Anxiety Roller Coaster: The Least Fun Ride Ever

When I was 16 years old, I had my first panic attack. Not a feeling of panic, but a full blown, out-of-my-own-reality panic attack. I felt the intense weight of the depersonalization and derealization as the world seemed to slip away from me. I’ve never been the same since. I’ve been struggling with some pretty intense anxiety for the past 10 years. For the most part it would come and go. I’ve had really good weeks, and really bad weeks. On some occasions it’s been so awful that I became agoraphobic. Anxiety has kept me from meeting new people, taking healthy risks, getting the grades in school I was worthy of, and even getting my drivers license.

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More recently the experience has been more akin to waking up on the wrong side of the bed. I feel so wrong and uncomfortable, but I can’t explain why. The little things bother me, the really little things, like having to get cream for my coffee, or not having my clothes hanging in the closet ‘just-so’. When things don’t go ‘according to plan’ – this has also historically been a big trigger for me, as well as being exhausted or hungry. Needless to say, I’ve felt pretty vulnerable.

Anxiety is a slow build up. It’s like the rise before you get to the top of the largest hill on the roller-coaster. You hear the slow clicks as you ascend closer and closer to the top. You know exactly what’s coming. But you can’t stop it. Suddenly it’s that moment before the drop – the beginning of the panic attack – the adrenaline rushing through your veins. Fear takes over, you are in fight or flight mode; feeling like your life is in jeopardy. But it’s not. You’re just walking the dog, or getting bread at the store, washing the dishes, or riding a roller coaster.

It is likely I have some genetic predisposition for anxiety and panic attacks. Of course there are environmental factors at play too. For a long time I felt that it was an inevitable part of life, and the only way to deal with it would be to smother it with alcohol or prescription medication. One day I changed my mind, and I decided that I would figure out how to live life in such a way that my anxiety would always be manageable.

I found a way. Self-care is extremely important when it comes to managing anxiety. I know what gets me in a bad space and I avoid those situations. These are the following changes I have made to better manage my anxiety:

  • Sleep. Specifically, getting more of it. I know that when I’m tired I simply do not function well. I’m not talking about just being a little sleepy. I get complete brain fog, and I can’t think properly. And not thinking properly is a recipe for disaster. I need at least 7 hours a night!
  • Exercise. It’s good for the body and the mind. It gives me a healthy outlet for any of my negative feelings. And exercise releases good endorphins into your body, physically making you feel good!
  • Limiting Refined Carbs. A lot of people with anxiety aren’t aware that there is a long list of foods that can trigger anxiety. I found this out in a very round about way: I cut out refined carbs during my last cut, and I saw a noticeable decrease in my anxiety. In general I had a greater sense of well-being and more balanced moods.
  • Spending time with positive people. It’s the worst to spend hours and hours in a downward spiral of negativity. Energy is contagious. It’s important to be around people who want to talk about hopes, dreams, and possibilities. Not people who will get you thinking about all the difficulties of life.
  • Limiting Alcohol. I don’t go out partying like I did before (I’m getting old now anyways). In the moment I always feel great. It’s the next day when my body is recovering and all out of whack that I struggle with my moods. One night out every one in a while is okay. Binge drinking every weekend is not an option for me.
  • Relaxing, or “me time”. This one has always, always been hard for me. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit down and relax. But I absolutely need to do it. I need to stop and hold time every once in a while, whether that means sitting down for a movie with my significant other or taking a half hour at the coffee shop to read, I take downtime now.

The worst thing about having anxiety is when it disrupts your relationships. Yes, I’ve cancelled plans with friends before because I wasn’t practicing proper self-care and just felt overwhelmed with anxiety. I’ve lashed out at people I love because I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings I was having inside. No one should have to live that way. Anxiety is a cruel monster, and I won’t let it creep up on me anymore. I have daily practices in place to keep my anxiety under control, and when I follow those guidelines to a T I’m at my very best. No panic attacks. This is my way of beating anxiety – the natural way – so I can bring my best foot forward every day and live a happy, healthy, and full life.

Advocate for Yourself

Being an anxious person with any kind of actual physical health issue comes with it’s own special set of challenges.

It could perhaps mean you are going to engage in circular cause and effect arguments with yourself trying to figure out your symptoms. It could mean googling your symptoms until you convince yourself you are probably going to die. It could mean making your illness worse by having your stress levels burst through the roof.

Or it could mean not getting the help that you actually need.

In the last ten years, whenever I have paid a visit to the doctor, I have felt dismissed. I’m guessing that somewhere on my chart there is a little note that reads “anxious person”. I am also very forthcoming about my anxiety; if the doctor asks me if I’m anxious I’m going to say yes.

Usually it’s at that moment, I look at the doctors face, and I can see that he or she has stopped listening to me. They already know the answer. Whatever I am dealing with can be easily explained (or if you ask me, dismissed) as anxiety.

I get that anxiety can manifest itself in physical ways. And I’m positive that people with anxiety sometimes seek out medical help for these issues.

But wait…

Don’t anxious people deal with legitimate health issues too, just like everyone else? (rhetorical question).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been through this.

All we want, all we really want, is five minutes of the doctor’s time in which we are actually heard and listened to. And you know what? If by the end of that you still think it’s anxiety related, I personally will accept your opinion.

But when you stop listening (and stop caring) as soon as the word “anxiety” comes up, I don’t know how else to feel but angry, disappointed, and unheard.

In this case you have to advocate for yourself. If you feel, like me, that you aren’t being listened to, then you need to do something about it. Don’t give up. Don’t let that be the end-all be-all. Find another doctor, find another way. See a chiropractor, dietitian, naturopath, do whatever you have to do to figure it out. You deserve a healthy body operating at full capacity.

Don’t give up on your health! Advocate for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Lost to Fitness

When it comes to what I’ve lost to fitness, it’s not so black and white. You see, I’ve lost good things, and I’ve lost bad things. It’s just change. It’s just life. It’s a part of my journey that I want to share with you.

This is what I lost to fitness.

I lost that “not caring” mentality.

I do care. I care so much. About how every hour of my day is spent. The #fitlife has inspired a passion in me that never lets me go. And I mean that. I care what I put in my body. I care if I have a good workout. I care if I’m making a step in the right direction. I remember not caring; I remember floating around aimlessly in the Universe under a cloud of beautiful, light, blissful ignorance. I remember when the thought of “what should my workout be today” never crossed my mind. Fitness changed me, I lost my apathy. I realized I cared, and I want to win the challenge of me vs. me.

I lost my old body.

I had to say goodbye to the girl whose outside didn’t match the inside. I was never athletic my entire life. But inside I always felt strong. I had to say goodbye to the body I knew, to realize the body that was becoming. I lost the body I was estranged from. I traded it for one I’m so close with, we’re like best friends. I have a better connection with my body than ever before, and I’m so thankful for that.

I lost my connection.

I feel like I got along better with people when my values weren’t so different from the rest of my family and friends. Sometimes I feel like when I talk to people that they think I’m some crazy banana hippie who doesn’t believe in modern medicine and wants to cure the world with epsom salts. Of course, my healthy lifestyle is really not that extreme. I just know what I like. I love holistic health, fitness, and being productive. When I changed, the way I connected with people changed. And in some cases, the connection just got lost.

I lost my friends.

It’s so hard to say, or rather to admit. Is it because they don’t feel like they have anything in common with me anymore? But I’m the same person I always was, only with a few new interests. I’ve found happiness, and I have joy to give. I want to share and give all that joy away, but there’s few to share it with. Maybe people feel like they can’t talk open up to me, because on social media I seem like I “have it all together”. Who really does though? We’re all human.

I need to say this: being into fitness isn’t a prerequisite to be my friend. I’m like an onion, I have layers. I have other interests: cooking, horror movies, true crime, minimalism, and more. As ludicrous as this sounds to even read as I type it, I know this to be true: I lost friends to fitness and this is a sorry thing.

I lost my fear and inhibition.

I used to struggle with my anxiety every day. I used to drink to numb the pain of being extremely depressed. I used to get through every day just praying that the next one would be better, desperate to pull through. It wasn’t easy. It took me one year to completely turn my life around. I started to believe that wild things were possible for me.I proved to myself that I am a strong woman. I’m a woman who can do anything she sets her mind to. Now I have the life I only dreamed of when I would lay awake in my bed at night wishing for something better.

I lost being lost.

I found myself in the gym. It’s both cheesy and it’s true. In fitness, I found a safe space in which to challenge myself, to overcome, to dedicate all my hard work and focus. I welcomed the challenge of growing both physically and mentally. I found the person I was always supposed to be.


Have you gone through a transformation that changed you? What did you lose?

“I Have Anxiety Too”

Yesterday, a man and I began talking about protein.

He told me : “I can’t take that powder because it triggers my anxiety”, and was quick to apologize with, “sorry, is that too much information?”

I could have said no and brushed it off. But I was intrigued. Intrigued because I know exactly what it’s like to have your anxiety triggered by certain foods.

“No, I get it”, I explained, “I have anxiety too”. 

I sensed he was a little relieved.

“It’s so interesting; the relationship that food has with our bodies. It matters more than people think. Especially for people with anxiety. Why doesn’t anyone talk about this more?”

He agreed, and said he knew what I meant.

Our conversation went on. I was comforted to meet someone like me.

Someone whose body is, for lack of a better word, finicky. There are just certain things my body doesn’t process well. It’s complicated.

“Cake makes me crazy!”, I told this complete stranger.

“Oh, don’t even get me started on fast food!” he said.

We chuckled in agreement.

A day or two of eating junk, a week or two of too much sugar, and it feels like I am basically signing my life away. Like I’ve signed some kind of agreement to feel physically and emotionally drained.

Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes I want to be… what do they call it… oh – normal.

At the end of the day, I know that I have these struggles for a reason. I’m here to figure it out, and fix it. The relationship between food and anxiety. The relationship between fitness and anxiety. Lifestyle and anxiety.

This conversation made me realize I’m not alone. And if you’ve ever been through this, you are not alone either.

For anyone out their with anxiety, I would love for you to share your triggers! I’m always intrigued to help you solve the mystery.

Stay strong, and keep fighting for your health!

Self-Esteem is Work (and it’s worth it)!

We’ve all had those days when we just wake up, and we don’t feel good about ourselves. Maybe it’s your hair, maybe it’s your clothes. Maybe it’s your weight. Or maybe it’s something less physical, like your ability or your strength. Whatever it is, or combination thereof, it’s taken a hit.

You stopped believing you were great.

Where did this self-esteem deficit come from?

It’s different for everyone. And the list is so long. From trying and failing. From feeling overwhelmed. From taking on too much. From comparing ourselves to others. From our culture and our society. From our anxiety and depression. From listening to other people. From letting the negative energy in.

I want to clear the air: no amount of material goods can cure you of a lack of self-esteem. You can buy all the make-up, clothes, electronics, and whatever else you desire. There is no expensive luxury item that can fill that void. There is nothing you can buy.

We tend to go there though. We feel bad so we go shopping. We feel bad so we get our hair done. We feel bad so we hide behind some $50 eyeliner. It can’t fix you. It can definitely give you a boost. It can for sure make you feel good in the moment. But it can’t fix you. And here’s why:

The real problem is inside. A lack of self-esteem truly stems from one thing and one thing only, and it’s this thought:

“I’m not good enough”.

I’m not saying that well-off men and women all suffer from a lack of self-esteem. But if you don’t feel good about yourself unless you have those material things to hide behind, then you’re hurting.

You don’t need to have the best of everything and fit into a size zero to be good enough. You don’t have to spend half your paycheque at Sephora, or almost kill yourself on the treadmill to be good enough. You are good enough. Just as you are.

Once you believe that, once you believe that you are enough, no matter what the scale says, or your crazy hair day says, or your especially hectic and overwhelming day says, then you have self-esteem.

Getting there, unfortunately, doesn’t just happen. I wish it did.

I wish we could just sit in a chair and “dig really deep!” and find that self esteem that we’ve been missing. But like all other good things in life, it takes work. But it’s worth it.

Self-esteem is something you grow. You nurture it and give yourself the love you need.

Take on small challenges and own them. Try something new. Do something you didn’t know you could. That builds self-esteem.

Stop taking people’s shit. Be impermeable to the negative energy from others. Do what’s best for you. That builds self-esteem.

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Look in the mirror and say “I love you no matter what”. This is your body, and it’s the only one you have, so cherish it. Know that you are so much MORE than a body. You’re a mind. You have things to offer. Begin to believe that you are good enough. That builds self-esteem.

When all else fails, put out into the Universe what you desire most. Tell someone you love their sense of humor. Highlight someone’s strength. Let a friend know how much you appreciate them. Make someone else feel good, and wait for the Universe to deliver that energy back to you.

My sister sent me a message yesterday to tell me how much she appreciates my love and support. It meant everything to me. I thought to myself “yes! I did something right. I’m a good sister”. That built up my self-esteem. Highlighting something I’m good at.

I want to end this post by letting you know that you are a miracle. The chances of you being born were so slim, you are inherently a miracle on this earth. Inside of you is boundless potential. And you can do anything., granted you put all of your passion and hardwork into it. No one can live this life the exact same way you will. You will affect others, you are special.

Please don’t forget that!

10 Ways to Relieve Stress that AREN’T Total Bullsh*t

This is not your cookie-cutter stress relief list; you know, the one that said take a bath and smell some fresh lavender and all your problems will go away?

This list came from the need to see something more realistic. I’ve looked up natural remedies for stress on the internet and I’m tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. I’m stressed out ok? Maybe I don’t have the wherewith-all to practice any of those obvious self-care techniques.

So I guess this list was also made out of a need to just simply see something different.

And I promise you this list is different.

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10 Ways to relieve stress that aren’t total bullsh*t! 

  1. Destroy something. It doesn’t have to be anything valuable, it can be something as simple as a cardboard box. Take it outside into your back alley and destroy it. Stomp on it, punch it, crush it. I’m not advocating violence here: do NOT, I repeat, do NOT use the techniques on a person. Make sure it’s a non-living object; one you won’t miss. Get rid of all that pent up negative energy. Obliterate the thing.
  2. Watch funny videos on youtube. Distraction is actually an amazing technique when it comes to stress and depression. Is this video of harmless pranks going to cure your problems? Nope. Are you going to forget them for a minute or two and have a laugh? Yep.
  3. Cry. Give yourself 100% freedom to go ahead and have one big giant sloppy cryfest. Maybe you’ve been holding those tears in for too long. That’s probably not good for you! It’s okay to let it out.
  4. Waffles. Eat some waffles. Scientific studies show that it’s impossible to be sad while eating buttery, syrup soaked waffles (studies were self-administered).
  5. Sing at the top of your lungs. Remember that album by that band that you really loved in high school and still believe is pure gold? Well the first chance you get to have the house to yourself, play it loud. Sing your heart out! Go to that place the music takes you. And in that moment, nothing matters more than putting on a good show for your non-existent audience.
  6. Hug someone who is a really good hugger. We all have that one person in our lives who has that extraordinary hugging power. Find them and allow them to put their skills to good use.
  7. Watch your guilty-pleasure movie. You know, that one that is so bad it’s kinda good? I always go back to the same movie when I’m going through a rough time, mine is “Dirty Love“, it’s fantastically horrible and ridiculous. It takes about 0% brain power to watch – that’s the kind of movie that you need at a time like this.
  8. Make a list of all the things you are going to do. You don’t even actually have to do anything on the list. No, you’ve accomplished enough today by simply making the list. Time to relax.
  9. Look at travel destinations. This will make it a lot easier to pretend that you’re not even actually where you are. Maybe you’re in the Bahamas, maybe you’re in Laos! Maybe you’ll make secret plans to run away so you don’t have to deal with your problems. Sometimes even just knowing that’s an option makes people feel better. Plus, pictures of beaches and oceans are awesome.
  10. Go in the mirror and smile and laugh at how ridiculously overwhelmed you are. Like, dear god, is this some kind of sick joke?! It must be and I get it because Im laughing now! In all seriousness, you either laugh or you cry sometimes. I prefer to laugh like a madwoman at those times. And thats okay.

Whatever gets you through those tough times is okay. And these solutions don’t have to be “fixes”, you know why? Because your storm will pass. You will have made it through one teeny-tiny step at a time. And like me, you won’t bother googling stress relief ideas until the wave comes over you again.

Take care everyone!

Is Anxiety a Weakness?

All of my closest friends have been hospitalized. The mental and physical wear and tear of life affects us all, no one is exempt from struggle. The only thing that sets us apart is the way in which we struggle. For some people, that struggle is anxiety.

The friends I have seen fight their way through depression and anxiety are the strongest people I know. They have gone places mentally that those who haven’t struggled in that way will never know. If you’ve never had severe depression, you don’t know what it’s like wanting to die to end your pain. If you don’t have social anxiety, you don’t know the overwhelming fear involved in attending a simple gathering. If you have never had a panic attack, you don’t know the sheer embarrassment of losing complete and utter control of yourself. You don’t know the hurt, the pain, and the anguish of dealing with any such mental illness. And you don’t know the inner dialogue that takes place when you’re struggling to pull yourself out.

You’ll never know what it’s like.

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It’s not your journey, and our journey is not yours to judge. No we can’t just “snap out of it”. No we won’t just “get over it”. No we didn’t “ask for it”. There are a zillion factors (genetic, environmental, etc) at play here. If you know someone struggling with anxiety or depression, save your frustration. What that person needs is your patience, your support, and your unconditional love. Be there for them, even though:

You’ll never know what it’s like.

Anxiety and depression are not weaknesses. Overcoming those obstacles creates a stronger person. We’ve fought to be here – every inch, every step, every mile we’ve covered.

I have anxiety. There are so many times I was uttterly convinced that I was going to die. It’s beyond counting. I used to lay awake in bed at night worrying about what might happen to my family, drowning in irrational thoughts about losing them. I’ve had anxiety so bad I became agoraphobic; terrified of leaving my own house. I’ve been through depersonalization and derealization, at the same time, for hours. But I’m still here.

One thing is true: I’m better for what I’ve been through. It’s ignited a compassion and empathy in me I don’t know if I would have had otherwise. By overcoming by anxiety and not letting it control my life, I’ve proved that I am powerful. I used to be constantly paralyzed by fear; now I am (almost) fearless. Now I know that fear is not real. It exists only in my mind, if I allow it.

And you might never know what that’s like too, that sense of glorious accomplishment. I am still here in one piece despite everything.

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I’m not here to guilt anyone who hasn’t struggled with mental illness. What I want for people to understand is that it’s not okay to scoff, mock, or minimize the experience of those who do. Don’t judge something you simply don’t understand. Don’t say that it’s not real simply because it’s something you haven’t been through first hand. And don’t say anxiety is weakness, it has made me the remarkably strong and resilient woman I am today.