On Anxiety

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Anxiety. We all have it to varying degrees. Depending on the time of the month, mine can be crippling--panic attacks and all. The last six weeks or so have been particularly bad and I’d like to share more about it because I think that having a conversation about it can be helpful, both for myself and for those of you who may be experiencing something similar.

I run two businesses:  

  1. As the mother of two little boys, both of whom are considered “quirky” (if you know, you know), I’m the CEO of the Ranere Household. I’m thankful to have an assistant helping me run this operation and, no, this assistant isn’t my hubby--he’s more like a client. That being said, his job is as a partner at a law firm, and I acknowledge just how lucky we are to have him.

  2. Founder and operator of Community Yoga at the Barn, where I teach yoga and meditation, and where I also offer reiki treatments.  

I love my work. All of it. But it is challenging. Physically and emotionally.    

About six weeks ago, I hit a rough spot. It started with my eldest son’s second neuropsych evaluation. For those of you who have gone through such an ordeal, you can understand how this could trigger a period of intense mental and emotional strife.   

The Holidays

The holidays arrived and I felt responsible for creating the Christmas magic. I’m going to be real for a moment: for me, there is nothing magical about Christmas when you’re solely responsible for creating the magic. I felt like a tornado, whipping around to buy the gifts, wrap them, turn on the Christmas music, make a batch of cookies, settle arguments, entertain, and brew hot chocolate. I was moving too fast and satisfying too many requests to enjoy a single moment.

I was exhausted from the holidays but with also filled with worry for my little guy. If you’re a parent to a kiddo with special needs, you know how hard these evaluations are and how challenging it is to constantly be advocating for their best interests.

Struggling with Pain

On top of that, I wound up in the ER with problems related to my lady parts. I won’t go into details, but the short story is that my hormones were causing me extreme physical and mental pain. Lately, the anxiety I was experiencing lasted for the better part of the month, and I was also suffering from ovarian pain, headaches, exhaustion, and abdominal pain.

“This is simply what happens to women as they age,” one doctor told me.

I called bullshit and got myself a second opinion, and this time I found that I was advocating for myself.  

Getting a Diagnosis

Women often have a hard time finding doctors who will take seriously their concerns about pain. Luckily, my second doctor listened to my list of symptoms, my family background, and my medical history, which includes the four miscarriages that I experienced before having my first son. After an MRI, I was diagnosed with adenomyosis.

There are just a few options for dealing with adenomyosis: the pill, an IUD (like Mirena) or a full or partial hysterectomy. The first two weren’t options for me, since the synthetic hormones had put me in a near manic state about a year earlier.

In considering a hysterectomy, I came upon this examination of the origins of this oddly named operation:

“Let's start with etymology. Hysterical. It's a word with a very female-baiting history, coming from the Latin hystericus ("of the womb"). This was a condition thought to be exclusive to women – sending them uncontrollably and neurotically insane owing to a dysfunction of the uterus (the removal of which is still called a hysterectomy). Here's another: loony. Coming from lunacy – a monthly periodic insanity, believed to be triggered by the moon's cycle (remind you of anything?). These etymologies have cemented a polarisation of the female and male mental states: men being historically associated with rationality, straightforwardness and logic; women with unpredictable emotions, outbursts and madness.” -  Gary Nunn, The Guardian, The Feminization of Madness is Crazy

So, my uterus has made me both a loony and hysterical (which, as a feminist, I repudiate, but as a woman with adenomyosis I totally get).  All that being said, my surgery is scheduled for the end of March. I’m dreading it but also hopeful that I’ll have a bit of relief soon. I am also anxious about how I’ll keep my two businesses going while I recover.

Coping Mechanisms

To wrap this post up in a pretty pink box with a red bow (pun intended): life throws curveballs at us all the time. Some we  easily knock out of the park; others result in a strikeout.

I’m human. Sometimes, I strike out and I send myself into a tizzy. But more and more, I reach into my toolbox and use some strategies I’ve learned to manage all of the thoughts whirling around in my brain and my physical pain.

Here are a few of my tools, in case you’re interested:

  1. Exercise. Every day I move my body in a physical way. I get my heart rate up and I create sensation in my muscles, which burns (in a good way) while also allowing for a bit of relief from my anxiety.  

  2. Meditation. I meditate every day with a goal of finding 20 minutes to be with myself as I am. Non-judging and non-striving.

  3. Therapy. I have a wonderful therapist with whom I have been working with for years. Talk therapy helps, but only if you are committed to it.  

  4. Medication. Yes, I take meds. I have a prescribing psychiatrist who works with my therapist. They are my brain team and I thankful for them.

  5. Limited alcohol consumption. This can be a tricky one, as I do have social anxiety (shocker, I know but alot of introverted extroverts deal social anxiety). But alcohol messes with my chemistry and makes the anxiety worse, so I avoid it.

  6. Acupuncture and cupping.  I posted about my experience with these modalities to my Facebook page a few weeks ago.  Fortunately my acupuncturist is about 5 minutes away from my home in Sudbury.  

If you have taken the time to read this very long post, thank you. I hope in some way if you experience anxiety you can relate. I plan to write a series of posts on this topic, as I clearly have a lot to say.

If you suffer from anxiety, do not do so alone. There are plenty of people out there who can help. Find the right tools for your toolbox. Don’t judge your feelings or emotions. Learn to manage them.   

If you have questions please reach out. If you think finding a community of supportive women might help, come take a class at The Barn. If you are interested in reiki as a way to calm your nerves, you know where to find me.

Namaste,

Kristen   



2018 From the Rearview Mirror

When I take time to reflect, I tend to focus on areas of my life that don’t go my way.  Perhaps you can relate.

It’s easier to think about what needs improvement, rather than what I’ve accomplished or what’s bringing me joy. But this year, there’s been a shift for me.  

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In April, I launched Community Yoga at the Barn, or rather, I started  teaching a few classes a week in the barn outside our home in Sudbury. I had decided I was not 100% in love with the vibes I felt when walking into some yoga studios. It felt like something was missing.

I have great friendships that developed through studios that I’ve practiced at, but I was yearning for something with more of a community aspect to it. This isn’t a dig on the amazing studios out there, it’s just that I was looking for something different.

I came to realize that I wanted to have a yoga studio--a small business--that could be a reflection of me: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The first few months were tough.  Thankfully I have a great mentor who just happens to be my best friend, as well as a small business owner: Laure LeDuc of Vos Fitness in Boston.  Laura believed in me as a human, and that translated into her believing in my ability to teach yoga to her community of students. Without her coaching I never would have stepped out on my own.  That is a fact. Thank you, Laura.

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That said, I was and still am learning my craft. On top of honing my skills, I had another, more important task to accomplish: learning the needs of my studio’s community so I could  implement my vision while helping others to feel complete.

Last but certainly not least, I had to account for  the day to day operations of managing a small business.  LLC what!? Tax ID number!? Booking software!? A website!?  These little things are not difficult to put in place, but it takes time and who has more of that?    

By pure chance, I connected with the photographer Joy LeDuc through Instagram and we became dear real life friends soon after. We were both starting up our businesses but she had much deeper background with regards to the technical aspects of running a business. Without Joy, there would not be a website, nor would there be pictures to encapsulate what I was trying to create by opening the studio. The pictures that she took of me in the barn gave me confidence and strength.

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If you read my post on the boudoir session that I did with Joy, you understand how important she is to me and my personal growth.

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Joy also photographed our family, and I love these photos for the realness they capture of our noise and chaos and love.

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Fast forward to the fall.  The community was growing, slowly but surely.  I am not above acknowledging that my classes are not always  full. New students do not always return, and that’s fine.

Things were chugging along and I was feeling good. At some point, though, I began to crave more.

With Laura’s encouragement, I decided to enroll in an eight week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course. At this point, I had  been meditating on a fairly regular basis and decided MBSR would the perfect bridge to take my meditation practice to the next level.

I never considered how much work it would be to cross that bridge. The coursework required me to devote about 12 hours each week to meditation and self exploration. While that might sound like heaven, I’ll tell you that shit gets real when you’re forced to spend that much time to explore your inner self. It was not easy.

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For years, my identity has solely revolved around being a mom. During those eight weeks, I was forced to spend time with myself as myself. This caused a shift--one that gave me room and grace, which in turn allowed me to be a better, more present version of myself, including as a mother.

Three weeks into the MBSR coursework, I completed Reiki I & II certifications.  I had wanted to do this for a while, but never allowed myself the time or the space to make it happen. For some reason, during this very hectic time I was able to give  myself that gift. Being in the headspace of mindful living was the kick in the butt I needed to begin the process.

In years’ past, I would look back and only see the things that needed improvement. But as I look back on 2018, I can see all that I’ve accomplished. That’s a big shift for me, and one that I’m embracing.

Looking at the road ahead

As I look ahead to this year, I’m trying to maintain the tricky balance of acknowledging my accomplishments while also maintaining a mindful focus so that I can continue to move forward.

Something I learned in my MBSR course is the concept of non-striving. That doesn't mean being complacent (at least not to me); it means accepting things as they are, and making decisions based on that acceptance.  

Some of those decision may be good ones, others may be not so good, but when you are living in alignment and are in tune with your physical and emotional responses to what is going on around you, there is an opportunity to make adjustments in a non-judgemental way.

To be intentional without being focused on a singular goal.   

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Moving into 2019, my vision for my professional career has shifted a bit.  I love teaching and practicing yoga. It is part of who I am, but I have come to realize I am other things as well.  Knowing that, my intention is to create a space that is not only about the physical practice of yoga, but is also for the mental aspect of the practice.

Expect to see some meditation classes and workshops on the schedule. I also plan to open up my schedule so that I can see students for private meditation coaching.  

In addition, I will also be taking on a small number of clients interested in energy work and reiki as a healing modality.    

I will keep you, my community, updated through social media and email. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout.

To close, I want to thank every single student who has walked thought those barn doors.   Thank you for your compassion, your faith, and for everything you have taught me. Without you none of what I’ve written about here would have come to pass.  

Namaste, Kristen  


All photos in this post were taken by Joy LeDuc.

Why Boudoir Photography?

After opening the studio, I knew I was going to need professional yoga pictures taken. Joy and I had recently connected over Instagram--you never know who you might meet when using social media wisely. Initially, we had scheduled a family lifestyle session but after meeting Joy, I knew she was the photographer I was going to use for my professional yoga photos, too.

I wanted high quality images which could be used on my website and for social media. Pictures that represented me; pictures that captured physical and mental strength. Believe it or not, that is a big ask.

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The physical part is what it is. I did not prep my body at all for this shoot because that wouldn't have been an honest representation.

The mental piece—that's something only a good photographer can tease out.

Needless to say, I was floored by the finished product.  What I saw in the pictures was this person I thought existed on the inside but hadn't seen expressed outwardly. The photos gave me tangible evidence that I was who I believed (but had questioned) myself to be.

It was striking. Jaw dropping, really. 

In these photos I  am strong. I am determined.  I am an entrepreneur. Like, whoa! How did that happen?! Without this photographic evidence, I don't know that I ever would have been able to write the preceding words with such conviction. Thank you, Joy. That is priceless gift I will be eternally grateful for.

So Why Boudoir?

Circling back to the original intention of this essay: why boudoir?

When  I was given the opportunity to work with Joy on another project, this time through her beauty and boudoir brand Lovejoy Portraits, how could I say no?  I loved our family photos and was enamored with my yoga pictures. Boudoir is something I have secretly wanted to do for a long time, but it felt indulgent.  

Beyond that, though, I didn't consider myself worthy of such photos. 

I know it sounds strange but in my mind I wasn't “that girl” until all the sudden I became “that woman”. Huge shift, right? I had firmly decided this was something I wanted to do. I had conquered strong, determined, and entrepreneurial already as evidenced by my yoga photos. It became time to dig deep, get over my fears and insecurities, and see if I could be feminine, sexy, playful….AND strong. All of those things at one time. Again, this was a big ask.

The Photo Session

The experience I had while taking these pictures was surreal.  It's not often I am able to spend time doing my hair and makeup much less getting it professionally done. I have two little kids and right now my social life is really limited. I wanted to be able to represent what was happening with me internally through the physical. That is super empowering.

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This photo shoot was my opportunity to showcase my inner goddess. I know that sounds ridiculous, but don't knock it until you try it!  

Posing for the camera sounds simple, but using my body in such a different way was more difficult than I expected it to be. But I dug deep. I moved my body both in ways that felt natural and unnatural. In the end it all felt good—really freaking good. 

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Boudoir Photography and Self Care

“Self care” is a hot button issue right now. It means different things to different people, but this experience with boudoir photography was absolutely about self care. 

I am not going to talk about the cliché of having the photos to look back at 20 years from now so I can feel proud of who I was because that simply isn't my reasoning for taking these photos. I will always feel proud of who I am in this moment, not entirely because of the physical representation, but more because of my experience of life and the way I now feel about myself. Instead, these photos will remind me of the experience of arriving at the ownership of my strength and sensuality; of the journey that I am on as a woman, a yogi, an entrepreneur and a student of life. 

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The photos show me what exists within. All of the time. All I need to do is call on that sense of being and I will show up in that way. Even though this was an external experience, I was able to go inside and learn some new things about myself.  Once again, Joy, thank you for that gift. It was lifechanging for me.

I  have posted a few pictures from the shoot through this post and in the gallery below, but I have more in a password protected gallery for other women who might be interested in seeing them. If you would like to see more or have questions, please email me—I would be more than happy to discuss my experience.  

XO,

K

P.S. Here are links to Joy's family photography and beauty/boudoir websites.