Stress makes a mess

I’m not sure the extent to which this dis-ease may have been in my body prior to its full manifestation, but I do know that the year that it fully manifested was a fearful year for me.  And not in an entirely “bad” way.  I led a pretty predictable life for about eight years.  I worked and served part time in church ministry and administration, I worked in community mental health, I worked part-time in my own private practice.  I didn’t enjoy those years, I was depressed for a couple of them, but I had settled into it for comfortability.  Daily, however, I prayed for change.  I prayed for advancement and elevation in big ways.  I prayed for the life that I knew that I was meant to have.  I reflected often — I used to be a go-getter, I used to strive to be the best, I used to push for promotion.  So what happened? That’s a story for another day, but the short of it, is that I got stuck.

Fear had me stuck.  I was afraid to stay and afraid to leave.  Thankfully God began to manifest big blessings for me in 2018.  My first full year in private practice was successful.  So successful, I began talks with my now business partner about starting a group practice.  Those conversations quickly turned into action.  Over the course of 6 months or so, we created a business plan, purchased a suite, and started construction.  I met a great group of business-minded women and began my process of leveling up.  But these transitions were scary for me.  Even though logically I knew I was making the right moves, I knew I was and would continue to be successful, my body believed a different story.  It would be nothing for me to be watching tv on a Sunday afternoon and then start crying and hyperventilating for “no apparent reason”.  The body knows ya’ll.  And for those who have dealt with anxiety, you know the feeling that your body is reacting in seemingly the most disrespectful and contradictory way possible to the rational knowledge of your mind.

There was something else that I wanted that year and in prior years.  I’m not that bold yet to pour my entire life out on the internet, so I’ll give the story without great detail.  Have you ever had a deep desire in your heart and that’s all you think about constantly.  You can be working, studying, hanging out with friends, but a persistent nagging thought occupies space in the back of your mind.  I had one of those deep desires. For years.  In 2019 that desire was almost realized.  And when it didn’t come to full manifestation, I was crushed. I couldn’t stop replaying the events in my head. Questioning myself, my efficacy, my worth and my enoughness.

I was in the throws of this mental Olympic triathlon that had been going on for some years, honestly, when I noticed that physiologically my body wasn’t acting right.  The normal symptoms of anxiety that would flood my body stopped.  I was still scared of life itself, in thought, but my body stopped reacting.  I did some research (I have never cleared this with a medical professional for complete accuracy, although I did recount the story to my naturopathic physician) but I believe that my cortisol stopped being released.

In our bodies, cortisol is released when we are in fight or flight mode to get us to get moving and do something about the threat.  I wasn’t responding to the copious amounts of cortisol being released because I didn’t know how to calm myself down from the years worth of stress that had mounted up in my brain and body.  I am a therapist, I went to therapy.  I had massages every now and again. I prayed and  engaged in spiritual practices very consistently.  And still, I could not seem to actually get my body to stop acting out of anxiety.  So, when my body didn’t respond to relaxation techniques, and it stopped producing cortisol, my immune system turned on my colon, and here came the symptoms of UC, loud and clear.   I often wonder why I couldn’t stop this. Why I couldn’t employ some other preventative technique.  I don’t know the answer and that frustrates me.  What I do know is that I will use what I have learned and am learning to gain healing.  I believe in full healing, and I believe that it belongs to me.

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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