Anxiety is a beast and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
I’ve dealt with anxiety for years. I’ve always been a cautious/nervous person, but as I got older, the anxiety started getting worse.
Life experiences caused me to be more nervous and more cautious.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure page here.
I lost my grandparents at an early age, so I was exposed to death early. I lost my father when I was 19 and watched him suffer with health issues for years prior to his death. I watched my uncle die of brain cancer. I saw my grandfather die of lung cancer. I lost a dear cousin to a motorcycle accident. I experienced a tough break up. I experienced a friend commit suicide. All of these things do not equal an anxiety free life.
This post is hard for me to write because I hate talking about anxiety because it’s hard for me to give it life. Thinking about how I felt when my anxiety was the worst causes me to be anxious, but I want to write this post because I know there are millions in this world suffering from anxiety every day and I want people to know there is hope. Really, THERE IS HOPE!!!
I’ve had minor anxiety and I’ve had major anxiety. Both are uncomfortable, but the worse it got the more hopeless I started to feel. Would I feel like this forever? When my anxiety was at my worst, I didn’t want to be alone. I experienced a panic attack and felt like I was going to die. It was the most uncomfortable thing I ever went through and I never wanted to feel that way again. I especially didn’t want to feel that way again, alone. About a month after my panic attack, I quit my job. It was a half hour drive and the thought of possibly having another panic attack at work again or in the car made me sick to my stomach. I quit the job and sought therapy.
At the time, my husband (then boyfriend) had been laid off of his job, so he was able to be around me and help me through it. We did not live together, so there were times when he had to be at his house because he needed to take care of his daughter on the days that she was not with her mother. Those days were tough for me and I often (pretty much always) spent them with my mother and I spent the nights at her home because I didn’t want to be alone.
That sucked. That’s how I describe it. It just SUCKED.
My whole being wanted to be normal. Here I was, 26 years old and I felt like my whole sense of independence was gone. Poof. Gone. Because of anxiety. My fear of being alone and having another panic attack was totally and completely controlling me.
I sought therapy and God put me in the presence of a wonderful therapist, who I am forever grateful to. She really helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel and helped me overcome a majority of my thoughts and feelings. God, my husband and my mother were also my saving graces at this time. I can’t thank them enough for all of the love and support they showed me through one of the most hard, if not the hardest time in my life.
I also saw a psychiatrist for an evaluation. She diagnosed me with PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder due to some traumatic events that had taken place about a year prior to this happening. She suggested I try medication to get me through the worst of it and told me I didn’t need to be on it for the rest of my life if I chose not to. I was feeling so awful at that time that I said, “Yes! I’ll try anything!”
Now, I did have my reservations about medication. Anyone who has anxiety usually has the thoughts about medication that aren’t favorable. The thought of taking something to mess with my brain had me pretty nervous, but I was miserable and so badly wanted to be “normal” again that I gave it a try. It wasn’t something I liked and I couldn’t get over thinking that the medication would just be a band-aid to a problem I needed to fix. I took the medicine for three days and decided against it. I was determined to beat this anxiety without medication. Now don’t get me wrong, medication is NOT a bad thing. These are just my thoughts and it wasn’t for me in my situation.
So, after that, I spent months in therapy and months being uncomfortable. Through that time though, I started to get better and better. Each day was a little bit less uncomfortable. I challenged myself in small ways, and eventually, I broke free of the horrible grasp anxiety had on my life.
I’m not an anxiety free person, but it is so manageable and I continue to get better each day. Since I’ve managed to break free of the majority of my anxiety, I’ve went back to work full time, finished my Master’s in Social Work, got married and had a child! All things I never thought I would do when my anxiety was at its worst. I’m here to tell you that with hard work and determination, and the right support system in place, breaking free from anxiety is possible. Below, I’ll explain how I did it, and how I continue to do it.
How I Fought and Won the Battle Against Anxiety
1. I kept God at the front of my thoughts as much as possible. Since He is and will always be a constant in my life, I made sure to rely on His strength just as He told us in the Bible. Philippians 4:6 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Isaiah 41:10 states, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 1 Peter 5:7 states, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” These verses got me through my days. It immediately brought me a calm feeling when thinking about how much I was worrying and how I didn’t need to. I prayed to God multiple times a day and it brought me comfort.
2. Seek professional help, the sooner the better. I don’t say this because I’m a therapist. I wasn’t a therapist when I was going through it. I can’t tell you how calming it was to talk to someone confidentially about what I was thinking and what I was feeling. Even better, talking to someone who knows all about anxiety and went through it herself! It made her such a better clinician because she was able to relate to me and helped me through the toughest time in my life. She taught me tricks and tips to feel better and changed my way of thinking about things. Therapists are trained to help people suffering from all sorts of mental health issues, and it changed my life.
3. Gather your supports and let them know what’s going on. Let your support system know what’s going on. The longer you try to hide it or keep it to yourself, it will just become worse. It was hard for me to ask for support, because like I said above, I wanted to be independent. We will all have times in our lives when we need to lean on someone, and this is one of those times. Trying to fix the problem without support will most likely make it worse. Be open and honest with those around you and their support will ease your anxiety.
4. Learn all you can about anxiety. I spent numerous hours with my therapist and on the internet learning and educating myself about anxiety and what was going on inside my brain. Anxiety is a natural (and good) thing to have, but sometimes it can get out of hand. When I wasn’t at my therapist, I was working in workbooks and reading about anxiety. Just learning about what was happening to me made me feel better and less “crazy”. Once I started to understand what was going on inside of me, I understood better how to treat it. I used this workbook and this workbook when I was going through my hardest days. It really calmed me down and made me feel better. I’ve used them with my clients and have helped many of them as well.
5. Mindfulness is key. As you know, anxiety causes your brain to be on level 100 all day. The thoughts are constant and your brain won’t shut off. Mindfulness is an excellent way to help that. I tried multiple mindfulness techniques but my favorite is guided meditation. All I had to do was lay there and listen to what the person on the recording told me to do. They guided me into a meditation that left my brain relaxed and calm. I used the meditation on my bad days and it really brought my level of anxiety down. For my favorite mindfulness practices, read my post here.
6. Speak your mind. Through many conversations with my therapist, we realized together that I stuffed a lot of my thoughts and feelings away. This had a huge impact on my anxiety. I cared a lot about what people thought of me and in certain relationships I just suffered through so I wouldn’t rock the boat and cause uncomfortable conversations. I used to just dwell on my thoughts and eventually they would go away, but I was in for a surprise. They came back. Each and every thing that bothered me that I shoved under the rug came back in full force, ten fold. I learned how to be more assertive and I started opening up and talking about things when they were bothering me. I nipped them in the bud, and by golly, my anxiety diminished A LOT.
7. Face your fears. Remember how I told you a major driving force for my anxiety was fear of another panic attack or fear of being alone in case I had a panic attack and passed out or something? That was a major part of my anxiety too, which led to even more anxiety thinking about the fact that I might never be able to be alone. Well, I faced my fear (not by choice) and I stayed alone, overnight, in my own house. My husband (boyfriend) decided that he was just enabling my anxiety by staying with me all the time and put his foot down and said, “You have to stay alone. No questions.” So, when he left, I got in the car and went to my mother’s house, where she had the same conversation with me as well. Now, let me say this. I had been talking about this with my therapist, so it wasn’t something I didn’t know was coming. She did tell me that once I did it successfully the hardest part would be over and my sense of confidence would sky rocket. My mother told me I could stay there as long as I wanted, but she agreed that I needed to face my fear. So, I did it. I left her house with a PLAN. The plan was key. I knew that if I got so bad I couldn’t take it anymore I could get in the car (no matter what hour) and head back to her house. If we didn’t come up with the plan or if she told me that I couldn’t come back, I probably would have had a meltdown. So, I did it. I got some good food, turned on some good TV, painted my nails, took a shower, cleaned a little bit and stayed busy. When bed time came, I plopped my dogs in bed with me, turned on Hulu and watched Doogie Howser, M.D. and felt all the nervous feelings I had. I felt them all. I put my foot down, felt all the nervousness and I eventually fell asleep. I remember waking up in a some what panic state a couple of times, but before I knew it, it was morning. I DID IT!!! My therapist was right. I felt like I had conquered the world. And I did it another 29 nights until my husband (boyfriend) came back. Since then I have had no fear of being alone. You are stronger than you think. You can do this. Get a plan and just do it. I promise you will feel amazing!
8. Exercise and nutrition. So, one thing my psychiatrist did was have me get a full physical. Anxiety can sometimes be the cause of a health problem. There are multiple reasons why you could experience anxiety as an effect of a health problem, so make sure you see a doctor. It could be as simple as balancing your hormones or fixing your thyroid. All my tests came back normal, but there is always a chance that something else is going on so make sure you get checked out. One thing I did do during this time was focus on my health. I cut out all sugar, as I thought that exacerbated my anxiety. When I say all sugar, I mean sweets. So, not all sugar, but the obvious sugars. I exercised. Exercise always made me feel so much better. It cleared my mind and gave me some reprieve from my anxious thoughts. Endorphins are good for you! Take that walk, get on that treadmill or sign up for a class. One thing that I did notice recently that helped when I started to feel a bit of anxiety from a job I was in at the time was almond milk. I am unsure if my calcium levels were off or what, but I heard from a client once that she swears drinking a glass of milk will calm her down. So I tried it. I would drink one to two glasses of almond milk (I don’t drink cow’s milk) a day and I noticed a HUGE difference in my anxious thoughts.
My anxiety isn’t gone 100%. It never will be. I still struggle with certain things, like flying on an airplane. Anxiety is something we all have, it helps us to say alive as a survival instinct. I recently had a small bout with anxiety again, but it was nothing like I had at my worst. When I felt it coming on, I immediately called my therapist and we discussed why I would be feeling similar to that bad time. We talked things through and we came to the conclusion that my job was triggering me on certain levels. At first I had a hard time accepting that and I didn’t really believe it. The longer it went on, the more I believed it. I left that job and have been fine ever since. That is why it’s so important to educate yourself on not only anxiety but YOUR anxiety. Now I know that if that feeling comes back, there is most likely something that is triggering it and I have to take a good long look at my life and figure out what it is.
Basically, I just want you to know two things. One, you are not alone. There are so many people out there struggling with this every day. Two, there is hope. I am living proof that anxiety can be beat and I have faith that you can too!
Feel free to contact me with any questions or any extra advice I can give. I’d love to help anyone beat the anxiety beast! We are too good to be dealing with that!
Peace, love and calm thoughts,