Alice recounts a very traumatic experience in her life a few years ago that led to anxiety & PTSD. She shares how she lived and thrived through this challenging journey and decided it would heal and teach her.
Alice Hogan from Melbourne, Australia is the guest for episode 5.
She’s a motivation & mindset coach who helps people transform their self-limiting beliefs into self-motivating beliefs. Moreover, she's a qualified CrossFit Level 2 Trainer, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach and gymnastics coach. She also has a Master’s in Management. With her broad experience, Alice helps clients unlock their potential, push through heights and achieve their dreams by mastering their minds.
Alice responds to the first question by stating that she is proud of her life because she is dedicated to following through on her goals. She knows that when she sets a goal, she will do everything within her capacity to achieve it without focusing on the outcome but rather enjoying the process.
Alice’s anxiety stems from a fairly recent trauma.
Alice’s anxiety primarily developed from a traumatic experience a few years ago when her partner had severe medical emergency. It was a shocking experience where she had no control and could do nothing but call for help. Throughout the unfolding of the situation, the entire focus was understandably on the health and recovery of her partner; she suppressed her feelings. There was no obvious time or space for them, but they became her teachers.
It was just another normal weekend for Alice and her partner; they were enjoying the day off. All of a sudden, he started convulsing. He was having his first seizure. Alice describes how she had only seen people on TV have seizures but never in real life – let alone happening to a person she loved right next to her.
Her mind went blank. As she called for an ambulance then informed his parents, she recalls feeling numb, helpless and zoned-out with no idea of how to make any of it stop. He was a CrossFit trainer and healthy. How could this be happening?
The sense of panic and helplessness flowed on even in the ambulance as the paramedics took him to the hospital. Alice describes her feelings in these words: in-tears, shocked, confused & panicked. Her partner went on to have two consecutive seizures that day. He was put into an induced coma for a few days and ended up having brain surgery to remove the tumor that was causing his seizures.
So a normal weekend, for Alice, turned into a nightmare that involved dealing with all the questions of friends & family without any good answers and not knowing whether her partner would even live.
Alice admits feeling angry.
Before the incident, everything was going smoothly and all was in control. She felt angry for not having any control over anything about the situation. Even the relationship she once relied on was gone, as she couldn’t talk to him anymore. He was suffering too.
Everything revolved around her partner’s needs. While both of their families were very supportive, no one knew how to deal with the trauma. At times, Alice felt so muffled. No one knew how to ‘fix’ it.
A few months later, Alice and her partner separated, leaving her at a complete loss. She regrets not having any coping mechanism to deal with the trauma and rushing too soon to expect and crave normalcy after the trauma, surgery and recuperation.
PTSD from the actual incident along with the breakup itself caused her anxiety to spiral out of control. Remembering her reaction to the trauma, Alice reveals, she lost all sense of purpose. For example, an ambulance siren or even seeing a hospital turned into triggers, taking her back to that fateful day. During this time she describes not feeling anything; she just felt numb. She had no desire to do anything or work towards her goals.
Very slowly things began to shift; she allowed the trauma to teach and change her. This is why she now considers it a rebirth.
Alice recalls having met a psychologist before earlier in life but could only endure two sessions at that time. She finally realized she needed help and that's when she decided to visit a psychologist again. With this support, Alice was able to recollect all the memories of her traumatic experience and describe all the aspects the trauma many times. This process was immensely helpful in her overcoming the stress and anxiety.
The first ten therapy sessions were really quite hard. She remembers crying through every single one of them. During the first few sessions, the psychologist was trying to help Alice articulate what actually happened, but she felt so down that she couldn't even talk about it. Over time she was able to slowly talk through what happened and then relive it again and again until it had no emotional charge. The therapy sessions involved a lot of talking about the incident, recording it and then listening to it again reducing emotional intensity. This is how Alice overcame her feeling of guilt around not being able to help or emotionally connect with what her partner was going through on that day. This type of therapy was very helpful for Alice.
In one session, when her therapist asked what she wants? She recollects having no answer to the question. It caught her off guard because nobody had asked her that question in a very long time. It took a while to work through unknowing and realize that everyone is responsible for him/herself alone. Slowly answers to questions like where to live, what kind of environment she wanted to live in, did she want more open space, more plants and other things revealed themselves to her. All of these seemingly mundane questions brought her back into the present. By allowing herself to answer these questions, she found herself again and work through myriad emotions & feelings. She healed.
In times like these, most fight back. There’s guilt that we don't acknowledge or just don’t want to feel the way we actually do feel. However, allowing the experience to settle – that is, acceptance. This is the first step towards healing. While these emotions aren't very comfortable, they're happening, and they are a part of the human experience. Whatever feeling is showing up, whether sad, embarrassing or scary, accept that it is happening. Acceptance allows things to flow more easily. Alice committed to thriving through this extraordinary challenge.
This was such a tough time for Alice. Even though she and her partner separated, he was still a Crossfit Coach, which meant seeing her ex-boyfriend every single day. A CrossFit gym has several coaches. While she could have changed coaches, the thought never crossed her mind to change coaches because she wanted to accept her situation AS IS.
Alice does not believe moving to another gym would have helped. She had been training at this particular gym, and it felt like home, so leaving never crossed her mind. The relationships had developed into a kind of family. Everyone knew she was in a tough state, and each helped in their own way. One of the members helped her train, while another sent an amazing book called The Obstacle Is the Way. She didn't want to allow the incident to take away her connection to this special community.
Alice discusses how she has always had loyalty and community as two significant values but never really articulated them. It was only after reading, The Obstacle Is the Way, that she decided to be focused and push through the situation. Now she has built in the necessary drive, desire and discipline into her life to succeed as a professional CrossFit athlete, which is where she wanted to direct her energy.
This book had a profound impact on her; it made her re-evaluate her values. Who was Alice at the core, she asked? Who does she want to become? Admitting this was a big step. As a result, she created a framework of values for herself. These included honesty, hunger & drive, health & fitness, as well as family & community. Through these core values, she decided to push forward in life and achieve her goals. A lot of it was already there, she just hadn’t articulated them before. She decided that from then on, everything that she allowed in her life would fit into one or a couple of these values. For instance, having food choices that support her goals…like not having cake because it goes against her built-in identity.
How Alice implemented these core values in her life, for example, when she came face to face with her ex, however, she said, took a great deal of preparation. It took a considerable amount of time to think about what emotions could come up. What if he says hello? To prepare for what could happen emotionally and mentally, she had to decide how to get through each of these emotions in advance. She looked to numerous strategies to distract herself like clenching her teeth really tight if she started getting angry, or sometimes jut closing her eyes. These were efficient options because she knew when she was pushing herself in the gym, there is no time to process her emotions. She describes how important it is to really focus on what you are doing in a moment. She would unpack her feelings between 2:00 and 2:30 pm during her breaks and after her day ended. She really allowed herself to feel her emotions, whether it was anxiety, anger, sadness or disappointment during her 'off time'. She developed a boundary for her emotions so she could still live her life.
Alice believes decisions are critical in cutting away distractions. And that’s exactly what she was doing, aligning herself with the objectives and cutting all the extra stuff minute by minute. Alice believes that once you have decided and aligned your actions with your decisions, it is easier to confront challenging circumstances because the decision about how you will react to them has already been made.
Alice states that this why it is key to know who you want to be, because when you know it, you can cut away all distractions. This was indeed a harrowing process, she admits, but it made her a much stronger person. It also allowed her to be open to learning. She believes such awareness and skills are essential for everyone because your life is in your hands, and no one else will push you forward if you don't put work into it. No one will come and save you.
Alice confidently asserts, "I'm the hero of my own life."
She reveals that during this period, she used to listen to Impact Theory with Tom Bileu, did a lot of research, read books and wrote down key things that resonated with her. She wanted to bring Knowledge into her life.
To be clear, Alice admits, it wasn’t like she never questioned whether she was doing the right thing or not. According to her, although she sometimes questioned the process, she knew it was what she needed to be in control of the situation. She built this belief in her system that no matter the circumstances, things will get better. Therefore, she decided to look fully into the eyes of positivity and optimism.
This illuminates one of Alice's remarkable character traits, that of alignment. She has successfully aligned her internal and external selves through the power of decision-making. As she continued to build on her inner strength, it fueled her passion for what she loves most (CrossFit) and it continues to improve her outer strength as an athlete. Her inner and outer alignment is quite evident.
The discussion then briefly touches on the situation in Melbourne during the Covid19 lockdown period. Alice talks about how her core values are again helping her get through this turbulent time. Her determination and commitment to a goal has really helped her. She knows here is always a positive side and looks for it. She knows that bad days are part of life, as it is the human experience. However, it shouldn’t mean you cannot enjoy living life. She is very clear about approaching the troubles with a glass half-full attitude.
Hardships, anxiety and troubles are human. They’re normal. It is what you do with these emotions and situations that matters. Being strong doesn’t mean you don’t experience emotions. Conversely, it is about acknowledging these emotions. Once you acknowledge, you can then engage with them to evolve into a better version of yourself.
In the last part of the podcast, Alice discloses how anxiety has taught her that she is brave and strong. It has taught her that she can get through life. Acceptance has helped her experience all these emotions knowing that challenges are a part of life. She says, she knows that she can choose to get stuck and trapped in anxiety or use it to become a stronger individual.
Moreover, while a current situation may hurt, a time will come (whether a day, a week, a month or a year), she will be glad she went through it. Therefore, knowing in her core that she will be stronger no matter what, she pushes through tough situations and uses them for fuel in the future.
· [02:03] What about her life Alice is most proud of today
· [02:55] A general overview of Alice’s anxiety
· [05:20] Alice shares prior experience with anxiety before her trauma
· [08:28] Alice paints the picture of her traumatic experience
· [11:50] Alice describes her emotions at the time of her traumatic experience
· [16:05] How did Alice manage to live minute-by-minute during this period
· [19:10] After initial failure, what prompted Alice to go back to her psychologist
· [28:14] Alice talks about seeing the psychologist
· [32:50] How Alice developed her moral guide
· [35:17] How Alice implemented it at the gym
· [39:59] How the process felt for Alice
· [42:00] How did Alice know that this was exactly what she needed to do to get through this
· [44:25] Covid19
· [48:20] What has anxiety taught Alice about herself?