Can you guess what was special about February 6th for me? It marked two years since my sweet, cancerous thyroid flew on to other adventures. And she sure taught me a helluva lot before she headed out.
She gave me the opportunity to practice tools that I’ve honed for years, but I got to use them in a situation I never wished to experience. And I discovered that these tools are powerful and life changing in even the most unwanted of times.
I mean, let’s be honest. Cancer is a sure-fire way to trigger anxiety, right? And anxiety was certainly one of my companions as I navigated the news that my biopsy suggested 2 different forms of aggressive thyroid cancer. It accompanied me as I struggled to determine what treatment to have and where to have it. It was present as I future-tripped about my life and where it was or wasn’t headed.
But because my relationship with my anxiety went through it’s own transformation over these last many years, my response to the anxiety was different when it showed up during cancer.
Sure, there were times when it took my breath away. But there were just as many times when I remembered to pause and turn toward my anxiety and say, “Oh, hey. It’s you again.” And shock of all shocks, it turns out that’s what it needed each time…to be seen and acknowledged rather than made wrong.
You see, I’ve learned that fighting against anxiety (or any other feeling) only makes it yell more loudly. This can seem so counterintuitive at first! But it’s true.
Having a kid is a fast way to see the effects of this kind of interaction. When my oldest kiddo was really little and upset, I would tell her all the reasons she didn’t need to feel upset because that’s how I knew to do it back then. And guess what? Her distress would continue or even worsen. Why? Because I was trying to stop her from feeling what she was feeling.
As I transformed my relationship with feelings like anxiety, I practiced my newfound tools on her. Instead of trying to talk her out of her feelings, I started making so much room for it to be ok that she was feeling whatever the heck she was feeling.
I’d say, “Oh, honey. You’re feeling really mad/sad/angry/worried/scared right now. I’m just gonna sit here with you while you’re feeling it, ok?”
And guess what happened? She calmed down so much more quickly! It was mesmerizing to watch. Because I KNEW that this is exactly what was happening inside MY own body whenever I made room for it to be ok for my anxiety or anger or sadness to be there.
This very understanding changed my experience with cancer. It didn’t take away the hard parts, but instead made room for ALL my reactions to be ok. It changed how I experienced the wrongness that was wrapped up in the cancer.
It allowed me to unexpectedly fall in love with my cancerous thyroid. It led to a Thywell Appreciation Party to celebrate all she’d done on my behalf my whole life with absolutely no appreciation from me till that point (Note the Lifetime Achievement Award she won at her party! I wore it to the hospital the day of my surgery:-) It led me to realize that despite having cancer, a million other things in my body were working so incredibly well at the very same time. (Wanna read more about this? Click here: https://dremilycolwell.com/how-do-you-want-to-feel-in-2019/ )
Two years ago that sweet, cancerous thyroid of mine gave me the gift of understanding that the very tools I used to transform my relationship with anxiety also transformed my experience with cancer. And guess what? These tools can transform YOUR experience with anxiety or anything else that feels so hard in your life, too.
Many years ago, I went to a psychic. I was practicing as a clinical social worker at the time. The psychic told me I was going to leave social work for a while, but would come back to it. Oooh eeeh, did that make me MAD! It seemed ridiculous that I would leave social work! And yet that’s exactly what happened after 10 years, when I fell in love with naturopathic medicine and knew I needed to become a doctor of it. I went on to practice medicine for over 13 years.
And then cancer happened. It changed me. Yes, it changed my body and hormone chemistry. But it also changed my understanding and focus in a profound way. I mean, if the tools I’d honed changed my experience with the wrongness of not only anxiety, but cancer, how can I NOT teach these tools to others?!
So it turns out I DID leave social work for a while, but I’ve circled back around to my own unique version of it over these last two years, thanks to my thyroid! My work continues to be informed by my years as a naturopathic doctor, but instead of focusing on physical health, I help clients find emotional wellness (which ALWAYS ends up impacting physical health, too! Duh!).
So what do ya say? Have you been navigating anxiety with your current tools, but keep getting the same frustrating results? Does your spinning, worried mind feel relentless and you’ve almost given up hope that it could be different? Is your Inner Judge Judy becoming louder all the time? Or is your people pleasing exhausting you, yet you haven’t known there are tools to change this?
If this is you and you’re ready to discover a new way to navigate the hard in life, let me help you. The tools I teach are simple, but as you weave them into your life, your experience with the hard will transform.
Shoot me a DM and we can jump on a call and dive into what this process could look like and how I can be a support to you. I work with people in person and virtually and would love to connect with you. ❤️
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell). I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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