Hi, I’m Penny.  I am a self – love inspired transformational Life & Wellness Coach, Spiritual Mentor, Yoga instructor, all things WELLthy life and a mental health warrior.

Truth Bomb – I confess that I was to have written and submitted this over a year ago. Until now I felt challenged to write, with anxiety sitting at the surface for various reasons.   Finally, I arrive here in this moment, with the courage to “step into the arena” and share.

My mental health journey has weaved through different fabric over the past 30 years with anxiety being center stage. Throughout life I would have had you convinced that I was totally self-confident, fully accepting and loving of myself; all of who I am and who I am not.

The reality is I was a worrier from the time I was a little girl and anxiety a part of my existence since. At 9 years old and moving forward for many years I lacked the self-esteem that would support the definition of self-confidence and self-love. Feelings of not belonging translated into feelings of not worthy or good enough. I was constantly wanting to be perfect; comparing myself to others I knew of; friends and family members who from my perception appeared to be so much more than me (smarter, athletic, accomplished, prettier, well – spoken, I imagine you get the picture.)

Always people pleasing; trying so hard to find the place where I felt I fit and attempting to mimic what I perceived as perfection.

Always feeling judged and on the periphery of the crowds and social circles.

Always worrying or feeling a sense of fear and anxiety. Never wanting anyone to know.

I grew up in a great home, with a loving family and needing for nothing. Always outgoing, happy and free spirited as a child, and at around ten years old I began to experience a significant sense of not belonging or fitting in. Still always smiling, I never expressed it or shared the deep sense of hurt I felt when when I was made fun of, teased, left out, bullied or when my genuine kindness that was taken advantage of. My sense of true belonging was skewed and I would create ways to overcompensate by trying way too hard to fit into different groups and social circles. Over the years my FOMO; fears of being left out or missing out cost me some great opportunities, also, cost me the discipline to fully commit to any one of them.

My dance with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder had begun at 15 and continued into my early 30’s.  There wasn’t anything I could do to get fit, thin, and be “pretty enough” – limiting calories, excessive exercise and the awful convincing inner negative self-talk; continuously stressing out my nervous system and always feeling a level of anxiety yet not understanding what anxiety was. I even chose to have rhinoplasty (a nose job) at 16 after being teased so much for having a nose that looked like a particular NHL hockey player’s.

A real duality

from the outside looking in “I had it all”. Always miss congeniality – I loved life; had friends, awesome life experiences, great jobs, some modeling gigs and a busy social life; but I simply felt more alone than not and definitely did not fully love or accept myself.  Always afraid to fully self-express, speak my truth in fear of being judged, criticized, misunderstood or made fun of and wanting to fit in with the humans I considered cool when I was younger and those I respected and admired as I became an adult.

I was the perfect chameleon and had the ability to fake my confidence at times and adapt to environments effortlessly. Fast forward to the first official anxiety attack – I remember it clearly. I was sitting in a public speaking class during undergrad at Arizona State University. The irony was I was listening to speakers and had spoken in front of the class the week before.  During class I suddenly began to sweat profusely, heart beating fast and the feeling that something horrible was going to take place. I stood up, went to the bathroom with a flush face and rinsed it with cold water.  My first thought was hypoglycemia; I had been limiting my food intake and was also addicted to fitness. I rush walked to the student health center as my symptoms got worse. Indeed, the medical team asserted it was hypoglycemia and gave me juice and crackers. I left to go home, still feeling super edgy, and emotionally exhausted.  Two days later it happened again on my way to meet friends.  Instead of going out to be social I drove back home unable to leave the house until the next day. It was the beginning of what became a long journey.

When diagnosed that year (1992) with Generalized Anxiety & Panic Disorder, my inner world darkened; insert stigma here. How could I actually have this thing called anxiety “disorder” that could not be seen in any test or image? What was wrong with me – more internal affirmation that I was “broken” and did not fit in.  What would people think of me?

For the following 9 months anxiety literally took over my life. After two semesters of back to back medical withdrawals, l left school in Arizona and came back to Calgary to “work it out” holistically. I did everything from psychology, homeopathy, nutrition hacks, acupuncture and more; all alternative options that had short term benefits; unfortunately, not enough at the time to make a lasting difference. It was then when my worst nightmare at the time, came true; turning to what was a last resort; medcation. The anti-depressant journey has its own story and added more of a stigma mindset. Today, I can confidently share that the medication worked, a few weeks into the taking the lowest dose of the drug there were no more anxiety attacks and no side affects that I knew of; only the stigma of having to take a medication (at the time it was not main stream conversation as it is more so today and there was almost no public awareness).

At that time not only did I have a diagnosis and the need to take a med; with it came guilt, shame, embarrassment, more self-criticism and judgment. I wanted no one to know.  Low vibrating emotions that did not serve and only added onto the years of limiting thoughts and beliefs.

Fitness, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, nutrition, spiritual practices, time in nature, and all holistic/alterative health avenues were my outlet.  I needed to understand more and it became my mission to deep dive into learning about anxiety and how it relates to mind and body systems and connection. I wanted to know how past conditioning and environment played a role. It was then I took an even deeper dive into personal development, health/wellness and the spiritual world. What I learned too was anxiety’s relationship to limiting beliefs, stress & trauma; and it being an internal alarm system.

The medication part of this journey was suppose to end in the late 1990’s. It has it’s own story that I will simply share; after a number of medically supervised attempts to wean off and discontinue, there were multiple fails unrelated to the anxiety and instead due to withdrawal side effects that I was never warned about. In 2013 I finally came off the medication for good and it left me with what of became a long-term side effect. Minor brain damage & cognitive impairment to an area of the prefrontal cortex, a beautiful recipe for validating limiting beliefs and the resurrection of anxiety.  The irony is that it became another invitation for the nervous system to constantly ignite and for anxiety to show up. Meanwhile, like anxiety, the impairment is not visible to the audience. It’s an inside job, affecting some language, information recall and parts of the organizing processor.  It’s taken years to surrender and accept a new normal in that operating system, and live trusting the incredible power the brain has to heal and through neuroplasticity adjust.

What have been some of the most valuable and important points on this journey to note:

I am not my anxiety nor does it define me. Anxiety and depression does not discriminate.

There is no shame in anxiety. Most of us humans experience some version of it at one point or another throughout our lives. Taking the reins, embracing and befriending anxiety is the key to breaking free from the imprisonment it can feel like and cause. Openly sharing and not hiding it, letting others in for support. Having a method with different tools to manage and channel anxiety and its energy in a positive way is a game changer; small daily practices, self-care, healing rituals and habit changes. Discovering what is under the belly of anxiety and mapping a road to radical self love is the key to freedom.

Loving myself, all of who I am and are not, my gifts, talents, flaws and limitations fully and whole heartedly without any reservation has been a life long journey. I am proud and full of happiness to be so confident in expressing publically my own self-love, I love me, I love my anxiety and know that it only shows up to teach or is the ego’s attempt to protect some part of me. I am incredibly grateful for the gift this journey of anxiety and various moments in time having danced with mild depression.

There was a time I could not have said that with conviction. It created strength, resilience, forgiveness, trust and so much more. It’s partially my “why” for having devoted my life’s work to guiding others to radical self-love, conscious living and mind-body-soul alignment.

To living the WELLTHY life, as I have coined it.

Each one of us is worthy and deserving to live the healthiest, most joyful and best life ever. Mental Health does not need to be a stigma or life sentence of negativity. There is a gift in it; an invitation to awaken and heal in many cases. When we reframe and remove the labels there is so much more room to dance with. I personally acknowledge and honor each one of you reading this who live within any part of the mental health spectrum. Whether you have experienced it all your life, or circumstances triggered it; you are not alone.

The first step is having the courage to tell the truth, surrender and let go of any shame or negative belief. The second is knowing you are NOT alone. There are tribes of others’ standing with you, by you and who see you.

You are worthy. You are enough. Your anxiety or depression does not define you. Invest in yourself; the personal development, the inner soul work, working out the limiting beliefs and conditioned habits, let go of the stories that do not serve and all the supportive practices for mind body spirit that will support the shift. There is freedom beyond the walls.  Our emotions are energy in motion and when we learn to understand it all the path gets lighter and easier.  Dark moments are inevitable, anxiety is uncomfortable, and it all serves a divine purpose, there is light on the other side; I am living proof.

My intention and hope for sharing my journey is to know that you or someone you know reading this will gain insight, hope and find the light within to rise out from any darkness within, or be able to support someone you know.  We are one community, one big connection in this universe and are here to support each other and rise together.

With so much high vibe love and compassion,

Live, Love and align,

The WELLTHY way.