No one really wants to claim that they have an Anxiety Disorder. The word disorder makes it seem like there is something wrong with you. I’ve had to learn that this is something that affects my body, it’s how I process things but it can be a good thing too (I know, hear me out. More on this in a minute).
As long as I can remember, I was getting picked up early from sleepovers and camps for feeling sick. I would get sweaty, panicky, nauseous, borderline claustrophobic, my heart would race, & just needed to be home.
I didn’t know why this would happen to me, primarily at night when I’d go to bed. My body was basically incapable of slowing down, causing all of these physical symptoms to attack me.
This went on for years, but lessoned during my high school years, and sky-rocketed during college. I was having three anxiety attacks a day in college, and was constantly stepping outside of my classes to take a breath and slow down.
Then one day, I had an attack that sent me to the emergency room. It was the day I was taking my ACT test. I didn’t take the SAT test in high school because I was going to a community college first, then transferring to a larger university. But at that university, the business school I wanted to be in needed at least an ACT score.
I remember getting ready & feeling my heart race. I was overwhelmed & knew if I didn’t pass this test, I wouldn’t be able to sign up for the classes I needed, I would be pushed back a whole semester, I wouldn’t graduate on time so I could marry my college sweetheart…MASSIVE SNOWBALL OF FEAR IN MY HEAD.
I felt chest pains, back pains, and they were severe. I literally thought I was having a heart attack & I was damaging my valves as I sat in my ACT chair filling out endless multiple choice answers. I called my dad after crying and he met me at Urgent Care, which proceeded to send me to the Emergency Room. I sat there explaining how throughout my childhood I had these same attacks and couldn’t explain them. He felt awful that he and my mom had no idea and had no way of helping me.
My very nice and very handsome Indian doctor came in and said my heart looked great, and I had a severe anxiety attack. He prescribed me anti-depressants, because there was no anti-anxiety medicine at the time, and I went home. In the car ride with my dad, he said his naturopath was amazing & he asked that I go to her before I get a prescription. For me, I’m glad I did.
I’m not a doctor, and I know plenty of people take and need anti-anxiety medicine. You do have options to try, some might work and some might not. A combination of things work for me, and I would feel ashamed if I didn’t share my experience with the world. If ONE person is helped by my experience, it was worth it.
Fact: I learned I had a digestive dairy allergy, combined with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I would feel sick from eating dairy, not knowing that was the issue, then I’d have an anxiety attack. For 22 years. SUPER FUN.
Know your triggers.
If you have absolutely no treatment currently, you’ll have a lot of triggers. Foods, drinks, alcohol, social settings, being alone, being around too many people, stressful situations and the list goes on. Now, I’m selective with what I eat, I don’t drink alcohol because that’s a sure way to have an attack surrounded by people (awkward), and I don’t drink soda because tons of sugar sets me off.
I’ve only listed outside triggers, which affect me more now that I’ve worked to control thoughts and fears. People tend to think that having an anxiety disorder means I’m choosing to worry about unnecessary things, or just choosing to worry. This is not the case, my “fear” anxiety attacks and my “physical” anxiety attacks because my body is responding to something are two totally separate things.
Things that have helped me.
- Tea not coffee (if you do drink coffee, try half caffeine or decaf) – Earl Grey Tea, Green Tea and Vanilla Chai Black tea are all of my favorites. The Chai Tea Lattes from Starbucks still can trigger an attack for me, because they are high in sugar and caffeine, so be careful.
- Daily exercise – This can be hard for a lot of people, but trust me when I say it is worth it. I always start with 50 jumping jacks (home friendly, you don’t have to run anywhere!), and do everything else by “20’s” – 20 squats, 20 calf raises, 20 lunges, 20 sit ups, 20 crunches (10 push ups, eep), etc. followed by another 20 jumping jacks & walking around to cool off after. It doesn’t have to knock you over to help you feel better.
- Homeopathic Remedy (for me, this is arsenicum album) – I ended up seeing a naturopath as my dad advised, and she helped me so much. One of the things she gave me was a homeopathic remedy Arsenicum Album, which on the label says it treats food poisoning symptoms, but this has helped me tremendously. I take 3 pellets at bedtime, and three if I’m out and about in a large group of people, and immediately feel more calm without any side affects. I took these while pregnant after consulting with my naturopath, and it was amazing to have relief during that time.You can buy these from Sprouts or Amazon, or a naturopathic doctor. Instructions: You’re not supposed to touch homeopathic remedies with your hands, so I twist the dispenser to put three in the cap, and dissolve them under my tongue. Disclaimer: If you are taking any prescriptions, talk to your doctor before starting any homeopathic remedy.
- Probiotic: You need good bacteria in your gut, and this completely will help your system. I recommend ones from the refrigerated section of Sprouts. These are also really important for kids aged 0-5 (and older), so ask your pediatrician what dose they would recommend.
- A good bedtime routine – This is absolutely key for me. I turn my phone on airplane mode so my alarm will still go off, but no texts, calls or emails will go through. I put lavender oil on my feet & pillow, I take a multi-vitamin & my Arsenicum Album, and I enjoy some form of escapism, like a book or Netflix show. I learned that if I got in bed, and I read a book or watched a show, my body was able to relax and I was able to shut my mind off from the day until I was tired enough to fall asleep. If I just laid there, my thoughts would overwhelm me & often time I’d have an anxiety attack if I didn’t divert my attention to something else. Tim Ferriss did a podcast talking about 10 minutes of Tetris with his phone on the lowest brightness eliminated his insomnia. Worth a try 🙂 Either way, work to find the things that bring you peace and calm and make sure to do that every single night.
- I pray and read the book Jesus Calling before bed – I know that not everyone prays or has a relationship with God, but God has been by my side through this entire struggle. Moments where I felt broken and weak, He comforted me & was at my side. The book Jesus Calling has been an immense comfort, to read the words of Jesus speaking directly into my heart, wow. It’s so powerful. This world is CRAZY and broken and so hard to deal with at times. I have no clue how I would live this life without my relationship with Jesus. I just encourage you to check it out.If you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t know how to pray.” It’s ok, at one point I didn’t either, I didn’t know if it would “work” or if God would hear me, but He does. And if you let Him, He will show up in your life & shower you with his peace, strength and love. On a daily basis I pray, “Lord, please be with me. I don’t know what to do and I’m asking you to help me. Please give me wisdom on how to deal with the issues I’m facing in my life, please help me to be a better mom and wife. In Jesus’ name, Amen.””For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
This is not the end all be all list of things that WILL eliminate things for you, but it is certainly a great start. Start somewhere friend, talk to a friend or family member that wont judge you, get moving on that treadmill or walk your dog while taking deep breaths. Start somewhere, and go from there.