*Disclaimer: This is my unique story with anxiety and how I treated it. I am not writing this to give medical advice or recommend a certain treatment plan. I am simply sharing what I did to help heal my body and overcome anxiety.
It' been a full year since I experienced one of the hardest seasons of life I have ever been through. A full year since I thought my body was failing me. I know this may sound dramatic but I truly felt like I was dying. It's something I have kept to myself for the most part, no one could understand. I went to multiple doctors, counselors, and good friends and even though I got great wisdom & guidance, no one could truly help me. It's weird to write about because it's still something I have no explanation for. I still don't quite know exactly why I went through it or what lessons have come out of it, but at least I'm starting to process it.
It started last May. I remember the exact day. Danny was gone for training (he was gone basically that whole Summer) I had friends visiting Oahu and I had spent the day with them at Waimea Bay. It was a normal, Summer day in Hawaii until I got home and it hit me. I started feeling clammy and dizzy. I thought I was dehydrated and so I drank a ton of water and laid down. About an hour later I was feeling even worse. I had this dooming fear that if I stood up, I would pass out. My heart was beating outside of my chest and it felt hard to breathe. I didn't know it then, but now I know, that was the first time I experienced a true panic attack.
From that day forward, everyday seemed to get worse. It started with one panic attack a day, then three, then up to five, and then eventually, all day long I would experience panic symptoms and I stopped sleeping at night. I have never had troubles falling asleep in the past and so not being able to fall sleep was a new thing for me. I would get ready for bed, lay down, doze off, and as soon as I would doze off a bit and my body relaxed, I would get an adrenaline rush and the panic symptoms would come back. There was truly no rhyme or reason for it. I did not feel stressed. It would just come up out of nowhere. The entire night would be a constant struggle of trying to relax and then an adrenaline rush would hit me and it turned into a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and crippling anxiety. I was home alone for the most part because Danny was away at training and since I physically felt pain during these attacks, I was even more anxious being by myself.
I would love to tell you that this went on for only a short time and I found my anxiety triggers and overcame them quickly, but this was my life for seven long months. I could not sleep at night for SEVEN MONTHS. it didn't matter if I was at home in Hawaii or back in California I. could. not. Sleep. I felt like a crazy person. I was afraid to leave my house because I never knew when a panic attack would kick in. I got sick all the time because my immune system was so compromised from no sleep. I had to miss the bachelorette party of one of my best friends because of this. The worst part was, my husband Danny had army training pretty much throughout this entire season and so not only could he not be there for me, he didn't even know it was happening.
During this time, I had a list of people who I would call/text at night at 1, 2, even 3am when I couldn't sleep. On an average night, after going to bed at 10pm, I would be able to finally fall asleep around 2am. Thinking of these sweet friends and mentors who were there for me and constantly checked in on me brings me to tears. Looking back, I don't know how I would have gotten through this without them. I am blessed with the most amazing people in my life and even though no one could understand why this was happening, they sat with me in the trenches.
I am sharing all of this not to bring attention to myself or have a pity party. I am sharing this because sometimes in life, bad things happen and you have no explanation for them. Sometimes horrible things come up, and there is no logical answer as to WHY. During this season in my life, I couldn't figure out why it was happening.. I was eating healthy for the most part, there were no HUGE stressors on my life (except my husband being gone, which actually is a huge life stressor that I didn't realize at the time) and I don’t have a particularly stressful job or life and so I couldn't comprehend how this anxiety could be so bad.
After experiencing what I did, I 100% agree that there are hormone imbalances in the brain and some people need professional guidance and medicine to help them keep balance. I also believe whole-heartedly that God is in control and he could have taken this pain away from me. That being said, there seemed to be no amount of praying that could be done to pray my anxiety away. It wasn't going anywhere. I was offered sleeping pills, anti-depressants, etc. and for me personally, I knew that my anxiety was a deep-rooted issue and I wanted to get to the bottom of it, holistically.
*Before I share what I did to help balance out my hormones, I want to share a disclaimer that I still to the day don't know WHY I went through this. It's something I struggle with every day. Yes, I changed my eating and supplements and rested and did ALL THE THINGS and eventually the anxiety became less crippling, but I still do not know what initially caused it. THAT is what I want to talk about in this post because I think we all have things that happen in life that we can't explain, comprehend, or reason with. If you are in a season like that, I want you to know, you are not alone.
I'm not sure why God had me go through this season but I have sure learned a lot of healthy coping mechanisms that I can use now to calm myself down when a bout of anxiety hits. Here's what helped me...
1. Routine: Sticking to a routine, especially at night, helped me calm down my system. During this season, I was so overstimulated that even watching TV or going to the movies would make my body panic (again, I have no clue why) and so for me I knew that I couldn't go out at night and I needed to spend time every night drinking herbal tea, reading and journaling. I journaled ALOT during this season.
2. Diet: At the time of all of this, I had added gluten back into my diet, which I knew my body wasn't happy with but I tried to reason my way through still eating it. It was when I fully took gluten out of my diet again that I started to feel back to normal. How crazy Is that! I also took out most sugar and limited grains. I am still eating this way and I feel SO good!
3. Gut Health: This was HUGE for me. From doing some testing, I realized my gut was not healthy and had candida and bacteria overgrowth. Your gut produces your mood hormones! Did you know that?! So through diet and supplements I worked on cleaning up my gut.
5. Herbal Supplements: One of the things that gave me immediate support and helped me sleep was a homeopathic remedy that my naturopathic doctor recommended for me. It worked WONDERS in calming down my immune system. I couldn’t sleep without taking this for seven months. Even though I didn’t like the idea of having to take something to calm me down, I knew I needed to sleep and I knew that this would help me heal. It's called Relax Tone and I will link it down below! I also drank LOTS of herbal teal; bedtime tea, chamomile, and rooibos are my favorites.
6. Adaptogens: Ashwagandha is known to help with regulating hormones and so I put a 1/2 teaspoon in my smoothie every morning and I definitely noticed a huge difference! I still put Ashwagandha in my smoothies a couple times a week and I swear, it helps me feel so much more balanced.
7. Setting boundaries: During this season in my life, I had to say "No" a lot. It took pretty much everything I had inside of me to be a wife and run my business. I wasn't a great friend during that time and I didn't have energy to do much at all. The only way I can describe how I felt was that it I felt like I had a radio on LOUD in my head all the time. My thoughts would race, my thinking would be muddled, and I couldn't focus on anything with all the static going on in my head. I stayed home a lot and journaled, prayed, and read.
8. A Strong Community: During this season more than ever, I really needed people to encourage me & stay in the trenches with me. A few friends really stepped up the plate and covered me in prayer. Even though they couldn't understand, they were there, and that meant the world to me.
Slowly, month after month, I begin to heal. Danny came home from his crazy season of work travel and I got really good at self-care. Again, there was no true rhyme or reason of why I got better but slowly it was getting easier to fall asleep at night and the anxiety during the day slowly faded as well. As I made lifestyle changes, I think my hormones began to re-regulate, my gut healed, and I began to feel “normal” again. About five months ago I began to feel like myself again and this season has been so sweet since I’ve been able to reintroduce things back into my life. I also have a renewed sense of peace and joy in my life that I no longer take for granted!
I wish I could tell you that I found joy in my dark place, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell you that I learned a ton of lessons during that season, but I don’t think they’ve revealed themselves to me yet. Like I said before, sometimes your world gets turned upside down and you are left with a lot of question marks. I don’t know WHY but I do know that I am stronger because of it.
If you are facing anxiety, I hope my story encourages you to never stop seeking true healing. Everyone has their own unique journey to healing and yours may look very different than mine and that Is OKAY! I hope that my experience encourages you to keep going and take care of yourself. If I learned anything this past year it was that hard times don’t last forever, it’s just a season. Things WILL get better.
If you are facing something else that is hard to wrap your mind around, I hope my story encourages you that you are not alone! It’s okay to not know why. It’s okay to be mad about it. It’s okay to hurt. Just remember that this too shall pass and you WILL get through it and come out on top.
I’m not sure how to end this post because I’m not sure my story has an ending and yours doesn’t either. Keep going, babe. You got this. <3