QUESTION: I’m a 35-year-old woman, and I feel spiritually broken to a point where I have ceased to “live”. For the past couple of years, I have felt fear starting to creep into my life, slowly trying to take over, and I’m ready to take control and give my true spirit the reigns again. I am a person with true faith and Love in my heart. I've always felt that I have a true passion and gift for love, but I am failing at loving myself. I am not only suffering physically from insane back pain, but I’ve also been suffering from close to debilitating panic/anxiety attacks and I desperately need them to stop. I’ve just been offered a great career opportunity, but unless I’m spiritually healthy - I’m concerned about my success. I need help, as I am struggling daily and I don’t want to live this way anymore. I’m tired of being told to go to a psychiatrist because I want something more; I’m seeking spiritual healing and I need guidance. Where do I go? With whom do I speak? I just need to be led in the right direction. I believe everything happens for a reason and this is my time to wake up. I just want to live again and appreciate the life around me. I’ve always been a positive and loving human being, but I’m slowly losing touch with that person. Please understand that it is from my heart that I speak.

ANSWER: I am sorry for your suffering. Your attitude is most important and it is wonderful that you see this as your call to wake up. Your clarity about your predicament is also a powerful ally. Do not underestimate the power and potential usefulness of this understanding. Awakening is what is being asked of all of us right now. There is a tremendous undercurrent of anxiety for all, as we are being pushed to let go of outmoded ways of being and reset the course of our lives. The old ways do not work and the new ways only reveal themselves in increments. It takes practice to learn to tolerate this process, especially the part that involves being in the unknown. Nothing freaks the ego out more than being in the unknown. It usually takes a lot to push us beyond our comfort zones, even if that way of living is killing our connection to our Self.

You are not spiritually broken, you need to find avenues to deepen your connection with Self. Truly loving ourselves is a difficult task. Narcissism, which in our culture often gets confused for self-love, is not it. It takes hard work to heal, know, and reconnect. We all fail constantly at self-love. In order to nourish ourselves, we first have to see how we are self-poisoning, and release that behavior. That takes stepping back and observing our life and its patterns.

Start with sitting with yourself, 10 minutes a day. I know this will be difficult given the deep anxiety you describe. If sitting is too difficult, start by slowly walking in a circle while counting your steps and breathing in your belly. Exhaling longer than inhaling has wonderful benefits for calming the anxiety. We can not stop anxiety. We start by befriending it, learning to tolerate it, and then healing it. As horrible as that feeling is, nothing will stop it. Diet and exercise can certainly help calm it.

If your anxiety is debilitating, the short-term use of medications - to allow you to function as you work on healing - should be considered. There are no gold stars for suffering just for suffering’s sake. It is not either/or: you can work on healing this while using all at your disposal to get to the other side. Psychiatrists have their function and use. The problem with medications is when we use them to numb instead of as an ally to help hold our hand as we do the inner work.

Next, you need to get in touch with what this pattern is and how it started. I find it is best done with the expert help of a therapist. So ask around your circles for a good referral and start working with someone. You do not need to go through this alone. It is neither advisable nor loving towards yourself. Self-love should not be an adjective but practiced as a verb. Take some concrete actions towards making it so.

Lastly, tend to your back pain. Get it checked out. It can be a physical issue that needs to be addressed. Many times there is an emotional connection. For some insight, read Mind Over Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno.

It is easy to be overwhelmed when we wake to the fact that there is a mountain of change we need to face. Take solace in the fact that we are not given the call to wake up without the tools to do it. That does not mean there is not tremendous work to be done, just that your own Self will help guide you. Quiet down your mind to see what the next step is for today.