life begins at the end of your comfort zone


How true this has been for me. Beginning last October, culminating and then exploding over the past 7 weeks, the trajectory of my life has changed. Expanded. Grown. Limitlessly. My visions now have visions. And even 10 days ago, I would have told you something completely different when asked “where do you see yourself in the next few months?”

This journey began last October when my single most painful trauma memory was triggered, and I had the most intense Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder “episode” I’ve yet experienced. I was trapped in my apartment for days from the emotional panic, literally feeling as if I would be killed (as was the actual threat in the original trauma event), weaving in and out of a 72-hour panic attack between hours of lying catatonically on my apartment floor. After crying and not sleeping for almost 72 straight hours, I finally felt relief as the episode subsided and I could sleep. And walk around. And bathe and do the dishes piled over my sink. And go to work the next day. But I got through it, and it hasn’t happened again. 

That episode was a strong motivator to finally get a proper psychiatric diagnosis and follow the recommended treatment course for that diagnosis. I’m not Bipolar; I have PTSD. I immediately started therapy and with my new psychiatrist’s guidance, tapered off the Lithium I’d been incorrectly prescribed for 4 years, thinking it was numbing my intolerable symptoms. Well, that episode in October proved it wasn’t doing a damn thing, and as they say in AA if you have the problem, the solution will work. So I got the right help and I started healing.

In July, after months of consistent albeit smaller episodes, my PTSD was triggered again. My parents both went broke. I panicked; I relied on their financial support to make ends meet. I thought I couldn’t pay all my medical bills and pay for my living in New York City. My paychecks were several hundred dollars less than the amount I thought I needed monthly to survive, let alone thrive. I had been tracking my spending on spreadsheets and tallying my receipts for years now, and even more so with Debtors Anonymous’ help, and my pay couldn’t meet my needs. My compensation raise for the year had been minimal. I still had thousands of dollars to save to go back to school and debt to pay off. “Panic” only touches the tip of the iceberg for how hopeless and trapped I felt. 

After these PTSD episodes, as of July 6, I started meditating like an Olympic athlete in training: all day, throughout the day, everyday. It’s become a natural part of my being. Flowing in and through me constantly. Spirituality isn’t just a part of my life I set aside time for each day; it now is my life. Mindfulness exercises, readings throughout the day, listening to spiritual lectures when work is slow, on top of deleting my social media accounts so I can be more present all has yielded a full immersion in spirituality and changed my life’s focus. What’s different since first working my AA 11th Step five years ago is that I not only committed to it all, I have finally been doing it.

And I don’t consider this to be another spiritual awakening in my sobriety. For me, a spiritual awakening as it describes in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is the realization that my higher power simply is. My higher power is everything, everywhere, working through all things. The sprouting mustard seed of belief. The first inkling of conviction that it’s here with me. That’s what my 2 spiritual awakenings in sobriety have been: the recognition of what already is. An opening of my eyes. Just a simple noticing that the miracles are here. What’s different now is that I’m showing the universe I’m ready for whatever it has to offer by taking action on blind faith, instead of depending on the universe to show me the results of my faith each time before I take action. The proof that the universe is working with me comes after I take the leaps, not before. Like in the Indiana Jones movie when he’s running away from the bad guys in a cave, and is being shown the way out by a map. He halts at a cliff, but the map is directing him to walk over a bridge that it says is right in front of him, though he can’t see it. On faith, he takes a step into the abyss, and finds steady footing on a bridge. That’s what my higher power has been doing for me when I actively trust.

So I got in touch with my inner voice, and found it was very loud. Like it has been trying to scream at me all this time “stop looking down at where your feet are now to find the path ahead of you; look out there! See it? Way over there? That’s where your next steps are! Not here!” I was so clouded by my fears and stresses and anxieties before regularly meditating that I couldn’t hear that voice. I was always distracted by “this thing” or “that photo” or “the fun they’re having” or “how perfect their relationship is” and “I don’t have that” that I allowed myself to be consumed with that negative perception, and because I believed it were true, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I felt empty because I believed I was. I felt I would never get more because I perceived I wasn’t worthy of having more. That changed with meditation, and with letting that inner voice finally speak.

And what did it say? Call this person, e-mail that one. Let’s move somewhere warm for a few years so you can get that new job you’ve been applying for for the past 2 years (without getting a single call back for interview), and you could fulfill all your MA prerequisites in that place. How great would the beach be? Oh! Savannah would be perfect for you! my friend suggested. Mild winters, humidity, the beach nearby, an old soul, a smaller community than New York City, and, what?! It was founded in 1733 with most of its original buildings in tact? My calling is to become an art conservator; there are probably some incredibly fulfilling work opportunities there for me! I guess I haven’t gotten any calls about my resume because my new job isn’t supposed to even be where I live!

Aside from that vision forming in my mind, I got promoted at my current job. Actually, I just had my second interview for another promotion. I figured out when I sorted through my finances that I already have enough to live off of comfortably. I have enough savings and savings income for my goals. I can afford the move. I have thousands of dollars of designer purses to sell, in perfect condition; if I work holidays, I get 3 times my hourly rate. I got work study for one of my pre-MA art classes, and the other was discounted for students. The hospital is covering all my out-of-pocket medical expenses and I can finally get all the physical therapy I’ve needed without financial strain. When my primary goal becomes self-care, things fall into place because the universe is naturally set up to provide for my needs, physically and emotionally. I was awarded a scholarship for a professional writing conference. I was made a partner in a medical supplies company. Freelance work started pouring in…

Do I need to go on? Because I can, but I think you get the picture. On top of it all, as of yesterday, my psychiatrist released me from treatment; she glowingly reviewed that I’ve been doing so consistently well that I don’t need her help anymore. PTSD recovery has been the first big change that’s allowed me to experience this abundance I didn’t know were possible in my life, present or future. And when I cleared away the dirt of my past, quieted my mind and chose to listen, my inner voice spoke to me clearly and powerfully. The abundance is endless in my life right now, and will continue to be as long as I stay this course. Your abundance is available to you if you seek it. As my first AA sponsor said, the universe moves mountains, but we have to bring the shovels. Shovel away, my dear friends, for what’s immediately in front of you is but a humble start. The answers to finding the joy you seek are already in your heart and the resources to make it happen are already in front of you, waiting to burst forth at your slightest invitation.

But first, things in my life had to get really dark. I had to confront my deepest pain and walk through it to get here. If I has been acting on my clouded mind’s resources, I would be thousands of dollars in debt at this moment, hopeless, stressed, and frustrated. Instead I chose to clear away that which has been blocking me, I chose to break the cycle of my negative and self-harming patterns and emotionally recover. My life is beginning because I deliberately placed myself at the end of my comfort zone, and sat there while it hurt. I didn’t run from it as I have been my whole life until this moment. If it hurts, it’s something that might need healing. Is it a pattern? Do you play a part in its repetition? The heart knows all this, we just need to listen and follow its guidance, and then the universe will open to reveal an abundance beyond the greatest vision imaginable.

And the best part is, this is only the beginning.

Disclaimer Charlotte Grey does not claim any professional training in social work or psychiatry. The suggestions listed on this page and on this website are meant to inspire supplemental treatment options for self-help. It is recommended that professional treatment be combined with any solutions discussed herein for suspected or known psychological or psychiatric malady, and that the content of this website not be used as substitute for professional treatment.

writing © Charlotte Grey Writings

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