Disclaimer: today’s post touches on anxiety and anxiety disorders. I am not a doctor and this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. This is my own experience with anxiety. Everyone’s experiences are different. Talk to your doctor if you’re struggling with feelings of anxiety.
Make sure to scroll down to the end of the post for 50+ methods to soothe anxiety.
My Journey With Anxiety
It was 2011 and I was in my fourth year of University. I had just started my last semester before I would graduate. I remember the panic setting in: what was I going to do with my life?! I’m one of those annoying spoiled kids who had their entire tuition covered by their parents (love you mom and dad) and I remember fearing I would let them down. What if I couldn’t find a job after I graduated? My classmates all intimated me with their big dreams of working as communications officers in the government or starting their own PR firm. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a living and time was running out. To make matters worse, I was two years into a relationship that was headed nowhere. My friends were all excited about getting engaged after graduation and for me, the thought made my stomach turn. I didn’t like the city I was living in – I felt all around lost and unsure of my next game plan.
That’s when the anxiety set in. I woke up one morning and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Thoughts were circling in my head and my stomach was in knots. I was short of breath and shaking. This wasn’t anxiety I was familiar with – you know, the anxious jitters before a first date. That was the anxiety I was familiar with. This anxiety was a whole new animal. It started off in the mornings. I remember I’d wake up in a panic. My stomach felt like it was on a never-ending roller coaster. I had butterflies, but these butterflies had sharper wings that would violently scrape my insides for hours. It felt like I was about to go diving with sharks…when in reality I was in a safe, controlled environment. And then it would stop. And I went about my day as if were any other day. I convinced myself this anxiety was normal, I mean doesn’t everyone feel anxious their last semester of University? I stayed silent. I didn’t tell anyone. I brushed it off.
Over the next few months, my anxiety amplified and became prolonged. After I experienced my typical morning panic, I would suddenly feel paralyzed in the middle of class. I would suddenly feel warm, my mind would begin to race and my stomach would be in knots. I didn’t understand what was happening. I would excuse myself from class and have what I know now as mini panic attacks in the restroom. After about 15 minutes, I’d get over it and head back to class. And this routine continued the entire semester.
As it turns out, I decided to pursue my Masters of Communication after graduating university. I wasn’t done with school – I loved it! But the anxiety persisted and it progressively got worse each day. I found myself running to the bathroom and getting sick more times than I’d like to admit. Then I couldn’t go a day without getting sick. I would get sick up to 5 times a day. My stomach would burn so badly I actually became accustomed to it. I lost weight. I then started to have anxiety about having anxiety and getting sick. I declined many invitations from friends because I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to get to a bathroom in time. I couldn’t concentrate on work.
Then there was the anxiety attacks. I don’t think any words can do an anxiety attack justice. Unless you’ve been through one, it’s so hard to understand. For me, an anxiety attack begins with uninvited thoughts racing through my head. “What if this happens” – “What if that happens” – “What if you get sick” – “What if people see you get sick” – “What if this never ends”. It’s a lot of what if’s and they’re hard to silence. I then begin to feel hot, my heart starts beating faster. I feel faint. I feel like the walls are closing in on me. I begin shaking, my teeth start chattering. I usually get sick. Then I have to talk myself out of it. It lasts 20 minutes max – and I immediately snap out of it. It’s the craziest feeling – like night and day. I am then completely exhausted and have to take a nap to recover. These attacks happened at least once a week.
I had no energy and I was a shell of what I once was. The sad part? No one knew I was suffering. The anxiety I was feeling was making me question everything – my intelligence, my looks, my entire self worth. Here is the thing about anxiety – it can destroy your confidence. Every decision you make. Anxiety is not practical. It’s a little bully in your head telling you – you have lost control. From the exterior, I had it all together. I was getting straight A’s at a Masters level. I was actively seeing friends and family. My Instagram looked like I was having a blast. That’s the thing about invisible illnesses, you just never know who is silently struggling.
And then one day I read this post. She was just some girl whose blog I stumbled onto a few months beforehand. She was beautiful, had great style was surrounded by family and friends who she loved yet she was harboring a big secret. She battled paralyzing anxiety on a daily basis. It was a breath of relief reading her post, knowing I wasn’t alone. Someone, somewhere in the world knew how I felt. And that’s when it clicked. I wasn’t alone, far from it. She later created a YouTube channel called Zoella and now has over 12 million subscribers.
I finally confided in my parents and they encouraged me to see a psychologist. They immediately agreed this level of anxiety was far beyond anything I could control myself. So they put me on medication and recommended cognitive behavioral therapy. And you know what? My entire life changed. It took a few months, but I found myself getting sick less often. I’d wake up a few days a week without anxiety. I’d have less anxiety attacks. Now, I don’t want you to think I snapped my fingers and I was okay. It took months for the medication to do it’s job and increase the signals between my neurons and increase serotonin. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped me to understand what was triggering my anxious thoughts and how to reframe my thoughts. I still experience anxiety to this day, but it is controlled. I can talk myself out of anxious thoughts and know I can always talk to my current therapist when I feel a flare up. For me, anxiety will probably never go away completely and I’ve accepted that. However, I don’t let it control me anymore and know I have ways of dealing with it.
My anxiety seemed to be under control until I met my ex. Our relationship was so turbulent, by the second half of it I was always in a state of anxiety. And what’s worse – he used my anxiety as a weapon against me. He made me feel crazy. He would constantly belittle my feelings and tell me I was exaggerating. It was a painful time in my life, but I share this because anyone who has an anxiety needs to know – you need to surround yourself with friends, family and a partner who loves you, understands your condition and shows grace. Some people may not understand that while whatever you’re fearful of doesn’t make sense to them… it is a very real cause of anxiety. Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t discriminate. It can be public speaking – it can be germs – it can be gaining weight. Anxiety disorders are suffocating. They are an invisible illness. No one ever thought I had any trouble in class. I seemed fine, I looked fine. Heck I had a full face of makeup on, wore heels! No one ever knew I was sick after class or had trouble falling asleep at night. I carried it well. I carry anxiety well.
Graduating my Masters meant I pushed through this invisible illness – even when I thought I couldn’t. Every step across that stage is a middle finger towards anxiety. I did not let it overcome me.
I will not let it over come me.
Anyone who battles anxiety knows – it is something you cannot will your way out of. It’s an everyday battle. And it takes a heck of a support group. Family, friends, doctors. Everyone I love knows about my anxiety and everyone I love gives me that extra minute I need when I’m feeling the butterflies come on. Anxiety is still very much a part of my life and I still experience flareups. Most recently I went through a breakup with someone who led me on to believe a future with him was possible. It hurts. And good ol’ anxiety comes creeping back in. But I’m taking everything I’ve learned – experiences and all – and learning to soothe my anxiety during times of high stress.
Let’s Talk About It
So, why am I spilling my guts on my experience with anxiety? Sometimes all it takes is knowing you’re not alone in this. Maybe you’re not crazy after all and maybe there are solutions to this nightmare. At least, that’s how I felt when I read Zoe’s post so many years ago. The super cool thing about having a blog is having the opportunity to reach a large audience. My love for fashion and beauty will never compare to the happiness I feel when someone emails me saying they read a post on my blog and they feel less alone. It’s important to talk about mental illness. I was shocked to learn anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. In fact, 40% of Americans have experienced an anxiety disorder sometime in their life. That’s huge! You won’t believe how many people have told me they suffer with anxiety. Too many to count. The sad part? Only 36% of those who struggle with anxiety receive treatment. I understand how scary it can be to ask for help. It took me over 6 months of suffering in silence before I got treatment. And it’s okay. It’s okay. But we need to talk about it. We need to be open. I thought I was the only one. I was convinced. I’m not. If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, suffering with depression, have an imbalance in hormones – you need to talk about it. You need to tell people. Tell your mom. Your best friend. Tell your doctor. You need a support system! You need that extra loving – and does it ever feel good. If you don’t have anyone to talk to and would like to talk with me – I’d love to chat! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can share stories, have a laugh, talk. Everyone needs someone.
Remedies For Anxiety
A few days ago I reached out to y’all on instastories asking for your best remedies for anxiety. The results were overwhelming! I wanted to share all the methods you use incase you’re in need of ideas on managing your own anxiety.
- Cozy Sweaters
- Warm Tea (chamomile, green, mint)
- Calming Music
- Exercise: Kickboxing, Running, Yoga, Spin Class, Pilates, Swimming etc.
- Weighted Blanket
- Breathing Exercises/ Guided Muscle Relaxation (YouTube has helpful videos)
- Anti Depressants
- Long Walks
- Watching A Movie
- Face Mask
- Trips To Target
- Heated Blanket
- Cozy Bathrobe
- Spa Date
- Sitting In Your Favorite Coffee Shop
- Gabba Suppliments
- CBD Oil
- Writing Down Things Your Blessings & Reading Them Back
- Letting anxious thoughts “hit” and then float by
- Positive Self Talk
- Warm Fuzzy Socks
- Looking At Pictures Of Your Loved Ones
- Phone Calls/ Texting With Loved Ones
- Essential Oils (lavender etc.)
- Naps/ Sleep
- Talk About How You’re Feeling With Someone You Trust
- The Office
- Calm Drink Powder
- Spending Time With Friends
- Calming Music
- Comfort Food
- Warm Baths/ Bubble Baths
- Long Hugs
- My Pet
- Talking With A Therapist
- Getting A Massage
- Reading The Bible
- Nice Smells
- Spa Date
- Being With Loved Ones
- The Book “Hope and Help For Your Nerves” by Claire Weeks
My Top Remedies At The Moment:
- Weighted Blanket (absolutely worth the hype – I have this one)
- Warm Bath (with this bubble bath/ epsom salt mix and a few drops of this essential oil)
- Praying (my friends/family will pray over me on the phone in a pinch, also reading this daily devotional)
- Spending Time With Loved Ones (and taking photos to remember the good times)
- Long Walks (with my cozy running shoes)
- Cozy Sweaters/ Socks
- Anti-Anxiety Medication (talk to your doctor to find the correct prescription right for you)
- Journaling & List Making (I’m using this book right now)
- The Office (the only show that eases my anxiety)
- Heated Blanket (This one is the best ever. I have it in beige).
- Visits To Target (I swear my muscles relax the minute I enter the door)
- Being With/Around Dogs (currently looking for new pup friends!)
- Warm tea (when I’m anxious I stick with simple peppermint and a dash of honey)
- Reassuring Cell Phone Wallpaper (right now it’s a photo of a letter my brother wrote me, but you can find tons of inspiration on my Pinterest inspiration quotes board)
- Having Photos Of Loved Ones Spread Around My Apartment (I’m obsessed with Polaroids lately – this is the polaroid I use)
Shop My Anxiety Essentials:
I want you to know if you’re experiencing anxiety there is hope. Today I feel happy, fulfilled and most importantly in control of my life. There were moment when I never thought I’d reach this point, but I’m happy to report I persisted. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my family, friends and therapist. Do I still experience anxiety? Absolutely. I still see my therapist if I’m going through a rough patch. There are months where a “mental health day” is needed. It’s just a part of who I am, and I happen to like that girl.
For more information on anxiety and how to stay calm when dealing with anxiety check out this post by BetterHelp.