Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Journey Through Anxiety: The First Steps (Physical Changes)

I have had it in my heart to share more details about my journey through anxiety, but couldn't work up the courage to do so for fear of offending anyone. Please hear me very clearly.  This is MY story. This is not a step-by-step get well program, nor am I suggesting  that what worked for me will work the same way for you. I don't believe in formulas for freedom and wellness. I'm also not a medical professional; if you feel that you are depressed or suffer from anxiety, please get help. I hope you'll read this with an open mind and heart. And I pray that you'll find encouragement and hope through these posts.

If you're just joining me, you may want to start at the beginning:

The First Steps

I had reached a breaking point by Spring of 2014. That's when I found myself in the doctor's office, explaining how I could barely get through the day due to fatigue, how I was constantly light headed. I was losing my hair, and I was sick all the time, my immune system so depleted that even a little bug would send me to bed for a week. When he looked me in the eye and said it was anxiety and clinical depression I was both frustrated and relieved.

I was frustrated because I didn't know where to go from there. If it was a physical issue, I figured I could find a solution. But what was I supposed to do if the issue was all in my mind? My extended family didn't have a respect or understanding of mental illness when I was growing up, so I was completely ashamed and afraid to even tell anyone what was going on. I was afraid they would think I was weak; I was afraid it would disappoint them.

But with all of that, I was also relieved to have a name to the invisible enemy. I faithfully began taking the medication* my doctor had prescribed and within just a few weeks, felt such a weight lift off my chest. I could breathe again. I still struggled with the thought processes, but at least the physical symptoms were lessening. I was sleeping peacefully, something I hadn't been able to do in years. It's amazing what a few decent nights of sleep can do for your overall wellness! I began making sleep a priority and tried to eat healthier.

Once I reached the point where I was able to function better, I started reading about anxiety and clinical depression. That's when it hit me that the "episodes" I'd had since third grade were actually panic attacks. Armed with that knowledge (and assisted by my doctor), I was able to identify when an attack was coming and take proactive steps to lessen the blow, while I worked toward preventing them.

For a few months, things steadily improved. It wasn't drastic, but at least I could see some progress.  I was still trying to keep it "in-house" with just my husband and immediate family and they were all being as supportive as they could. When we left the house, I would plaster on a happy face and act as if everything was normal, although I felt like a shattered piece of glass held together by scotch tape. But the amount of time I could spend out in public was increasing and I was laughing more. I even started a part-time job at my children's preschool, something that brought me immense joy and provided a safe place to spread my wings.

Around this time, my doctor suggested trying some diet changes and I went gluten-free for a short time; I certainly felt better due to eating "real" food, but it had no noticeable effect on the anxiety levels. The anxiety medication my doctor had originally prescribed stopped helping with the panic attacks. I sought help from a friend and identified some homeopathic remedies** to try (nat mur, pulsatilla, and chamomilla). I was SHOCKED when they worked far better than the prescription. I started them with a very skeptical mindset that they wouldn't make a difference, but they helped immensely. I also used Bach Rescue Remedy.

Even with the progress I was making, I still felt like there must be some component I was missing. So, I kept researching AND praying, asking God for wisdom about what the next steps were.

To say I was SHOCKED by his answer would be an understatement. Join me tomorrow to find out what he told me to do next.


*It took time to find an anti-depressant that worked for me. I went through 3 or 4 before I found the right one for me. I would never say that medication is the right solution for everyone, but it was one factor in my recovery.

**If you want to try homeopathic remedies to treat anxiety/depression (or anything else), please check with a trained homeopath. There is a lot to learn about this and having someone to guide you is essential! I had used essential oils previously and they did NOTHING compared to the homeopathic remedies.

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