Stop Running. The Hardest Homework Assignment I've Ever Done.

 
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{This may be triggering for some ~ I share a little bit about the trauma around this beauty's open-heart surgery + share a picture from the hospital.}

Do nothing. 

That was the assignment.

No list making. No working. No cleaning. No kids. No tv. No music. No phone. 

Just me.

By myself. 

Nothing to distract me. Nothing to numb. 

No place to hide. 

What's the big deal, right? 

It was a big deal for me. A really big deal. 

{A little background.}

In the early hours of November 22, 2013, my body + mind changed forever. The memories of what I saw / heard / felt / smelled seared into the cells of my body. My reptilian brain took over.

There I sat, rocking back and forth on my knees - in the back corner of her tiny CICU room. Praying with every ounce of me - pleading that my baby girl, who had just celebrated her 1st birthday weeks before, would pull through.

Beeps. Buzzes. Overhead calls. Bright lights. People everywhere. 

The energy in the room shifted. The pace and intensity picked up. 

A surge of chemicals flooding my brain. Changing it forever.

After the third attempt to defibrillate, I thought she was gone. I actually felt her soul soar high above. In the most surreal way, I was comforted by the warmth of knowing she was in the hands of angels. Comforted and completely broken. A total living hell.

A mother's worst nightmare unfolding in front of me. 

There was nothing I could do but sit. 

Just me.

Nothing could distract me.

Nothing could come close to numbing the depth of pain I felt watching the entire CICU floor work to save her life. 

Just me. 

Sitting still. 

No running. No numbing. There was no where to go.

And no where I would rather have been while her team miraculously connected her heart to ECMO ~ a machine that bought her time. A machine that allowed her heart to rest. And heal.  

She may have soared into the arms of angels above, but she wasn't gone. 

She's fully here. 

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When I pushed her out of the hospital doors two months later, I knew I needed help. 

Foliage. A cool breeze. Chaotic movement. The lights at Target. Our microwave. The kitchen timer. FedEx trucks. Helicopters. Starbucks buzzers. Loud noise. Driving at night. Being away from my girls. Getting sick. My phone ringing. 

Sitting still.

All of these {and so many more} became triggers. 

I was diagnosed with PTSD. 

Sitting still brought me back to her room and that hallway.

Vivid flashbacks. Body shakes. Insomnia. Nightmares. Living in a state of hypervigilance. 

So, I ran from it. 

I organized. Cleaned. Cooked. Scrolled. Baked. Cleaned. Played. Worked. Cleaned. Scrolled. Organized. Worked. Played. Obsessed. Decluttered. Worked out. Cleaned. 

I wouldn't stop moving. 

I filled every single moment of my day with something to avoid the sitting. 

I ran.

~

I didn't want to work through the HARD, messy-ass shit of reliving that experience. 

And. I did it anyway. 

Eventually.

My therapist walked with me. She challenged me. She pushed me. She held space for me. 

We started 1 minute at a time. 

And then I quit. And started running. 

If I just ran long enough - and fast enough - couldn't I run away from it all? 

What I really wanted was to go back in time and change what happened. 

Months into my healing, I started working with a coach / mentor. My homework assignment: sit still. 

I wanted to run. I really wanted to run. 

And, I knew deep down inside...Running wasn't working.

I knew that the ONLY way to move forward THROUGH the messy was to start where my feet were. 

No beating myself up for not 'lasting long enough' - there was no doing it perfectly. 

I had a choice to make: keep running / numbing / avoiding in hopes to change the past or sit with the mess. 

I'm here writing this to you today because I chose to sit with the mess. 

I still run sometimes. AND. I catch myself.

I ran away from my diagnosis of asthma for 32 years. I pushed it away. Refused to accept it. Hated it. Hated the lack of control around it.

I hated having to *prove* my condition to the USOC and FINA. 

So, I ran. And, ultimately, it made my asthma worse.

The running wasn't working.

{I can't help but wonder about the whole swimming thing - and what could have been... AND I give myself grace + love because ruminating about the past doesn't serve me.}

I remember the day I finally accepted it: YEARS after swimming and months into my PTSD diagnosis when I nonchalantly said something about my inhalers to my therapist. 

Here's what I learned:

Our brains react to the shallow breathing - sabertooth or uncontrolled asthma. They can't differentiate - they just react. 

I stopped running. The irony? I can crush some hills these days. ;)

The discomfort + work, worth it.

~

 
 

Those pulls to run. That's our inner wisdom screaming at us to pay attention.

To dig into the hard shit. Because, on the other side - it's a level of freedom and joy that's hard to explain. 

The running brings temporary joy. 

What is it that you are running from? 

Let yourself go there.

~

No amount of doing - achieving - acquiring - numbing - binging will bring us deep, lasting joy. 

Here's what I know for sure:

You've felt pain. And shame.

And, maybe you've tried to bury it by running. 

Stop running.

Get underneath it.

I promise you, it's worth it.

You are never alone in it - even when it feels like you are.

Please don't try to do this work alone. Asking for help is courageous.

Find a therapist / coach / mentor who will walk with you and hold space for you while you navigate your darkness. 

You can't outrun it. 

~

When you strip down all the achievement - all the things - and connect with the you underneath it all...

How are YOU doing under there? 

If you are struggling to find inner peace and balance around food + exercise and the relationship you have with your body, please grab my hand. Stop running. There are no quick fixes to real, lasting change. You've gotta walk through the hard. 

And I can help. I have a group space opening on Monday, and I would love to stand with you - and hear your story. I would love to connect you to tools that EMPOWER + a tribe that INSPIRES. I would love to push you + celebrate you and hold you accountable to YOU. 

To learn more, you can head over to my wellness coaching page.

I've got you.

~

If we aren't FB friends, I'd love to connect on social.

And, if you missed my LIVE this morning on FB, you can watch it here: Stop Running

~

I believe in you. 

I know you can do hard shit. 

You are worthy, without conditions. 

And you are so capable.

Samantha Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, transformational speaker, empowerment coach and mama of four.  She empowers others to cultivate the courage, compassion and resilience needed to let go of perfection - so they can achieve their own gold medal moments AND live a life that is filled with freedom, balance and lasting joy.   A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls.  

You can learn more about Samantha at www.samanthalivingstone.com