Breathe - how to rescue yourself

In 2021 I chose to change my first name to Avery as a way to make peace and grieve the loss of who I used to be and what I used to be capable of. I only changed my name in practice, though, and haven’t done it legally.

Yet.

At the beginning of this year, I was getting pretty excited that this would be the year I was going to change my name legally and fully become Avery.

But I hesitated, and last night in my journaling session I discovered why.

My health has been pretty rocky throughout most of my life, but especially since my chronic illness and disability that left me questioning my identity – things have been especially rocky. I found a new normal for a little while after changing my name to Avery and my body started to settle. But the last 6 months or so have brought on some new health challenges again.

I don’t know what’s going on yet. We’re still figuring it all out with more tests and specialist appointments. And to be honest, I’m a little scared of what the results might mean – both that it might mean I have a new diagnosis to pile on top of what I already have, or that maybe there isn’t a new diagnosis but it is the new normal that I have to learn how to adapt to again.

Last night I was writing and digging into this fear and dread, and realized that maybe, for right now, I don’t want to legally change my name. Maybe for right now, I want the name Heather to be associated with the health struggles.

Maybe I want to create some distance from the part of me who has all of the medical appointments and the part of me that is building a new way forward.

Maybe Heather is like my alter ego. The Bruce Wayne to my Avery Batman superhero.

Because I truly believe that each one of us has an inner warrior that is our core, stable, strong, objective view of our corner of the world. The part of us that can take on anything, accept what comes our way, and roll with all of the proverbial punches.

Keeping that objectively weaker part of me as a separate “identity” of sorts feels a lot more empowering to me for some reason.

I remember when I was in high school, I was going through a lot emotionally with no real safe space to turn to. It was also in high school that I started to experience my first major health issue and that left me feeling even more alone.

I looked for ways to control my life, and ended up relying on some very unhealthy habits. Yes, I know I’m being a bit vague here, but I’m not ready to share the details about all of these things just yet.

Anyway, I remember feeling so alone. So broken. So unlovable. And I remember wishing that someone would come and rescue me. I searched for this in people, teachers, mentors, friends, religion, sports. I really just wanted something or someone to come into my life and make everything better.

Which, in hindsight, makes no sense because I wasn’t letting anyone in, no one really knew what was going on, and I didn’t trust people like that. Hindsight’s a jerk like that sometimes.

I waited for years looking for someone or something to rescue me, though. To take the world off my shoulders and let me breathe again. But that person never came.

Even now, I have a completely supportive and loving partner – but he isn’t the one to rescue me.

I realized (with therapy) almost a decade ago, that I am the only one I need to rescue myself. Now, I know that may be disappointing. I know that I was disappointed when I heard it too because it sounds like so much work.

But once I got into it, I realized that it was actually really freeing. Instead of waiting for other people to reach out and help, I just started helping myself.

I created my own emotional safety. I created my own boundaries and self-care strategies. I created my own fulfilling life.

The more I study the Jnana Yogic Path, and the associated modern psychology associated with it, the more I realize that Svadhyaya, or self-study is really the key to feeling supported again.

We have many different sub-personalities within us. They’re all integrated into one personality (unless you have the rare dissociative identity disorder) but they each can take turns driving the bus so to speak.

Have you ever seen the movie Inside Out by Disney Pixar? It follows this visual metaphor as well by having different emotions at the helm, helping their human navigate the world.

I like to think of my sub-personalities in this way as well. Heather steps up to the driver’s seat when it’s time to navigate medical appointments because she has the experience for this.

Little Heather navigates when it’s time to be silly, find the magic in every day moments, and find playfulness.

Avery steps up when it’s time to align with my purpose, go after my dreams and achieve my mission. She’s the inner warrior – the strength for when the other sub-personalities need support.

When I become the formidable person I know I can be to have the impact I want to have on this corner of the world.

I listen to the song Breathe by Ryan Star when I need to reconnect to this formidable inner warrior because it’s one of those songs that meets me where I’m at and allows me to “put on my armor” and stand in my strength to move through whatever it is that’s in front of me.

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Breathe - Ryan Star