Dis is you, taking anxiety names all the live long day.
I've had so many "OH. SO THAT'S WHAT THAT WAS" moments with anxiety and OCD. I'll be washing the dishes, not a care in the world and BANG, I recall a moment I struggled in the past, the dots will connect to something I can perceive with a shifted perspective (age, experience, brilliance, ahem), and clarity shines at last. It's often humbling and always revelatory.
One such eye opening occurred last year: I went into a covid-induced anxiety spiral and it connected to a past experience like lightning. It was so obvious. I can't believe I missed it for so long. And it's all about shaking.
I bet you didn't think this article would be about wiggling, but here it comes SO HOLD ON TIGHT YA WEE STRESSED MITE.
Strawberry shakey-shake mis amores?
Now, I used to shake before sex.
I know right? Very sexy. I used to quiver from my head to my feet. And this was not a sultry ‘come-hither quiver,’ it was a full body tremble that I would try and resist, which as we know, works so, SO WELL.
I hadn’t considered this fact for years. As I've grown, I've had more positive sexual experiences than negative, understanding partners, more confidence, and I don't shake anymore. It slowly faded without my notice, but indeed, I used to shake, and had mostly forgotten until…
I used to be embarrassed, like this silly billy.
QUICK CUT back to Winter, 2021. England was back in full lockdown. I'd been stressed with online theatre school, full-time living in my flat and general pandemic stress.
It was our third week of full-time online school and I was in dark place. This particular Wednesday, I just couldn't stop crying. I dragged myself to our movement class (online) in the living room. It was one of those days, you know? Everything felt heavy and sad. There was grief for the world and for not being in school. The weather was grey and so was my heart (DRAMA). All that jazzy jazz.
At the end of the class, we were directed to find a seated position for our cool down. I hadn’t stopped crying and found myself exhausted with legs straight out in front of me, like a kid after a fall, lamenting in my sadness.
After sitting still for a moment, just breathing, tears on my face, my right foot started to wriggle.
My leg joined in, shimmying, little movements, then bigger, and then the feeling crept into my other foot, shin, knee, thigh until my whole lower body was shaking. The need moved into my torso and across my chest, trembling away. It all felt so intuitive, I was not steering but riding it out, like how it feels when ocean surf batters you gleefully on the shore. My arms started to wiggle, and my shoulders and my chest and my head and I was a toddler, giggling and shaking and releasing so much anxiety and pressure and stress out through my trembling.
My body, sensing the need to release, gave me exactly what I needed: a shake down. It was so intuitive, so impulsive and so childlike. Laughter burst out of me and I continued to shake until, once I had shaken out, the movement found a natural conclusion.
I CANNOT DESCRIBE it any other way than the clouds parted. The rest of that day and week was a different universe than the one I had been part of before.
And HERE is where those dots connected.
The past me that would tremble in nervous energy, anxiety at intimacy and fear of the violent intrusive thoughts I often had during sex, is the same me that needed to shake to release anxiety and trepidation. My body sensed what I needed was a release (eh ooooh) and guided me towards how to do it safely and effectively.
Bodies just seem to know, y'know?
Now what I’ve just described isn’t revelatory at all. If you’ve ever done Fitzmaurice voicework, Alexander technique for my actors out there, or any number of physical engagement philosophies, you’ll understand there is a deep connection between our emotions and physical selves.
Where I want to bridge the gap to you, dear reader, is that I just KNOW from experience that when you’re in that deep, lonely, dark place, your body feels immovable, stuck. Sometimes I’ll experience this brutal stagnancy, this tempting inertia, because change would be something unknown and then you’d have to face the true fear you’re covering by staying still.
Well, I know I can only lead a horse to water, and it’s you that has to choose a new way out of a dark place, but what I will offer you is this:
If you change your physical state, you can directly change your mental state.
And it doesn’t have to be pretty, or the gym, or intense, or harsh. It can be wiggling on the ground on a yoga mat, crying if you feel like it, and allowing your body to lead the way out of something scary and dark that you might not understand until years later.
I guess what I’m saying, and the advice I would give to 17-year-old me is this: if you want to shake, there’s probably a good reason. And if you don’t know the reason, shake anyway, because in that moment, your body knows best.
WIGGLE MY LOVES. WIGGLE YOUR WAY TO FREEDOM.
STEPS FOR WHEN YOU'RE IN A FIXED ANXIOUS STATE:
Put on your comfy clothes.
Unroll a yoga mat, blanket or towel on the floor. Nothing fancy.
Get on. Lie down, sit down, dealers choice.
Take a minute or two to pay attention to your breath.
This is important: DON'T TRY TO MAKE A FEELING LEAVE YOU. Accept your anxious state, notice how it physically feels... is it living in your chest? Your stomach? Where are you tense? Where are you not able to relax? Find that place and imagine breath coming in and releasing it on the exhale.
Once you've settled, slowly introduce gentle movement, be it a wiggle or a stretch, or a quiver or one toe pointing and flexing. Whatever it is your body wants to do, you do that. Curling up in a ball and crying? Sok by me... then...
Follow that feeling, that movement with playful curiosity and love towards your physical self. You can set a timer or allow it to follow a natural conclusion.
Put on some T-Swift and really "Shake it Off"
*Step 8 is optional. But highly recommended.
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