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I’ve been anxious for as long as I can remember.
Anxious and fretting at night about what I would wear the next day to junior high school, replaying interactions in my mind, rehashing events from the past, or worrying about what was to come.
I didn’t feel secure in my body. I worried about what others thought of me. I was missing what I thought others had: confidence and self-assurance. I had the feeling of having a deep dark void in the pit of my stomach.
I was running from a deficit, so to speak.
I wasn’t told I would amount to anything as a kid. In fact, I was told the opposite. I lived in an environment of hostility, toxicity, and darkness—and it seemed daunting to even think about rising above it.
In high school, I was drinking and using more and more drugs. I was struggling with mood swings and anger issues, but I would never have attributed those things to be a residing factor in my emotional outbursts, depression, and anxiety.
My mom thought it was my hormones and encouraged me to seek a doctor.
This was probably one of the most thoughtful things my mom did for me. I never took her up on it, but I did, at least, feel like she cared.
My drinking and using continued, and I started my first round of Prozac at 18 for suicidal thoughts. I was also an active meth user and drinker—I didn’t mention that to the doctor.
At 21, I got sober and believed that to be the cure to my mental health issues.
I struggled for four years in sobriety before a therapist described to me what was happening in my brain. She explained that when children are in fear most of the time (which I was), our brain starts firing too often.
If we feel we are in a fight or flight situation, those pathways can get stuck, and my brain was constantly in a state of fight or flight. I had severe fear around driving and struggling with day-to-day activities.
I went to the doctor and got prescribed anti-anxiety/depression medication, and my life changed. I wasn’t so worried anymore—I was able to relax. My husband didn’t find me in the closet in tears after not being able to find anything to wear. My obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies and irrational fears were slowly minimized .
I was medicated on and off and in therapy for almost 20 years. Every time I would try to get off the meds, I would have a triggered response to something and get scared. My own reactions scared me. My anxiety scared me. Mostly my thoughts scared me.
The medication gave me a buffer between my brain and the world. It gave me some sort of cushion. I didn’t feel so vulnerable and afraid.
I’ve been doing some pretty intense work around those childhood traumas and the feelings of unworthiness that stemmed from it. I decided to give no medication another go, and I’ve lasted for four years.
My emotional reactions have started to become less intense.
I learned some tools on how to deal with myself and not be so afraid of my emotions. I learned how to soothe myself and how to stay calm. How to not react. How to breathe through disappointment and feel sad without stuffing it. I learned that grieving is a process, I can’t control anyone else, and that God is in control—not me.
I gave up on trying to be perfect and please others.
I learned to worry less about what others think of me, changed my diet to plant-based, and realized exercise could heal my brain when I am anxious in less than 30 minutes.
I learned to journal and prayed more diligently. I learned to connect with my inner child, and then I learned to share all those shameful parts of me to take the power out of them, and voila—I was healed.
I used to take a lot of supplements for anxiety. If it was natural, I would try it. I have a bunch, and they do work to take the edge off, but what I’ve noticed the last month or so that I didn’t need them.
I don’t know what day it was that my body woke up and decided I could stay calm, cool, and collected, but that’s how I feel today.
I hope and pray it lasts. I know healing is not linear. I desire my brain and body to feel connected and to not be encumbered by negativity and thoughts that blast me from every angle.
I would love to hear about what has worked for you to minimize anxiety and depression.
Let this be a place of support.
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