This article below, as seen on MindBodyGreen.com
This is a hard subject to speak about as some might judge or label me, but I want to share my story in hopes that it can help others avoid the nightmare I was in for three months.
I can trace back my first anxiety/panic attack to a week after my mom died in 2009. I decided I needed to get away after dropping everything in my life, including my job, to take care of her for a year while she battled her second round of breast cancer. It was my first trip alone and it was going well until I decided to take a taxi into Playa to do some shopping. Something told me it was too dangerous to do alone. As I waited for the taxi, I started to sweat and immediately felt so queasy like I was going to throw up. I assumed it was something I had eaten or maybe I had accidentally drank the wrong Mexican water.
I didn’t experience this again until I started traveling heavily for work in 2011 and 2012. Almost every time I ended up getting “sick” in my hotel or while navigating the ridiculous turnpikes in New Jersey. I had to fly home early from Florida once and decided I needed to figure out what was going on.
I had every test done through my gastroenterologist and all they could tell me was that I had a leaky gut and some inflammation in my stomach. They promptly gave me acid reflux medication and sent me on my way.
I tried every single holistic method to control my anxiety. I did deep breathing exercises, drank tea and tried meditation. I even went to a place that hooks your brain up to a computer for an hour trying to change your patterns. I took every supplement that I could find that was supposed to help with anxiety. I went to an acupuncturist, a naturopathic doctor, therapy and many other places to seek help. I changed my diet drastically as well.
From there, I was okay through Christmas and in January everything started to unravel. I was getting nervous and sick at my house, which was my safe haven. And it wouldn’t stop. I was in a constant state of panic and couldn’t sleep, eat or even function. I was literally a prisoner in my own home. I went to the ER more times than I care to admit thinking I was having a heart attack or dying. They really couldn’t help me and would give me an IV and some Ativan and send me home. I would feel better for about 4 hours and then right back to where I was before.
Over the next three months my weight got so low that I would have to go in for IV fluids since my anxiety was so high that I couldn’t eat…not a bite. I had to spend the night in the hospital once in order to get my nourishment back to somewhere near normal. From there, it got to the point where I couldn’t even leave the house to take my daughter to school which is actually in our neighborhood. I was terrified and didn’t want to admit that I had a problem that had nothing to do with anything physical. How do you admit to yourself that it’s your brain causing all these horrific physical ailments?
My mother –in–law showed up one Saturday at our house and freaked out when she saw me. My hip bones were sticking out and I just looked incredibly unhealthy and sick. My very supportive husband and I decided that we had to do something to get me well. I had been seeing a psychiatrist who was continually changing my medications which was making me even sicker. It was the worst thing I have ever been through.
That night I made the hardest decision and checked myself into a psychiatric hospital where I spent the next week focusing on myself. I was so against taking medication but finally admitted it was my only option at that point. At the hospital, I got the right medication and medical help to gain back my appetite and finally feel okay.
I was on a floor with patients dealing with anxiety and depression so as you can imagine, it was a very calm atmosphere! I was able to see that I wasn’t “broken” and that I wasn’t alone. I had an instant support group of people that were going through some of the exact same things that I was. We were able to learn from each other and help encourage each other.
After leaving the hospital, I completed five weeks of out-patient DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) where I learned to deal with my brain’s “false signals” of danger. I learned so much about myself and my triggers. I started seeing a new psychiatrist who is much more in line with my needs and beliefs. I also go to my Life Coach who has been amazing in helping me move forward and face my fears.
How did I end up here?
I am an only child and both my parents died at a young age of cancer. Being a single mom during this time, I never took the time to grieve or deal with my emotions around both these huge losses.
I worked full-time at a job that had me on the road several times a month going to strange cities and having to navigate them alone.
I was in school and had weekly lessons and lectures which took up most of my free time.
I was having custody battles with my ex-husband.
I was in the process of creating my own Health Coaching business from scratch.
I had a daughter that had volleyball practice three nights a week and all day tournaments every Saturday.
If I did something, it had to be perfect. There was no room for error in my head. I had such ridiculously high and unobtainable expectations for myself.
Just thinking back, it’s no wonder I hit rock bottom. I just couldn’t handle it all. Since then, I have learned to put myself first because when I don’t, I am no use to anyone around me.
How I put myself first:
I spoke to my boss and cut out the travel aspect of my job. I am now home with my family every night and that is really what is important in life.
I set small goals. I was 10 weeks behind in my school work so I set a goal to do 2 hours daily until I caught up. Sticking to my plan and goals allowed me to catch up with ease.
I get a pedicure or a massage at least once a month. These are treats for me that allow me to disconnect from everything, if only for an hour.
I use essential oils that are calming and relaxing, as well as some that help me focus better during my work day.
I started my Health Coaching business very slowly and am working up from there. I now understand that slowly growing my business is better than a rapid growth that I couldn’t manage.
I walk my dog more and ride bikes with my daughter.
I fall asleep every night listening to a guided meditation that I downloaded on my phone.
This entire experience has been a blessing in many ways. I have learned so much about myself and what is really important in life. I still have to be cautious daily to not go back down the anxiety road, but if it happens, I now have the skills and knowledge to keep myself healthy.
My mission as a Certified Health Coach is to make the world a happier, healthier place, one person, one meal at a time, with love and gratitude. I work to inspire others to live a life of prevention and overall wellness!