wendy, and tell us about like your upbringing and what led you to the path that you're on. I know that's a really big all encompassing question, but I I'd like to give the listeners a little bit of a background. No one better to do that than you.
[00:28:48] Sure. So similar to yours, it sounds like my childhood was volatile at times because of my mom's untreated, mental illness. And [00:29:00] so it felt chaotic to me. And then the name of the book came from this box. My parents had bought a new refrigerator, this in this box, they put in the living room for the kids to play in that big old cardboard box.
[00:29:13] And I was the only one who took the bait. My older sister and younger brother were doing other things, I guess. And I found that more than anything. I really wasn't playing in that box, but I was using it to escape and it was like a place to hide for me because I thought like only me and God could fit in there.
[00:29:31] You know, no adults could get in there and I could hear people screaming on the outside and just all of that chaos really, it kept me kept that barrier between me and what made me feel so unsafe and insecure. And so that was when I was like six years old because we got rid of that box. And just a few months later, it was when I had my first panic attack.
[00:29:53] And so I think that that really triggered scary. Yeah, [00:30:00] no language and that's just scary for a grownup, but for a kid. Yikes. Yeah, it was, it was the middle of the winter. And I remember my dad, Took me outside and it was freezing cold and dark, and he stopped me under each street light to take a big deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds.
[00:30:19] And then we would exhale. And I could just, I still remember seeing like my breath floating out into the air and then we would walk to the next street light and do it again. And it was almost like the first meditation I'd ever done. When I think about it loud just to calm me down. And, but they thought it was I'd recently asked my dad, like, as they.
[00:30:38] Kept coming. These panic attacks like why didn't you ever send me somewhere, get me evaluated. Or, and he said, as a parent, you hope that it's an isolated incident and panic attacks are right. They don't see the underlying anxiety. That's continuing to grow and grow. They just see these physical events in it, you know, [00:31:00] 10 minutes later, you're fine.
[00:31:01] But there were other phobias growing that that were probably, red flags as well, but you know, with two other kids and it, it, in those days, it wasn't the same as it is now. You're, you're not as focused on your child's mental health. I don't think that was really a thing then. So as my. As my anxiety grew, I sort of started creating this box mentally and emotionally for myself and building these walls, these, these mental barriers to first protect myself against things that would scare me.
[00:31:35] And then once the anxiety got worse, it was really to protect myself against things that trigger the anxiety because I was anxiety was the, became the biggest fear, right? Because like you said, like those panic attacks were so terrifying for me. And then the intrusive thoughts started and they would come up mostly at night and then they started really just seeping into my whole life.
[00:31:56] So I had really, my first battle. It was [00:32:00] depression, but almost like a dissociative episode in the fifth grade where I just lost like a few months, just so caught up in these really obsessive intrusive, scary, existential thoughts. I couldn't really unwrap myself out of that. And then I adopted things like perfectionism and people pleasing and being hypervigilant and controlling everything.
[00:32:26] My environment, especially, that really started to benefit me, right? Like it makes you a straight a student. I became a three sport all-star athlete. I got myself a scholarship to an Ivy league school, which was unheard of in the town that I grew up in. And so from the outside, looking in, everything looked perfectly fine and that's what I was going for.
[00:32:50] I was really trying to hide what was unraveling inside because. I didn't see it around me. There was, it was not okay. Like there was not other people [00:33:00] modeling that for me or asking or any of that. So by sophomore year in college, I was calling a suicide hotline from my dorm room. Which did not go well, I obviously didn't follow through with it, but the call was just, you know, how can we help you?
[00:33:18] And I have no idea how this, you know, I, I just said nothing. I just hung up the phone essentially, but then I found ways to push it down, push it back, like, just keep moving and just trying to. And so that means just again, trying to, what can I achieve next? What can, what will make me happy? What will make this go away?
[00:33:40] So ultimately I'm in the law firm. I find my first husband, we're married and I get the dog and I leave by the new house and everything again appears perfect. And I'm more anxious than ever because I'm not dealing with what the underlying cause and the root of it is. And so I became a gore phobic [00:34:00] and he was traveling a lot.
[00:34:01] And that doesn't really, there's some episodes in the book about that. You know, it's difficult to driving in the middle of the night and the, and the no cell service. And I was like panicking with you. Like I imagine myself when I'm on the highway or I'm driving, or even when I'm a passenger in a car at night when someone else is driving, I imagine.
[00:34:21] All sorts of like, we're going to drive off the road where it's all these horrific accidents that can happen. No one's ever going to find it again. Oh, I, yeah. Right. That's where our brains go. Right. And then I tell my step-kids like, sometimes like, well, this is where my brain is. And they're like, oh my God, those are the things you're thinking of.
[00:34:38] What are you? I was like, welcome to my world. But so, so that's how, you know, that was really kind of rock bottom for me. And I luckily had this epiphany. One day where I was in a hotel room and I could not leave. We were on vacation and I just couldn't leave. And it was the moment that I turned around and saw that this box I had built for [00:35:00] so long, that was supposed to be keeping me safe was just a prison.
[00:35:04] And I needed to figure out if I wanted to find my way out, or if I was just going to live my life, you know, ride it out like this anxious all the time and not really connected on a deep level to my husband or my family, or, um, you know, and just go on being a lawyer and pushing it under the surface until it pops back up again.
[00:35:23] And you have another rock bottom moment. And so I chose to start finding my way out. I'm starting to look at those walls. Why were they there? How could I dismantle them? What would that look like? And what was the life on the other side gonna look like for me, but all the while that was like, you know, a decade of work until I found my second husband and, uh, And, you know, did the, the real deep dive into writing the book and, yeah, it's just, we learned so much more about your, your patterns and your behavior and did so much more [00:36:00] reparenting of yourself as a child, through the writing of the book.
[00:36:03] That's exactly right. Yeah. The first decade of leaving my marriage in starting to a lot of exposure therapy, traveling on my own, getting out of my comfort zone, there was a lot of that, but after all of that, I was still accommodating anxiety on a daily basis until I started writing the book. And that's exactly what happened.
[00:36:22] You have to sit in those spaces and I would do a lot of it through meditation. Just go back to those pain points that I could see in the past. Why was that wound still open? What did I need to go back and fix? Right. Like not fixed, but heal. And that's exactly. And just bring it all forward and writing. It was so cathartic and I didn't at the beginning.
[00:36:46] I didn't know I was going to find my way out. I didn't know what it was going to look like. So I didn't know. I would ever really even share the book or what, you know, what that really looked like. It wasn't until about halfway through that, I saw [00:37:00] this process unfolding and I was like, oh, and treasures popping up.
[00:37:04] Right. All of these beautiful lessons around perfectionism and where we get that, especially as women and little girls in body image and eating disorders and how those are all intertwined with anxiety disorders and how they feed off of each other. And, you know, those are really hard to untangle just in your mind.
[00:37:24] But when you start writing, it's just, you know, as you found as well, I'm sure it just takes it to another level and then you can, you know, share it with the world. Yeah. Had been writing, I've been writing journals since 1983. Journaling has been like my salvation journaling and art creativity. That was my meditation before I knew really what I was doing.
[00:37:48] I was self-administering art therapy from the early eighties. And, um, and then I was writing what wound up being portions of chapters of [00:38:00] my book for elephant journal, which is a, an online magazine and I was getting good feedback. And I started to think that maybe there was a larger work there, maybe stringing them together would, would make an interesting book.
[00:38:18] So I went back to my journals from the beginning and I re-read everything. And I mean, there's so many things I didn't even remember, but I started to have all of these. Epiphanes about my own, what caused my own behavior, where, um, Where my mom's mental illness and her own pathology kind of fed into mine.
[00:38:44] Even when my grandmothers fed into my mother's, which fed into mine, I started to see this as a very multi-generational thing and a lot of my behavior and my own, my own crazy [00:39:00] head. You know what I was telling myself as a response to my parents, divorced to my parents, self involvement and how I was repeating what I wasn't getting from my relationships with my parents in every single one of my romantic relationships.
[00:39:16] And so, and, and my career path. So while living my life just seemed haphazard. Yeah. Happenstance and random when I went back and took a long look back what I saw made perfect sense, and all the puzzle pieces sort of fit together as I was learning things. And, uh, and then there were these big, like watershed moments where, where there was a lot of learning in a compressed period of time.
[00:39:44] And I made like a quick decision to change things like suddenly it was there, you know, like a lightning bolt and, and it was sort of an extraordinary process because I didn't know how it was going to turn out [00:40:00] when I started it. And it just 126,000 words just sort of fell out of me between October 1st and December 15th, 2019.
[00:40:11] And it just, I couldn't stop it if I had wanted to mm. Just flew atomy. And of course it was the rough draft, whatever, But people come up to me all the time after they've read it. And they're like, how do you have the bravery to share all of this? And I wasn't even looking at it that way. Like, yeah.
[00:40:29] In essence, I metaphorically standing naked the same in the box, you know, you're metaphorically standing naked in front of the world saying, this is what I went through. This is what I learned. Maybe this can inspire you in your own healing, so you don't suffer as much as I did. Exactly. And it, it wasn't so much, like I was risking anything.
[00:40:51] I felt like it was an emotional process. I had to go through. To help [00:41:00] other people to be of benefit to other people who are doing this to, send the, the pendulum towards mental health acceptance a little bit further, you know? Yeah. Because it feels such like such a spiritual process because as you're doing it, if you, if you start to feel on that level, how connected we all are, there was no way I could stop sharing it.
[00:41:25] Like you were saying, there was no, like my husband asked me or asked me one night, like, well, isn't it just enough that you are healed? What, you know, whatever that means for you now you've found your freedom. Like, let's go do something else now. Like, isn't that what your brain. Well, like why go back and do speaking and coaching and, and the book and all of that.
[00:41:47] And I was like, I can't, I can't leave them behind. That's what I felt like, you know, like that's like to me too. Yeah. It's sort of like, you're saving, you saved your younger self and there's so many more behind her [00:42:00] that are feeling how we felt when we were that age. And like, yeah, this is the gift that we're trying to, like you said, give them so that they don't suffer as much as we did.
[00:42:12] Yeah. And, and kudos to us, you know, I think we're brave, strong, resilient, amazing women. And, you know, we deserve a little a little of that as well. Okay. So,
[00:42:24] talk me through your three R model to processing. I, I read about this in your, in what you sent me, it's recognized, reduce and refocus. And I think this feeds into your coaching business, correct? Correct. Yeah. So that's one of the programs that I put on. So in recognizing I think that there are three important essential really steps to seeing your anxiety in a holistic way and dealing with it on these, in these three kinds of modules.
[00:42:57] So the first being [00:43:00] to really bring mindfulness to it in recognizing where the anxiety is coming from, because I always was trying to manipulate my circumstances, manipulate the people on the outside, how they felt about me, what did they want me to do? What's how did they see me or view me, or, um, and once I recognized that.
[00:43:23] I can't control my circumstances. You know, they're always going to be outside of me outside of my control. I can't control how other people feel about me, what they say about me, how they act, their rage, their whatever. The only thing I really can control is how I think about those things, right? It's my own internal thought process, how I'm internalizing those things that creates my own reality.
[00:43:49] And that for me was my anxiety level. So in what it also talks about looking at the narrative that you're telling yourself, what is the [00:44:00] story that you think. You are a player in, what does that look like? What are you telling yourself every day? What are those tapes that are running? Because all of those are optional.
[00:44:09] We think that, like you were saying, like my life was happening in a haphazard way. And I think so many of us are stumbling through life that way, like, well, this happened. So of course I feel anxious and that happens. So of course I got depressed or, but we have so much control over how we react and what those thoughts are that are creating all of those emotions and feelings and therefore create the actions and the results and the life that we're stumbling through.
[00:44:36] Right. How much, how much more intention we can bring to it. So that's a whole mindfulness area of recognizing where the anxiety is coming from. It's really your thoughts. And this is how, like the good news is you're in control of your thoughts. You're the boss. So then there's reduced, which is Well, actually, I want to go back because another important part of that, the third prong of that really is [00:45:00] naming your saboteurs.
[00:45:01] And I learned this work like just in the last few years and understanding like my three are my victim, my judge, and my, typer vigilant. Like they're always with me and now I hear them. So distinctly. And once you name your sabotage because your saboteurs live really in your fight or flight part of your brain, right?
[00:45:22] They're driven by fear. They're focused only on obstacles, problems that negative let's identify the problem. Let's blame somebody and move on. And so many of us, like you said, are we're stumbling through our lives that way too, until we take a step back and become the observer, right. And observe those thoughts and identify the saboteurs that are behind them, that we really start to take back our power.
[00:45:45] And we can, you know, listen with compassion and curiosity and learn from them. But they're not in the driver's seat, right. To take back the keys and start moving in the direction that we want to go. And then reduce that's really about [00:46:00] giving people some techniques and tools to reduce their anxiety now and over time.
[00:46:06] So, you know, it depends on who I'm talking to at the time. Sometimes it's like we'll post, you know, moving back into the office as, you know, people who are working in office environments post COVID, like, what can we do in that scenario? Which would be like, you know, find a safe person to talk about your anxiety with, at work, to burst the bubble.
[00:46:27] Because if that becomes an unsafe place to talk about your mental health, it's going to exacerbate your feelings of anxiousness. Right? So, um, but there's also, I walked through, you know, meditation techniques, specific meditations for different types of issues. Um, Keeping a routine. There's a lot of scheduling that goes in to a lot.
[00:46:49] A lot of the programs specifically, if they're professional people that are on the other, the receiving end exercising in nature. I just read another study that just came out in [00:47:00] 2009 around how drastically your cortisol, which is your stress hormone, how drastically that's reduced after just about 15 minutes of exercising outside.
[00:47:11] Which I do a lot of too. And then specific grounding techniques, like the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Yeah, so, so just, you know, really, designing it for the group that I'm talking to, but that's like the second, the second part of it in reducing. And then refocusing is really my kind of like my secret sauce, because I say that anxiety now is my superpower.
[00:47:37] And I really feel that way because I look at it as taking my anxiety into the past, the present and the future. And so the past we've talked about, right? If you look at those moments that may make me anxious, even still today, whether I'm thinking about a person or something that happened like a memory, that's a pain point that you have to go back to and sit with and heal.
[00:47:58] And the [00:48:00] transformative power of that has been amazing. And then in the present. Being able to do that. First one, do the recognition of my thoughts and changing them in order to have, and live a more intentional life and know that I'm going to feel anxiety and maybe have a panic attack and be able to ride that out and live through it.
[00:48:21] You you're living your life in a growth mindset versus a fear mindset, right? Before that every all of these doors were closing. I was saying no to everything. Now. It's just like, if I can do that, what else can I do if I can live through that many panic attacks, you know? And then looking into the future when I used to like, think about an opportunity or a relationship or something like that.
[00:48:44] And I felt the anxiety rise up in me. I would say, no, absolutely not. Like I can't do that because I have anxiety. That was my mantra. Like, you don't know me, you don't know how anxious I am. Of course I could never do that. And now it's the exact [00:49:00] opposite. It really, to me points me in the direction of exactly where I need to go, because that's an opportunity to build resilience and just live outside of my box.
[00:49:10] Like those are the breadcrumbs that are dragging me out of my box rather than pulling me back in. Is there a connection between the things that would pull you out of the box? I'm not asking this right. Is there a connection between what causes you anxiety and the things that you really do want to do?
[00:49:34] Does that make sense? Yeah, they're the same things. Yeah. So, so you can sort of use. Like, like, a compass. Exactly. That's yeah, that, that's exactly right. It's showing me exactly. It's like pointing the light in the direction that I need to go. And that's what used to tear me apart at the seams, because I knew on a deep level underneath all that anxiety, I knew authentically.
[00:49:58] That's what I wanted to [00:50:00] do. You know, whether it's flying overseas or being in a new relationship and sharing all of myself and loving on a deep level, in a vulnerable way, um, sailing, you know, all of these things that now I do. And that was part of that apifany I had in that hotel room, I wanted to be out there learning how to ski, but I couldn't look foolish in front of my husband.
[00:50:24] I was so insecure and yeah. So it's that, that push pull of. Your authentic self screaming, please let me out of this hotel room, please get on that plane, please. Let's live our life versus anxiety. You're faced with a thing that you didn't want to do. It wouldn't cause you anxiety because you would just dismiss it.
[00:50:45] It wouldn't, it wouldn't measure it all on the Richter scale. Yeah. Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. Or it's something you clearly know. Right. If it's an, it there's perceived threat and then there's actual threat. [00:51:00] So I'm not running with the balls. I can't cross my driveway without Paul. That's a hazard for me. That would cause anxiety that would save my life.
[00:51:08] Exactly. That's the good anxiety, right? That's keeping us alive. There's always a level of anxiety that's perpetuating our life and our species. So that's the good stuff, right? So it's identifying the difference between the good stuff and the stuff that is just perceived in is this tape running in your head that we really have to it's really retraining your brain through that exposure.
[00:51:31] Right? Trying to, to, to find the, the touchstones, the aha moments, the good that has been wrapped up in Wolf's clothing. So to speak, you know, the metaphor backwards, a lot of what you were talking about before reminded me of something that I heard quite quite awhile ago through Bernay brown, where she was telling a story.
[00:51:55] About how she and her husband were on a vacation, they're swimming in a [00:52:00] lake and she thought that he was upset with her about something. And so she, she said to him, okay, the story I'm telling myself is that you're upset because of X, Y, and Z. And he looked at her and he's like, no, I'm upset because of this.
[00:52:22] And she wasn't even on her radar. And so she uses that this is the story I'm telling myself as a way of communicating what she thinks is going on to Steve, her husband, or somebody else that sort of circumvents that craziness. Like I find that I, I often am telling myself something. That I think is going on in a conversation with my husband or my kid or a colleague or whatever it doesn't matter.
[00:52:57] And [00:53:00] when I say that, do that exercise, the story I'm telling myself is 90% of the time I'm wrong. And I'm a very intuitive empathic person, but I'm so sensitive that I misread things sometimes because it meshes in with my own neurosis, for lack of a better word and gets colored. So it's what you were saying.
[00:53:24] Kind of reminded me of that. Yeah. It's come up for me a lot in my relationships and my current husband and I worked so well because at the very beginning, when I was struggling, I was still struggling with anxiety and that comes up so much for me in my relationships, my romantic relationships in.
[00:53:46] He was always saying, like, tell me what you're thinking. No matter how crazy you think it is or sounds right. Because of course we're hiding it because it does sound. But the stories that I was making up in my head around what was happening [00:54:00] between us, what he was doing, what he was doing when I didn't know where he, you know, when he was out of my sight and all these crazy things.
[00:54:07] And once you share them there either, you know, sound ridiculous even to yourself, when you say them out loud or, you know, the other person can be there for you and say, okay, I get how you could think that, but this is what is really happening, you know, and just sort of ground you back in to reality and the relationship.
[00:54:29] And it just builds such a great connection just to have those conversations, because you're both getting vulnerable and suffering in silence, you know, that doesn't get us through. No, absolutely not. And a lot of it, a lot of it, I learned this from cheers ed book, positive intelligence. Um, he does a great chapter on two people that aren't relating in their marriage anymore and how to get them back on track.
[00:54:54] And it's so much about assumptions and expectations. And I love that when I'm talking to [00:55:00] even like my step kids, sometimes when we're talking about interpersonal relationships, you know, even with their friends or whatever, I always ask those questions. Well, what are your assumptions here? And what are your expectations and what do you think the other person's assumptions and expectations are?
[00:55:16] And it's interesting to do it on your own and then to actually do it with the other person that you're trying to relate to. You know, it exposes a lot. Yeah. Yeah. Cause we all, we have bring our own set of baggage with all of our assumptions and expectations and, and, and I think quite often, Our expectations of things are not reasonable when they're wrapped around our own anxiety and our own, you know, like we're not, you know, you like, you were afraid to go skiing because you expected that your at your ex-husband was going to not love you or laugh at you or something.
[00:55:53] I had a really hard time when I was writing my book because in word. [00:56:00] To describe those horrible experiences in order to make them palpable for the reader. I kind of had to do this like weird meditative trance thing and put myself like fold myself back into how I felt then and feel, and smell and taste and like all the sensory images of that moment.
[00:56:23] And so I felt like over and over and over again, I was living through like 50 years of this crap, you know, and, and thank God for my amazing husband, Michael, who just held my hand and my sobbing body as I went through all of this. That's exactly. Yeah, that was exactly my experience I had to in, sometimes it came back.
[00:56:44] And I, I didn't even ask for it to come back. It was very strange at times. Like there's one chapter, I think six, because I only know that because if people have said to me, like, that was so shocking to read, if they had never suffered through a panic attack or something, it's the one where I, [00:57:00] I describe a panic attack and then just generalized anxiety.
[00:57:06] And I hadn't felt that level of anxiety is what I wrote. Lots of notes throughout the whole thing. Description of panic attack. Yeah. And it came, it came up on me. In this moment, it was like a 24 hour experience where I fell back into that. Well, really deep. And I was like the only way it terrified me. And I thought the only way, the only good that can come from this is if I'm going to sit down and write about exactly how this feels right now, because, and I think maybe it was just that, you know, the other things I could wrap myself back into it.
[00:57:41] Like you were just describing, I could sit there and picture the room and. You know, the smells and what that person looked like and, and really get back into it. Almost like a, I was a drama minor in college. It's almost like getting into that way. Yeah, exactly. Getting into that character again. And [00:58:00] then all of that comes rushing back, but I couldn't put myself into a completely anxious state again.
[00:58:07] And then it was like, I don't know, it was like the universe just handed it to me. And then once I wrote it out and I read it to my husband and completely free Tim out, because he had never heard anything like that before from me, it was over, it was just like a 24 hour period. It was really interesting.
[00:58:26] What if somebody is dealing with panic attacks and doesn't know where to begin to find help, what would you suggest?
[00:58:36] I would suggest I really would suggest a coach than somebody who's been through it because it's, I think it's more holistic than just saying, you know, I would definitely suggest grounding techniques like the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique, and then incorporating that throughout your day, even when you're not having a panic attack, because those techniques will, and that's what I go to [00:59:00] now.
[00:59:00] They will immediately arrest the fight or flight trigger. And so it's extremely helpful full in the moment. And then you can also do them throughout the day to kind of cultivate that right brain comfort level and that sort of the precursor to being able to meditate. I think meditation is the second step, but I think if you're in the throws of panic attacks like several a day, you can't do that.
[00:59:30] So. I do have my entry level meditation that Martha Beck actually gave me. And I have it on my website. Yeah, she's so great. I got to talk to her. One-on-one on a coaching call. And she gave me this one where you watched this unbroken horse running in, in a corral and you watch it for as long as you, as it takes until that horse stops.
[00:59:51] And that's really those racing thoughts that are creating the panic attacks. And so it's really, it was my into a meditation practice that transformed my [01:00:00] life. Right. So I think that that's a great place to start as well. And then I think you really have to get to a place where you're not afraid of having the panic attack and that's really retraining your brain and being able to ride it out.
[01:00:14] Like you're riding a wave and knowing that there's a. There's a reason that it's happening. I guess what I would say to somebody with new, you know, not a technique or something, I would say there's nothing wrong with you. You've triggered something in your brain that is vital for your existence. It's there for a reason.
[01:00:32] It's just that you had a thought about a threat that doesn't actually exist, but your fight or flight response is very normal. And it's going to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and you just have to wait for those hormones to flood your body and make you feel like complete shit. And you're going to be going to the, you know, going to the hospital.
[01:00:52] Cause you think you're going to die. Like that's all normal. You're not broken at all. And so you don't have to be afraid of it. It's not [01:01:00] going to kill you. And the less afraid of it, you are the fewer you're going to have exactly though. They just really perpetuate themselves. So I think that's work that.
[01:01:11] Well, you know, a coach can help with, I didn't have a lot of luck with psychiatrists because it just wasn't, I didn't have that connection with them around, you know, them having gone through it as well and the techniques and the discussions and me talking through it, just that stuff didn't really ground me or help me.
[01:01:28] So, yeah. And everybody's different. I know, I know quite a few people, myself included who have found huge benefit and relief in therapy, being able to talk out all of it and have somebody else say we're help us figure out. And, and, and in a way, my therapist is really more like a coach at this point. We've been seeing each other for more than a decade.
[01:01:51] And, and it's just so she knows what my crazy head is like, and that's how I, it and people with mental illness are not crazy. That's just my own [01:02:00] idiom for myself. So nobody should be offended by that, please. Yeah. Well, it's very good advice. Yeah. And it's not like you're saying it's, it's not a one size fits all proposition.
[01:02:10] That's for sure. You know, everyone's coming at this from a different angle, but then the more we talk about it, like you and I, the more we see how similar we really all are. So they're all transferable techniques and skills and conversations. Beautiful. Well, thank you so much, Wendy. And thank you for rescheduling and being patient and rescheduling with me.
[01:02:31] This has just been fabulous. I really enjoyed this and I knew I was going to expectation was met by reality. Nice. Well, it was, yeah. It's such a pleasure to talk to you at a great time. Yeah. Thank you for having me. You're welcome.