I have been so excited to speak on this topic because it is very special to me and I have quite a lot to say about it. Honestly, even though this post may seem like a lot- I have been through even more but by the time I tell you every single story I would have an entire book series. When I was younger I had no idea what anxiety or panic attacks were. I remember being fifteen when I had my first panic attack and I will never forget that moment. I remember feeling severe chest pain, excessive sweating, dizzy, and insane tunnel vision. I had no idea what was going on at the moment because I was so young and did not have that sort of awareness yet. This was after my grandparents who I lived with and helped raise me passed away one after another when I was starting Freshman year of High school. My dad decided to pick up and move us out of California and to North Carolina where it was cheaper. All of these huge life changes of losing my grandparents, moving, and leaving important relationships behind was very tough on a fifteen year old kid. I remember having several panic attacks my sophomore year of high-school but again, I had no idea what was going on. Shortly after living in North Carolina for a full month I moved back to California and lived with my sister. I basically told my parents I would kill myself if they kept me there with them. I was very behind in school and had to go to a continuation school in a not so great area of Orange County. I did not fit in there and felt scared most of the time. This is when depression set in and I started to go through A LOT of feelings this year. I was in a very toxic relationship with someone who was verbally and physically abusive. He would hold me down and choke me and hit my legs so people couldn’t see the bruises on my face. Force me to have sex when I didn’t want to…. I didn’t have parent supervision during this time since my parents were still in North Carolina and my sister was at work all the time. I would basically be able to do whatever I wanted and whenever. I remember wanting to be stoned so I wouldn’t have to feel what I was going through. I wanted to be completely numb to all of my feelings of fear, panic, stress, and anger. I was constantly sad and crying and I thought about killing myself regularly. I was also hanging around older people so I was introduced to a lot of different things during this time. Junior year came around and I got out of that toxic relationship by having to change my phone numbers, friends, and move from where I was living. The one thing that continued after that relationship was being on Xanax. I was introduced the previous year and I absolutely loved the way Xanax made me feel and I felt like I could handle anything when I was on it.
Senior year I started hanging out with the wrong crowds and was in another intense relationship. I also didn’t like going to school and had a lot of anxiety about facing other people. Soon after that I did independent studies which was only once a week. I graduated from a continuation school called Shores because of how behind I was in schoolwork. Thankful I graduated though! I didn’t like facing other people and having to explain to them why I was down it was really hard. I was very popular growing up and so I always felt like a lot of attention was on me and I had this image to be liked and be social. It started to become very draining being that person.
I got back together with someone from middle school who I loved a lot. He was sober at the time and I was trying to be as well. We loved each other and had a lot of great times together. Unfortunately, both of us were pretty broken and so as time went on and us being teenagers we fell into this toxic on and off relationship. A LOT of anxiety came from this relationship and created a lot of fear inside of me. The relationship really took a toll on me and many times he made me feel like I was worthless and that I would never be good enough. I lived with my mother again for a short time and that was a very toxic environment. We argued all the time and my mom was going through a lot of issues and had really bad mental health issues, and that is when the drinking started with her as well. I was constantly in survival mode and would stay at different friends houses or my boyfriends parents house. I remember having to sleep in my boyfriends car at times since his parents wouldn’t let me stay over because I had no where else to go. I never had stability and never knew when I was going to have to move, if I could afford rent, if my ex was going to leave me again, if my ex was going to upset me again, if my mom was going to be alive and well, and if my dad was going to recover from a quadruple bypass surgery or if him and I would have a relationship. Things started turning around when I was 18-19 and I moved to Santa Monica and started working for Red Bull. I met some really amazing people and this started to change my outlook on life. I felt confident and was around empowering women who lifted me up all the time. I was still dating that ex but this is when the cheating really begun and when he would cheat on me often and I would find out through his friends. He was in and out of trouble all the time so I was constantly on edge about getting a call from jail, or getting calls from his family to check how he was doing. He did a lot of really hurtful things to me that caused me a ton of anxiety and pain. A lot of verbal abuse happened in this relationship. He really tried to tear down my image of what people thought of me- but mainly he made me believe I was worthless and would never be good enough.
I will not say that I was perfect but when someone is that manipulating and puts you down, you start to believe it and then act out in certain ways for attention. Also, when you are already in such a low point in your life and don’t have self-esteem of course things are going to happen. He moved away and a few months later I followed him. I will spare all the details but he put me in a really terrible situation (I acknowledge that I did put myself there as well but still). Found out he was cheating on me, we got kicked out of the place were were staying and basically were homeless. I moved back in with my mom and had to sleep in the living room on a mattress and this was a really bad situation. My ex told his parents I stole their gas card (Even though he did- and had it the entire time and would fill up everyone’s gas tanks and trade it for money). So we were done- and I was always the one to blame! This put me in a really really dark space. He broke up with me, made his parents believed I was bad and crazy, and then I was back with my mother, and lost some really amazing friends since they didn’t agree with me moving there in the first place. I was very much in love with this person and the pain we kept putting each other through was really hard on me. Being in such a dysfunctional and intense relationship at that age really took a toll on me. I always just wanted to be loved but all I really knew was craziness and never had role models of a healthy relationship. My life was always crazy so that is exactly what I attracted into my life.
Shortly after this, “somebody” hacked my Facebook and put pictures up everywhere of me in lingerie. This was sent out to literally everyone. Family, co-workers, friends… and it was so humiliating. These photos were only for this one person- and I couldn’t believe this happened. It happened on my 20th birthday! It kept happening in and off and this was very traumatic for me. Being perceived to people as a “slut” or as someone who is worthless is a really terrible feeling. Especially when the one person you love is also telling you these things daily.
My anxiety was so bad that when I was 20 I ended up in the Hospital with stomach ulcers and a rash all over my body. I was so sick throwing up and basically pooping out a lot of blood and had to spend a week in the Hospital. I couldn’t hold down foods and was a complete wreck. I remember the Doctor being so shocked that I was only 20 but had ulcers. I knew why, because I was constantly stressing and on edge. It is crazy how connected our mind and body are! I didn’t have ways to manage my stress and I would hold a lot in. I didn’t have many people who understood me or good coping skills so it was really hard on me. When you are young and don’t understand these constant feelings of insecurity, instability, fear, and anxiety then it it easy to find ways to “not deal” with it. I would surround myself with people who partied and would go out and drink to forget how I was feeling. Sometimes I would drink too much and would end up blacking out. This led to a constant cycle of regret, fear, and non stop negative self-talk. This continued through my 20’s but I will spare you all the details but lets just say a lot of trauma happened.
I had a life altering experience happen to me about five years ago and that is when my anxiety got even worse. I will talk about this at a later post, but just know it was very traumatic and I have a lot of PTSD from it. This situation happened because of the build up of so much anxiety, panic, depression, self-doubt, and not feeling in control of my emotions and my life. I almost died in this situation and I will never forget that turning point of my life. This situation really opened my eyes and basically woke me up and kicked me in gear. After that, I moved to Georgia and moved away from the past in California. I was able to finally start dealing with all of these emotions and figure out why I was the way I was. I started to be very fearful of being in the car (because of a bad car accident), couldn’t be in party situations with previous friends, couldn’t be around certain people, and it was even hard to go into work some/most days. Even though I was away from all of my triggers, these feelings were still very much there and there was A LOT I needed to unpack and figure out.
In Georgia, we have a lot of thunderstorms and tornado warnings and scary weather situations give me extreme anxiety. I do not like situations that are out of my control and I have always been in survival mode. When you live in “fight or flight” mode for so long and you are just trying to survive- it is very hard to feel grounded and realize these fears are not in my control- but it is okay and I will be okay. I also notice there there has been many times my anxiety has been so bad about facing people when I feel down- and so I haven’t been able to go to work or complete daily tasks. It has been crippling many times… and that is when I call out “sick” but most of the time it is mentally sick… which usually isn’t as acceptable. This is why the past 6 months I’ve had to leave the corporate world and be in better jobs for my mental health.
There are a lot of situations till this day that I will have a huge panic attack over and I can’t handle life. I am constantly worried about losing the ones I love or something bad happening to them. I have been constantly worried about my parents even though it’s out of my control. I always want to control the outcome of situations, but when in reality I can only control how I respond to them. My husband travels a lot for work and I will obsess over if something happens while he is there. If I am going on a trip with girlfriends I obsess over every detail of what we are doing and I start to worry about how I will be able to handle these social situations. I have anxiety in my relationship/marriage now of whenever we would have a disagreement-if he was going to leave me. These are things that I was used to and conditioned to believe were okay. Understanding that this is not normal and to learn better ways to handle conflict. luckily, my Husband is so supportive and understanding. He knows about all of this and he has been a huge reason I have been able to heal and get better. He has loved me for me and he has treated me with so much respect, and is just such a loving and caring man. He makes me feel so confident and pushes me to be the best. I am so thankful I met such a wonderful man who I love so freaking much. He has helped me grow in so many ways.
What does Anxiety & Panic feel/look like?
FYI: I am not a Professional! These are the symptoms I have felt and personally go through. Please consult a Doctor to get evaluated 🙂
- Over-reacting (You feel like you are- but do not put yourself down for this!)
- Constant sweating
- Constant worry of the future and past
- Panic attacks
- Frequent urination
- High-blood pressure
- Urge to drink water constantly
- Feeling like you can’t breathe
- A lot of “what if” questions
- Hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleeping too much
- Taking everything personal all the time
- Feeling not good enough
- Feeling not in control
- Nausea or stomach issues (mind and gut are connected)
- Heart palpitations
- Crying when under a lot of pressure
- Having certain Phobias
- Not being able to be around people (social anxiety)
- Thinking of something bad happening
- Asking a lot of questions because of the fear or what could happen
- Living in regret
- Feeling guilt or shame
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WITH ANXIETY:
- Don’t tell them to get over it
- Don’t tell them not to worry
- Don’t tell them they are freaking out for no reason
- Don’t tell them they are creating their own reality with these worries
- Don’t tell them they have nothing to worry about
- Don’t tell them to chill out
- Don’t tell them how they should feel
- Don’t tell them “it’s no big deal”
Managing my Anxiety & Panic attacks
“Your Anxiety was your companion to survival when you needed it”- Athena
I will tell you right now that I am still working on it because it is something I will ALWAYS have to work on. This is apart of me and this will not just go away, BUT I have found ways to manage it and be able to live my life and not keep myself in my room all the time. My anxiety led to a lot of isolation and then that would lead to depression. I get very lonely and a lot of past emotions are stuck deep down inside of me. These mental illnesses are so intertwined because it is a chain affect. I would get anxiety about going out with my Dad but then the next day I would feel regret for not going, and be like “what if something happens to him” which that fear still is going, and then I would continue to not make plans with people, and then depression would set it. I would be sad that I wouldn’t see people I love and be upset at myself for not going. It was a constant cycle and I have started to acknowledge these feelings but accept them. It is okay if I don’t feel like going somewhere- and not to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. My intuition is so strong and anxiety is my intuitions way of telling me the situation is not good for me and to also honor when I am tired and need to stay home and rest. The people who love you should understand!
Therapy has been a huge help in me managing anxiety and I highly suggest it for people. I started with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which retrains your mind to go in a different direction. You discuss different situation and they give you the tools on how to understand why you are thinking a certain way, actually process it, and then change your way of thinking. I started going to therapy once a week for 4 years so believe me it really takes time and patience with yourself. I no longer hide these fears and I think it is very important to honor yourself and not put yourself in situations you do not want to be in. YOUR MENTAL HEALTH is important and if someone is a threat to that then you need to set boundaries or discontinue the relationship. I also started to cut out people who were bad for my mental health and only surround myself with people who I could be my true self with. For so long, I wanted all these friends and people to like me but now I’ve learned that I would rather have fewer friends who won’t judge me or make me feel less then. Being around people you can be honest with and who really love you is very important. When you have a great support system and ones who understand your mental health- then it really helps. I am so thankful for some of my friends because they know I have anxiety and so when I start to get anxious and ask a lot of questions- or if I disappear and don’t talk to them, they understand and will not cut me off for it. They will check on me and ask how I am doing and genuinely care about how I am. I have been practicing yoga for 10 years but let me tell you when I constantly go to yoga, then my anxiety and panic are a lot less. I feel a lot more confident and I can manage my stress better- so I highly recommend trying if you haven’t yet!
I know that I have went through a lot in my life and it all started at such a young age. I never had stability or people to count on when I needed them the most. I quickly got into bad relationships with people who I wanted to “complete me” and then would end up lowering my worth to people who did not deserve it. Always being in survival mode and having to just continue to make money to pay bills and to survive really took over my life. I wasn’t able to just be a kid and always had to be the responsible one for MYSELF to survive. I was a parent to my own parents when I needed parents the most. This is why I wasn’t able to truly process what I have been through and why so much built up. Even though I have stability now in my life and my own house- I still unintentionally have fears and things I worry about. When you use anxiety to survive most of your life then you are used to those ways of handling/ thinking about situations. I am so thankful now that therapy has given me the tools to finally deal with these things and to completely transform my life. I have more acceptance when it comes to my parents, and am starting to learn that they had their own issues they were dealing with. They loved me but they both had depression and other issues and it was difficult for them to even love themselves. I think when we start to have compassion for people and start to understand why they do or don’t do things, then we can actually learn forgiveness. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt not having them there for me when I needed it, or that I didn’t need more structure from them- or that certain relationships that treated me badly didn’t freaking hurt to my core (or that I’m making excuses for them) but in order for me to heal it is about forgiveness and having empathy for others. I have truly forgiven my ex for all of the hurt and we’ve actually had discussions about things at an older age and I feel a lot of closure and I use it as a learning experience. I’m thankful for these experiences because it’s made me who I am today. I am starting to listen to myself more and be grateful for all of these experiences. I know what is best for my life and SO DO YOU. I have forgiven myself for putting myself in bad situations and lowering my standards. I have forgiven myself for being a certain way and not treating myself good. Never let anyone tell you how to handle your life or that you don’t deserve greatness, because you DO! I am very grateful for all of the challenges because now I am able to help others and share my stories.
What helps my Anxiety?
(FYI, I am now an Affiliate with Amazon! All of my recommendations will be highlighted as a link. Click that link and it will go directly to the product I recommend from Amazon)
- Knowledge of anxiety- and knowing the symptoms and how to overcome them
- DBT workbook: Click on that for the direct link to Amazon. This gives you a bunch of exercises and teaches you mindfulness and what your triggers are/ and how to overcome them
- Yoga (helps sooo much!)
- Meditation: There are a lot of great apps out there! I love Insight timer
- Journals. Here are some I recommend, Zen as F*ck: A Journal for Practicing the mindful art of not giving a Sh*it, The Anxiety Journal, Present, Not Perfect: A Journal for slowing down, letting go, and loving who you are, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety:Daily prompts and practices to find peace
- Diet adjustments- Whenever I eat clean and healthy I have less anxiety and feel a lot better. Too much fast food and salt make me feel worse
- Less Caffeine: I have switched to matcha green tea or pure green tea
- Check out my website with Arbonne (click this link to go directly to my site and purchase) I LOVE the energy fizz sticks and they don’t give me anxiety after drinking them
- CBD Oil: I am an affiliate with this brand click the CBD oil link to go directly to the product
- Herbal remedies: St John’s Wart, Magnesium, Valerian root, L-Theanine, B Complex, Ashwagandha, Melatonin, Fish oil
- Probiotics: The gut is very connected to your mind…healthy gut/healthy mind 🙂 Grass fed Collagen Peptides with Type 1 & 3 Probiotics from Garden of Life
- Take baths! Dr. Teal Epsom salt soaking solution Lavender
- Essential Oils! I love lavender oil and I keep a diffuser next to my bed when I sleep and one at my desk
- Weighted blankets if you get anxiety at night time
- Medication: I had to use medication like SSRI’s for awhile which help with anxiety and depression, sleeping medication, & medication for panic attacks (Please discuss with a professional about this)
- Support groups: There are so many support groups online. I love Peak of Panic. I am in a group me with 300 others and you can talk about how you are feeling that day- and share stories and share tips to others. Follow her on Instagram and ask to join her group
- Being more assertive: Speak up about your boundaries and expectations for others. Let people know your triggers and how you feel about certain things. This has helped me a lot!
- Get enough sleep
- COLD RAGS! When I have a panic attack and get really hot..then I love getting a rag and making it wet and putting it either on my forehead or back of neck…it really soothes me
- List your fears and put them in order. Least to worst: and explain why these are your fears? It is nice to have it down on paper to really see what is going on
- Have a good support system of people you can trust and rely on
- A schedule: Having a schedule really helps me but I can’t overwork myself or else I get too stressed and my anxiety builds up
- Time management: Give yourself an extra 15 min in the morning to wake up. Whenever I rush out the door then my anxiety doubles and I start to get angry
- Don’t put yourself in situations you don’t want to be in: YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not doing something
- When having a panic attack: Take control of your breathing and start counting to 50. Keep your mind focused on your breath. Breathe, touch, and smell. Use your basic senses and use whatever you have to get your mind to focus on that- instead of the worry
- Walking: Walking at least 4-5 times a week has helped me so much. Being out in nature really calms my mind and exercise is really good for anxiety
- Do not drink: I know whenever I drink alcohol it makes me feel worse and can lead to a lot of anxiety
- Make lists of what you need to get done
- Set time out of everyday to take at least 5-10 minutes to be with yourself and breathe
- Have compassion with yourself
Books I recommend:
Clink the links to go directly to Amazon to purchase
- Unf*ck Your Brain: Getting over Anxiety
- The Wisdom of Anxiety: How Worry and Intrusive Thoughts are Gifts to Help You Heal
- Anxiety and worry workbook
- Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks
- The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal: A creative way to stop freaking out
- The Big Activity Book for Anxious People
- Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety
- Anxiety Happens: 52 Ways to Find Peace of Mind
- Loving Someone with Anxiety: Understanding and Helping your Partner
- Own it: Make Your Anxiety Work for You
- When Panic Attacks
- Panic Attacks workbook: A guided Program for Beating the Trick
- The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the healing of Trauma
I believe in you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I really hope that my story can help you feel less alone in this. I am always here if you need extra support or have any questions. You are not alone in this and you can manage this with the right help. Do not be afraid to ask for help! Speak up to people and let them know what you are going through. Take deep breaths. Also, I would love to hear from you and your experiences with anxiety. I am here if you want to share your story! 🙂
Love & light,