Mental Health and Wellness Series Kickoff
Hey friends, welcome back to my corner of the internet. This post series was highly requested. However, it took some time for me to figure out how I truly wanted to convey the message. To kick off my version of a mental health and wellness series, this post is my journey with anxiety. Warning: this post could contain language that is potentially triggering!
Battling an Invisible Monster and How I fight back
When I sat down to write this post, I knew it was going to be lengthy and I was right. I do apologize for this. It’s not for sympathy, it’s to explain what I went through. If you’re going through or have gone through the same, know that you’re not alone. Anxiety and panic attacks can manifest themselves in many different mental and physical ways. Understand that this is just my personal experience and that doesn’t discount or take away from any other person’s mental health journey. We are all beautiful humans with beautiful and multi-faceted experiences and this is mine. (Any of the opinions I express about anti-depressants or anxiolytics are based on my personal experience and are not of professional opinion) Click here if you want to see a related post about my self-love journey.
Anxiety: The Younger Years
It was the Summer after my Senior year in high school and I should have been partying enjoying myself and getting excited to embark on this next chapter in my life at Texas A&M. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was dealing with debilitating stomach pain, nausea, and extreme agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house). I could only eat a bite or two before feeling a tsunami of nausea wash over me effectively ruining the rest of my meal. After months of this crippling pain, one endoscopy, an ultrasound, weeks of tears, and a half dozen doctors later, I got the diagnosis I wasn’t ready for: Anxiety. Growing up, I had always been told that mental illness was a weakness. Never in a million years did I want to be perceived as weak. Nevertheless, I started seeing a therapist and I got prescribed Zoloft.
If you’ve never taken anti-anxiety/anti-depressants, then you wouldn’t know that they can take up to six weeks to work and oh, by the way, they might not work at all for you. Then, my friend, it’s back to the drawing board we go! My freshman year in college was a blur of eating Nutella out of the jar (it was the only thing that I could stomach for some reason), meeting new people through Freshman Leadership Organizations, tests and lectures, at the while, battling my inner demons.
College is stressful enough without your neurochemicals deciding to go whacko! The weekend before my first Oceanography exam, I got really sick with a “stomach bug”. The medicine I had to take for pain coincidently counteracted with the Zoloft so I had to go off of it. Almost immediately, I was feeling better. I didn’t go back on the Zoloft. To this day, I have never taken it and never will. That’s not to say that Zoloft can’t be a miracle drug for some, it just wasn’t for me.
Anxiety: Present day
I know you may think that it’s all fabulous parties and pretty clothes and smiles all the time, but that’s just because that’s what I choose to portray. If you follow me on Insta, you will find that my feed is carefully curated and meticulously edited for the perfect cohesiveness. And that’s only half the story. What you may see is a picture of me so excited about buying a house, but unpictured is the gripping panic attack I had when I got home and curled up in the fetal position. Anxiety for me is a beast that changes often. One day it might be in my stomach, another day it might present itself as tension headaches. Sometimes it’s crying attacks and other times it could be heart palpitations. It can be instant or it can burn slowly. It’s hard to explain and sometimes even harder to handle and there is a modicum of shame and embarrassment that I feel when I can’t get my sh*t together.
But, I am not powerless to my monster. Over the years, I have learned a lot about what my triggers are personally and what I can do to be proactive in situations that are going to cause me anxiety. I hope that in my sharing, you can find something that could help you or a loved one who is struggling. as well.
How I Fight Back
1. Find your tribe!
Find your support system. We all need loving understanding people to be in our corner, helping to lift us up when we are having those really hard days. I am so fortunate to have a very patient husband, loving mother, and father and all around a rock solid foundation. That’s not to say that sometimes even they can’t tolerate my irrationality. That’s when it’s vital to find a therapist that you can trust and that you are capable of being honest with. Your therapist should be the person you confide in regardless of what it is. Your therapist should never make you feel insignificant, stupid, or uncomfortable. I’ve been seeing the same therapist for 4 years and I absolutely adore him and always feel better after my sessions.
2. Enroll in activities and hobbies that bring you peace
I started practicing yoga when I got out of college but became more passionate about it later into my 20’s. There is nothing more relaxing than finding time on my mat, making space in my heart and filling that space with pure unadulterated self-love. I know going to a yoga class could be an anxiety-inducing experience. If that is your sentiment, then make time for yourself on your mat in your home, in your backyard, or wherever you feel comfortable. When you become attuned to your thoughts and feelings, you will be able to start washing the negative ones out. If yoga isn’t your thing, then practice self-care in the ways that you know to be good for you. Listen to your body and it will tell you what you need.
3. Consult a doctor to see if medication is right for you
Anxiety can be caused by a lot of things, one major cause is neurochemicals aren’t balanced right in your brain. In this case, you could try all of the at-home calming techniques and your brain would still be like ahhhhh no not happening! In that case, it’s not a bad idea to talk about finding the right medication for you. If I know I’m going to have a really hard time dealing with something, I treat it proactively with a half of the smallest dose of Xanax. It helps take the edge off. I take it very rarely as I am aware that it can be habit-forming. If you are looking for some vitamins or over the counter treatments, I have seen some good results with GABA or 5 HTP. Again, I am not a doctor so take all my medical advice with a grain of salt. Also, be sure to do your own research!
Try not to beat yourself up!
Bottom line is there are going to be somedays when everything goes wrong. Trust me, I’ve had them. On those days remember to be kind to yourself. It can be easy to drop into a shame spiral about the fact that you are totally out of control. What good is that really going to do?! Remember that we are all our worst critics. Just try to accept the state you’re in and know that it too shall pass.
Let me know what else you guys want to read about in this mental health series. Also, tell me tips and tricks you use to manage your anxiety.
Rosé and Ruffles