At that point, a friend invited me to go to a yoga class with him. I remember so vividly that while taking the class, it was the first time I felt like I had a body. Before that, I existed so much in my head, but during this class I realized I could experience the space underneath my chin.
During that class, the instructor (who was a Buddhist meditation teacher) spoke a lot about the mind and suffering. He shared that we are not our thoughts, and suffering wasn’t personal. I had an epiphany in that class: It was the first time I realized I had a choice when it came to my thoughts, and I didn’t have to believe every single thing that popped into my mind. Instead, I could observe those thoughts, and then do something different. Amid this realization, I knew deep down that this class was going to change my life. So I went back the next day, and the day after that, and so on.
I studied with that same teacher and learned so many practices that supported my mental health and well-being. I was taught the Buddhist idea that we are not just our body or just our mind, and that concept helped me depersonalize my experience. So it wasn’t my anxiety or my worry, it was just anxiety. I also learned a lot about impermanence and techniques to help regulate my nervous system, like breathwork.
I ended up leaning more into meditation — I was drawn to it because a lot of my own suffering was related to my mind, and I wanted to understand it. After being diagnosed with ADHD, I thought meditating would be completely impossible for me. But my teacher kept assuring me that everyone’s mind gets distracted, but if you really want to understand your own mind, you have to sit and observe it. With those words ringing in my ear, I really committed myself to the practice of meditation.
Buddhism was certainly the gateway for me, but it also led to learning about things like polyvagal theory1 and positive psychology. So ultimately the intersection of science and spirituality gave me solace.
Within that first year, 85% of my symptoms went away. The other 15% has taken much longer — for instance, even now, if I have too much coffee, the anxiety will start to show up. But the difference is, I know how to relate to it very differently, and it isn’t something I succumb to.