The Confidence Trap
A few weeks ago, during a pretty run-of-the-mill yoga class, I fainted.
To know why this rocked my world, you’d have to go back a few months. This spring, I was fainting kind of regularly, in addition to a bunch of other really unpleasant symptoms. It turned out it was because my B12 levels were low –– so they put me on B12 injections every two weeks, and I got better. Not only was I not fainting, but I was staying up later, and doing yoga several times a week. I had noticeably more energy.
But then my B12 levels got a little higher, so they pushed my shot schedule from every 2 weeks to once a month. I started to feel worse, until finally, voila, I fainted during tree pose.
I’m happy to report that I’m back on my bi-weekly shot schedule and feeling better already. But the bigger thing I learned from the whole situation? Just how much my illness can impact my self-confidence.
The thing is, ever since my fainting spell I’d been afraid to go back to a yoga class. Even though yoga is something I really love, I was so angry at the idea that my illness was somehow “taking” it from me, even temporarily, that I just fully stopped. And ultimately, I was afraid of embarrassing myself. I’m not the most athletic person in the world, but I’m actually good at yoga. I take pride in it. So the idea of fainting again, or even just not being able to keep up with the rest of the class, made me want to hide myself away.
And it made me realize that yoga was just a small-time metaphor for a larger issue I have living with IBD. The fear of not being able to keep up, or of embarrassing myself, or of being seen as “not normal,” sometimes keeps me from doing things I would really love to do. I get self-conscious, and anxious, and I lose my spark. When it comes to yoga, or dating, or making new friends, I’m much more hesitant to take big swings than I ever used to be. I’m reluctant to let new people (and things) into my life.
That’s why I’m a firm believer that most all chronic illness patients should work with a therapist. In addition to my Crohn’s Disease, I also suffer from clinical depression and panic disorder. I’m highly susceptible to the emotions I describe above: fear of unknowns, a tendency to isolate myself. But I’ve spent the last several years working on those parts of me: going to therapy, talking it out in support groups, writing about it. And working on it makes everything feel a lot less scary. It makes solutions seem tangible. I may not be able to cure my Crohn’s, but I can redirect the anxious thoughts I have about it (with a lot of work and support –– but it can be done!)
Case in point? Today, I went back to yoga. A baby step, for sure, but a step nonetheless. This time I didn’t faint –– but I’m trying to remind myself that even if I did, it wouldn’t be a personal failing.