This isn’t something I love to talk about but I feel like it’s an important topic we should cover. It’s something a lot of people deal with and childhood trauma often goes hand in hand with anxiety, panic disorder and even depression. My anxiety got pretty severe starting around age 19 and now that I’m 29 and going to turn 30 in a few months, I’m determined to overcome it.
I know that anxiety and panic attacks are something I can and will recover from – I already am. A few months ago I decided that once and for all I was going to tackle this head on; I was going to dive in face first and come out the other side stronger, healthier and healed.
I want to talk about this because emotional well being is a huge part of health. Being healthy isn’t just exercise and eating well and sleep – a huge (HUGE!) part of being well is being happy. It’s being grounded. It’s being in the moment and full of joy and peace.
A little background: I am the child of two drug addicts who had no business having children. Like a lot of people, they put no thought into procreating. The verbal and mental abuse started immediately (I don’t remember it but my older brother remembers my mother calling me a “dumb bitch” starting around when I was two to three) and the physical abuse started around five years-old.
By the time I was a teenager – the abuse was pretty severe. I could take a bloody nose or a fat lip, but the mental abuse was the worst. My mother was an absolute lunatic and I lived in terror of her every second of every day. She would attack me in the middle of the night while I was sleeping for making too much noise.
She’d kick me out of the house and then call the cops and tell them I was suicidal (I wasn’t) and have them come get me from friend’s houses. I lost all of my good, normal friends because of her drama. I started hanging out with drunks and drug addicts, the only people that would accept me.
She told doctors I was suicidal (literally never have been) and had me locked in a mental institution. She smiled while I hysterically cried and begged the doctors to believe me. She told everyone this, my teachers, my friend’s parents, the coworkers at my part-time job. I’ve never in my life been suicidal, but she must have enjoyed the attention and pity she got from telling people this. By the time I got out of the psych ward – no one wanted to be around me.
The list goes on. These are just some of the things that woman put me through and they’re actually pretty tame compared to other things that happened to me throughout my childhood. I have about 100 more stories but I just want to be open and honest and give you a little background. I spent the first 19 or so years of my life either terrified, furious or extremely stressed. Every single day. She left to live with her boyfriend when I was 16 and it was one of the best days of my life. Over the years I gained more and more separation and am now in the process of filing a protective order (aka a restraining order but for family) against her.
Because of her reappearance in my life recently, my anxiety has kicked up. It’s been a life-long struggle for me. And it’s a struggle for a lot of people. But I’m overcoming it. And you can too! So here’s what I’m doing.
*This is not medical advice for you. I am not a doctor or psychologist, I am simply sharing what I am doing and what is working for me. This is not an indication of what you should do or what will work for you. As always, seek professional advice from a doctor before making any changes.
#1 – I’M SEEING A PSYCHOLOGIST
I think this is making the biggest difference. I tried seeing a counselor a few years ago and we just did NOT mesh. She seemed shocked by everything I told her about my childhood and one of the first things she told me was that I may need to be on a medication like Xanax – something I’m not willing to do (and have learned from my current therapist is totally unnecessary!). I never went back to her.
If you’re suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and/or depression, I highly recommend finding a therapist that can help you work through your issues on your terms. I emailed my current therapist before I ever even met her and told her that I wasn’t willing to go on medication, and she was totally fine with that.
She has helped me see clearly, is helping me better understand my anxiety and is instilling a lot of hope for the future. With her help, I KNOW I’m going to overcome this anxiety and it’s already working! I’ve already seen such a huge difference!
For our upcoming appointment, we are going to start Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I’ve read amazing things about this practice and how it can not just improve but eliminate anxiety. I can’t wait to dive in!
#2 – I’M PRACTICING MINDFULNESS + POSITIVE THINKING + GRATITUDE
This may sound simple but don’t underestimate its impact. When I’m anxious or having a panic attack it’s because I’m not present. I’m not in the moment. I’m terrified of things that aren’t (and won’t) happen. Instead of drifting off and letting my mind wander to negative thinking, I’m practicing remaining in the moment. There are a lot of great YouTube videos for this.
In addition I’m also practicing positivity and gratitude. I know, seems simple right? And it is. But it’s something a lot of us don’t do on a daily basis. We tend to complain, focus on the bad, to get wrapped up in our own drama and negativity.
Instead, I’m actively choosing and practicing positivity; to see the good, to be thankful for everything I have. Here’s a good story to demonstrate this: this morning as I was leaving to go to the courthouse I said, “I love you both! I’m the luckiest lady in the world!” To which Scott replied, “The luckiest lady in the world has to go get a restraining order against her mom?”
It doesn’t mean we don’t have drama or negativity in our lives, it means we choose not to focus on that. I could focus on the fact that my mom is a horrible person, a drug addict, etc. Instead I choose to focus on the fact that I have an amazing husband and a healthy, wonderful little boy. I don’t take that for granted.
Something that goes right along with this way of thinking is The Law of Attraction. You’ve probably heard of that book, The Secret. I didn’t love it like everyone else did, or not in the same way I should say. I don’t think that you can just believe something and sit back and watch it happen for you – you have to work for it.
But I do believe that when we focus on happiness, gratitude and positivity, when we have a positive mindset – that is life changing. Think about it – if you have a woe is me, I’m so sad and depressed, I can’t do anything, everyone is lucky but me kind of attitude – that’s what you’re going to get out of life.
But if you believe you have an awesome life, you’re happy, you’re thankful, you’re appreciative of everything you’ve been given, you love life – you’re going to continue to have an amazing life! Again, there are lots of YouTube videos about this. I really like Sam Ozkural, she’s down to earth and her approach is super relatable when it comes to The Law of Attraction.
#3 I’M SEEING A FELLOW NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST WHO ALSO DOES ENERGY HEALING
I’ve known for a long time that I need to do a deep dive into gut healing. I grew up with a drug addict for a mother so there wasn’t much food in our house, ever. I was also constantly sick and on antibiotics. This meant that I’d scrounge for food and usually eat white bread with margarine or white bread with sugar and took at least one round of antibiotics a year. For years and years. I was malnourished and protein and nutrient deficient. My gut was completely destroyed. I’ve always had digestive issues.
I need to do a strict healing diet that focuses on clean proteins, lots of easily digestible veggies, healthy fats, fermented foods and bone broth. I’ll be honest, I’m not quite there yet because it’s the holidays. It’s just unrealistic for me to take on such a strict diet right now, and I’m okay with that.
I’ve planned to jump in starting January 12th and do a strict 21 days of no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy, no grains, no nightshades. Then from there I will evaluate how I feel and likely loosen the reigns by eating things like raw honey, maybe some wine, tomatoes, etc.
I’m seeing my buddy Jennifer Nervo from 20 Something Allergies. She’s an aromatherapist, she does reiki, she’s a flower essences mastermind. All of these things work to heal the body and soul on an energetic level, which is exactly what I need. I spent so many years scared and angry and sad, I need to heal all of that trauma. Jennifer is helping me do that.
#3.5 I’M EATING AND SUPPLEMENTING APPROPRIATELY
This is a huge part of #3. I’ve written so many articles on the gut brain connection and how inflammation and food choices are related to mood disorders like anxiety. You can check those posts out HERE.
I also take care to supplement wisely. These supplements are what is right for ME. They are not an indication of what is right for YOU. Work with a nutritionist (like Jennifer, because I’m not currently taking clients) or a functional medicine doctor, naturopath, etc.
This is not a full list of the supplements I take but it’s a list of the ones I take specifically for mood:
#4 I’M MEDITATING AND EXERCISING EVERY DAMN DAY
These are my anti-anxiety drugs. This is what my therapist has told me. That it’s crucial for me to meditate daily and do yoga or any form of exercise (I just prefer yoga) several times a week. My therapist explained how meditating can literally re-wire the brain.
It’s been well documented from study after study that exercise is good for the brain. It prevents, reduces and can even eliminate mood disorders.
Numerous studies have also shown how meditation can reduce and improve anxiety. It’s also helps foster mindfulness and brings you into the present. I love that it gives my brain a break from constant thinking. It allows my thoughts to just settle. Again, numerous studies have shown how meditation literally improves brain function.
#5 I’M CROWDING OUT THE BAD
This is the only way I can describe it. I am excluding as much negativity from my life while incorporating more things that bring me joy and relaxation. This includes:
- spending more time with friends and family
- giving to the needy this holiday seasons
- traveling (this is a big one for me!)
- practicing self-love: nightly detox baths, massages when necessary, making sure my life and affairs are all in order, facials to keep me lookin’ and feelin’ good, etc
- buying things to make my home my sanctuary (amazing bedding, gorgeous houseplants, comfy chair in my bedroom, beautiful decor)
- decluttering my home and donating a LOT
- spending time in nature
- planning everything including activities, goals, date nights, etc. I find that to have an awesome life, it’s much more easily done when you have a plan to actually make it awesome (I use this planner and I’m obsessed)
I am excluding:
- the news – I just can’t take it
- people who are downers, bullshitters, energy vampires, overall negative assholes
- doing things I don’t want to do to please others (aka saying no more often)