Three years ago I ended up in Urgent Care because I looked like this. Swollen eyes and face. My face was on fire and itchy and I was worried about being able to breathe.
Until this happened to me, I had no idea anxiety could do this to a person. I was getting ready to make one of the biggest decisions of my life and I was Scared. Shitless.
It started with my eyes. The corners of my eyes started to get itchy and red. And then I could feel my ears get hot and burn, like when you say something embarrassing or you get caught doing something wrong. My temperature started to rise, my neck got hot and splotchy red, down my whole chest. And then the intense itching started. I wanted to take sandpaper and rub it all over my face. Or use a fork to scratch my eyeballs.
It was March 2013 and I was selling everything I owned and moving to a country I'd never even been to. I knew two people and had a place to live, but no job lined up. I had about $6000 in savings and no Plan B because Plan A HAD TO work.
I was moving to start over, to make a complete change and to figure out what I should be doing with my life. I had been caught up in drug and alcohol addiction for 18 years, switched careers twice by the time I was 33 and I was so lost.
This medical emergency could have stopped me. In fact, it almost did. I asked my best friend, "WHY??? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?? How can I move 3000 miles away when this is happening to my face? What if I need serious medical help?"
We decided if the anxiety continued I could always use my return ticket home.
I almost chickened out. But something inside me knew if I was this scared I was onto something, so I pushed through it. I was so sick of how I was living my life, that ANYTHING was better than what I was doing. I was so ready for a change and in true Shannon fashion, knew that unless I did something HUGE, and extreme, I was going to stay stuck.
I was ready for a new way of life.
Plus, I'd made it Facebook Official and as dumb as that sounds, this held me accountable. I'd made such a big deal about moving to the Cayman Islands that I felt like I couldn't back out. Say what you will, but having accountability measures will help you follow your dreams, even when things to try to derail you!
With the love and support of my friends and family (and some Valium and bottle of Benadryl), I landed on Grand Cayman in one (swollen) piece. Once I settled in, I prayed this would be my last bout of anxiety related facial swelling.
My intention when I moved to the island was to find my true calling, my purpose in life. I had no idea what The Universe had in store for me, but I was open to anything at this point. I didn't realize what I'd gotten myself into, making this declaration.
It became clear that Life Coaching was next on my path. "Woo hoo!!! I finally figured out what I want to do with my life!! This is going to be amazing!! I can't wait to change lives!!!
And then...ok. Now what?
Oh. I have to keep working on myself? Ok, no problem!
I have to go to coach school and get more training? Sure!! Sounds fun, actually!
I have to build a coaching practice from the ground up, in a foreign country? Ummm....
I'm going to take another HUGE leap of faith and leave behind the comfort of a regular paycheck, my health insurance and pension paid for, and the 'security' of being told what to do in exchange for freedom and living life on my own terms???
Cue stomach aches, panic attacks, sleepless nights, worst case scenario thoughts. Boom boom boom.
After a 2 week staycation from my 45 hour a week full time job, I broke out in hives and swelling the night before I was to return to work.
I'd spent the previous 2 weeks creating content for my website, doing market research, and talking to women from all over the world. I was in my flow, in my happy place. And when it was time to return to my 'regular' job, my body responded accordingly.
Except this time was different. I wasn't panicked anymore. I knew what to do to take care of myself. Four Benadryl every 4 hours until the swelling went down, and ice my face as I napped.
But more than that, I knew what to do emotionally and mentally.
And that was to just let it happen. I surrendered to the anxiety. I acknowledged it and let it flow through me. I didn't ask why, I already knew why. My body was sending me a signal that things were out of alignment. I knew it was time to start transitioning into full time coaching and this was confirmation.
It was time to really listen to my heart, and my soul, and take another leap.
As I sit here with 18 days left of my full time job, I am surprisingly calm. (For now.) I know that what's waiting for me on the other side of this is exactly what I was looking to create three years ago. It's been a long time coming and is oh-so-welcome.
I am also prepared. I have Benadryl with me everywhere I go because when the anxiety happens, I have no control over it. I have a morning and evening mindset practice where I visualize money flowing into my bank account, clients on a waiting list to work with me, and visions of the happy dance I'll be doing when I sign my next client. And then the next one. And the next one.
And I physically get up and actually do the happy dance! I yell, "Fuck Yes!!! THANK YOU UNIVERSE!!!" And dance around like I will, and do, when I sign clients to my program.
And everyday, all day, I give thanks for the life I have.
For the opportunities I have. For my sobriety and my new lease on life. I give thanks for my struggle, for the adventure of all of this, for the support I have from my friends and partner and from The Universe. I give thanks for everything that has brought me to today.
And I give thanks for my anxiety, for it signals to me that I'm alive and taking chances.