11 Dec MY JOURNEY WITH ANXIETY AND HOW I MANAGE IT NOW
Do you remember the first time you learned about what stress and anxiety are, and how they affect your mental, emotional and physical health? I don’t, but I know it was way after I had already been struggling with feelings that I wasn’t able to understand, identify or process.
From a young age I remember feeling “scared”, that’s the only way I knew how to name it at the time. Feeling scared for no reason that I was aware of. I was basically glued to my mom. I was her shadow, I felt safe with her. Men scared me, even uncles and family members. Teachers, coaches, principles, anyone in an authoritative position scared me. I didn’t trust anyone. And this was from a VERY young age. I was born into a happy home with two loving parents, an older brother, a large extended family and abundance of friends. I did not experience any big trauma or abuse. So where was this coming from?
As I got older the anxiety continued. When I was in the fourth grade, I was wrongfully accused of stealing something out of someone’s desk. I was in such shock the blame was somehow on me; and then the teacher asked me to stand up in-front of the whole class as she reprimanded me. I remember thinking “what the hell is going on? I didn’t do this. This isn’t fair. She is embarrassing me for something I didn’t do. How could someone blame me? I don’t trust anyone!” Then I feel to the ground and hit my head on the radiator on the way down. That was the first time I connected stress and anxiety to my physical body. I literally passed out from the emotions. My physical body couldn’t take it.
Those physical feelings from stress and anxiety continued to manifest as I got older. I often got an upset stomach if I was feeling worried or scared. I would feel so tired, even nauseous when I was feeling anxious. Anxiety made me into a zombie with an unsettled stomach. I never wanted to go anywhere. Sleepovers were a big no. Even on trips and vacations I felt uneasy. It created fear and often times was the reason for me being “unmotivated”.
These feelings stayed with me my whole life and at times even heightened. As I got older I learned how to push through, but I still didn’t understand where this was all coming from? No one taught us at a young age what stress and anxiety is, how to identify its roots and then how we can support ourselves through it. There is acute stress and there is chronic stress. I was experiencing both throughout my life without any guidance or support.
When I was in college, it got to be debilitating. I had my first panic attack my junior year of college in my sorority house and I had many panic attacks for years after that. I literally would feel like I could not breath. If you have never had one before, it feels like you are dying. There is no other way to describe it. It is the worst feeling ever and I have so much love and sympathy and empathy for those who suffer from panic attacks. Its truly terrifying and you feel like you have no control over your mind and body.
After college, it was getting worse, especially because I was not happy living in Michigan, I didn’t like my job and I didn’t connect with my social life. It was not how I imagined my life at all. All my friends had moved, and I felt stuck. I started doing some research on how I can get through this, and thought I should try out talk therapy. I went to my first session and it felt good. After my fourth session, my therapist diagnosed me with depression and put me on lexapro. BOOM – that was fast. At this time I was very ignorant to all of these terms. Depression sounded like a very scary word to me and I’d never been on a prescription medication in my life, but I knew something needed to change and perhaps this was worth a try? No one else gave me any other options. I felt like this was the only option I had. *(before I went on lexapro, I shared my experience with a few close family members and friends and was shocked at the amount of people who were also *silently* suffering and taking prescription medications to help them).
I started the lexapro and within a few months I was feeling better. I was feeling light and happier. My panic attacks were much less and I was feeling overall better.
However, I felt very numb. *For me* the medication completely desensitized my emotions, meaning I didn’t feel extra extra happy ever and I never felt very very sad either. It leveled me out, but I felt like a robot. I felt like I was being controlled. It felt so inauthentic and unnatural for me to be on this substance. Not to mention, I had gained 10-15 lbs from being on the medication. Not only did I not feel like me, because I didn’t feel much at all, I didn’t look like me either. After about a year on the medication, I started to wean myself off. My doctor seemed to think it wasn’t a good idea to go off it, so I did some research and I took myself off it (*I am not offering any medical advice or suggesting you do this – this is simply my experience). With a medication such as this, it is important you wean yourself off correctly. It took me about 4-5 months to wean myself off by lowering the dose every couple of weeks to eventually nothing. The withdrawal was terrible. I would get headaches and “brain zaps” and of course was a roller coaster of emotions. But for me, It was worth it, I knew intuitively there was another way *for me* to manage this. I tried medication and it wasn’t for me.
After I weaned myself off Lexapro, I could FEEL again and it felt good. I thought I wanted to not feel the panic and the anxiety but what I really wanted was to feel it to heal it, not numb myself from it. But still not understanding what that really meant, I turned to diet and exercise to feel good and manage my stress and anxiety. I started going to yoga and started to run again. I started to eat healthier and really “take care of myself”. My thought process was “maybe if I nourish my physical body and look really good that will make me happier”. Well, I was so wrong. I got obsessed with working out and dieting. I would run 4-6 miles a day, sometimes more and count every single calorie. It was never enough no matter how less I ate or how hard I worked out, I was getting very thin and I still wasn’t happy – I was actually becoming very unhealthy physically.
So, back to therapy. What is going on here? I knew I wasn’t going to go down the medication route. I told my *new* therapist that from the beginning and she was very receptive. She stared to ask me hard questions. Questions I had never asked myself before and questions no one has ever asked me before. We started looking at my past, my childhood and even my parents’ childhoods. We got really deep and she helped me understand myself. She helped me find who I am under all the trauma and anxiety. I felt like we were getting down to it and this was a step in the right direction.
Once I was feeling better about my mental health, panic attacks were diminishing, fears were less and less, and I really started to understand how to heal and manage my anxiety, I got physically sick. For over a year I was suffering with undiagnosed physical symptoms and it took a big toll on my mental health. I started to develop a lot of fear and anxiety again and panic attacks were coming back. Then it was discovered I had a cavernoma malformation in my brain and I needed emergency brain surgery to save my life. Talk about TRAUMA! So, I had brain surgery, moved home to Michigan to heal and here I was with my life flipped upside down just as I felt I was “getting it all together and figuring it out”.
During this time I had so many blessings in my life (I was alive, surgery went well, family and friends support, financially stable etc) I was leaning and focusing on that so much that my spirits were high for a while, but one day it hit me is hard – that life will never be the same. Healing my body would take a while and my “normal” was looking very different. I was so angry at my body for “failing me”. I was worried it would fail me again. I was scared to do anything in the fear that I would hurt myself or cause another trauma. The fear of my future health haunted me. Every single aspect of my life changed in that moment and nothing could have prepared me for it.
While healing I knew I needed to seek out support and REALLY get serious about nourishing myself back to full health – mentally, physically, emotionally etc. I was done being on this roller coaster. I felt like I had a second chance at life and I was going to live it to its fullest.
I started working with a health coach who introduced me to amazing healers and other holistic healing methods. I am SO grateful for this, because this was the start of me healing from a deep emotional level. She was my guide and support through navigating this new journey I was on. I started doing reiki every couple of weeks, getting body work done, meditating, eating better, journalling, going to therapy again etc. All of these things were helping my mental and physical health, but the most impactful for me was Reiki and my healer teaching me how to heal myself. My whole life I had sought our support from others for answers and to “fix me”. I thought in a 1 hour appointment with someone they would wave their magic wand and I would be better. Sandy, my energy healer, created space for me to heal and she supported me through my journey. She asked me hard questions, she gave me hard work to do on my own. I started to read A LOT among many other things, but I learned I could not heal my physical body from the trauma until I healed the emotional trauma, current and deep rooted past. I learned my brain was on default trauma mode. Every thought, action and behavior was created from my past traumatic experiences. This was putting me in a cycle of limited thinking and limited healing ability. In order to heal, I had to change my daily thoughts and behaviors while healing the deep trauma.
So, I started to “do the work”; what is the work for me and how do I manage my anxiety it now?
What has helped me heal and things to remember:
- Energy healing / Reiki specfically – I used to go every 3 weeks, since moving to NYC I do not go as often, but when I do it is such a powerful experience. Reiki has allowed me to cut chords to things that no longer serve me, raise the vibrational energy within my body to promote healing and balance, remove self-limiting beliefs and blockages etc. It is a magically healing experience for me.
- Talk Therapy (solo and couples) – Solo is important to navigate my thoughts and emotions. Couples because its amazing how our traumas can subconsciously affect our relationships (with a partner, family members, friends etc). Therapy has helped me so much navigate what are real feelings and responses and what is trauma related.
- Meditation – Find what works for you. I am constantly changing my routine based on what feels good.
- Journaling – I google different journal prompts everyday
- Practice gratitude DAILY – Creating and saying a list OUT LOUD of things I am grateful for.
- Affirmations ” I am enough ” ” I am healed” “I am loved” etc. Repeat. Place them around my house. I make them my passwords.
- Reading – Dr. Joe Dispenza – Becoming Supernatural changed my life. All of his teaching have helped me A LOT as well as his meditations.
- Sound Healing – I find different stations on Spotify or YouTube. My friend Nicole also creates beautiful ones.
- Massage therapy – I tend to hold emotions in my body. Monthly body work helps relax my nervous system.
- Salt baths – Every single night. It is how I unwind and relax everyday. I do 2 cups of epsom salt, lavender essential oils and turn on a meditation or sound bath.
- Retraining my subconscious thoughts through various different exercises (this is what I teach my clients in my coaching program) we really have to change the way we think in order to break free from negative or fearful thought patterns.
- Asking myself – often – “is this feeling real or is this trauma history trying to recreate the past?” Creating massive awareness around my thoughts
- Creating a morning and evening mindfulness routine – Whatever works for you. Having a couple of things I do every morning and evening to ground and center me really help.
- Turning off autopilot and becoming very intentional with my actions, thoughts and behaviors.
- Asking myself – Am I happy? What can I do to be happy? What changes do I need to make in order to live in alignment” and then make a plan to adjust.
- Knowing when to say no and releasing guilt and shame around my decisions (I have worked on this through therapy as well as on my own). When we are confident in our decisions, there is so anxiety attached to it. Other people’s reactions to our decisions and the boundaries we create are not our issue.
- Taking time to quiet the noise around me, focus on getting to know and love ME.
- Stop comparing myself to other people and finding love and joy in my own journey and path. (Its amazing when we stop looking to others for validation or direction on how we should look or act). It’s freeing to be yourself.
- Becoming aware of how I am spending my time, who it is with, what I am consuming and how it is all making me feel.
- Movement – find movement that works for you. I cannot do cardio it is too taxing on my adrenals. I prefer pilates, walks, yoga. Again, tune into what works for YOU.
- Nature – this is a given, but so overlooked. Fresh air and a daily walk has such amazing benefits for our mind and body.
- Not being afraid to seek out support, but knowing it is support and that I have to do the work. I am the creator of my reality and taking ownership of that. I am not a victim of my circumstances, I am the product of my experiences.
- Listen to my gut always
- Dance / Sing / Play! I know this may feel out of your comfort zone, but force yourself to enjoy life. This is what it is all about.
- Hydrate and eating a well balance diet
- Valerian Root – Pill
- CBD – I love and only use BloomFarms. All organic and trusted. And it works for me!
- Ashwagandha – Pill
- Chamomile – Tea or in a tincture
- Essential oil blends form doTERRA, specifically Adaptiv, Peace, Balance and Lavender. I rub them on my body and inhale them.
From doing all this “work” the thoughts and fears are less and in moments when they do arise, I know now how to manage them. You can heal, you do not have to suffer, but it does take work, like constant work. Healing isn’t linear. You may have good days and no do good days. Allow yourself to feel and work through it.
I will be releasing another post soon regarding specifics for all the methods above. Stay tuned. Happy healing <3
Sending everyone love!