**I am not a medical professional. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding mental illness. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.**
In honor of mental health awareness month, I’m going to share a little bit about my mental health and my struggles. How I’m dealing with them and how I’m trying to overcome them. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression in the past and still struggle with it today.
I have been medicated, I have gone to therapy, I stopped the medication, and I stopped going to therapy (changing that this year). I’ve tried natural remedies, exercise, diet modification, changed behavior, I’ve tried it all. Some healthy, some not, but that’s a post for another time.
I have been very low and I’ve been on top of the world. I’m not going to go into too much detail but I will share some of what I’ve been dealing with and the things that have helped me. This post will only be about my anxiety and panic attacks. I plan to do another post about my depression in the coming weeks. Understand that I am not a medical professional and you should always talk with your doctor and therapist in regards to your mental health.
What are Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
In the past four years, I started to experience very bad anxiety and panic attacks. If you’ve ever had one, you know how crippling they can be. The difference between the two is an anxiety attack is often brought on by something triggering whereas a panic attack happens out of the blue/without warning.
They had gotten so bad for me I didn’t even want to leave the house. I would get them while driving (no I’ve never been in an accident), speaking in front of people, grocery shopping, or just sitting in my bed chillin’. I started having them because I was scared I was going to have one.
That’s what’s so scary and annoying with these types of things, you begin to fear it. That fear of the attack usually turns into the attack actually happening. So it becomes this never-ending cycle and it debilitates you.
What Helped Me?
Not every suggestion you read or hear is going to help you, you have to face facts. The fact that you are trying everything should let you know you still have hope. Everybody is different and that’s okay.
- I eliminated caffeine from my diet completely. Not even hot cocoa. I began to see minor changes, nothing spectacular but enough to never have it again. I also discovered a lot of the caffeinated things I enjoyed came in a caffeine free form!
- I learned to control my breathing. A lot of my attacks got worse because I suddenly forgot how to breathe. So before I even allowed an attack to consume me I just started focusing on my breathing and taking deeper breaths. It took me a while to master this though.
- I began to drink less and ultimately eliminated smoking cigarettes. I spent most of my college career drinking and partying and it finally caught up to me. My body couldn’t handle all that toxicity anymore.
- Journaling when I felt one coming on or during one helped me quite a bit. It allowed me to differentiate the two, anxiety or panic, and identify triggers.
- I learned that running from it only makes the attacks worse. You’re in fight or flight mode and when you choose flight, you have to be prepared for a ride. Or you can show it who’s boss and tell it to bring it on.
- I started trying healthier ways to release my stress. Painting, exercising, making videos, reading, walking the trails with my boyfriend (now husband). I’m still not consistent with any of these because I get bored after doing too much of something. My blog is helping me a lot with my stress release, so thanks for reading!
- I began researching vitamins and teas. Vitamin D supplements and chamomile tea have literally been a lifesaver. I’ve recently been reading about B12 & B5. Trying B12 here and there for energy, I’m indifferent. I’ll let y’all know how the B5 goes when I find some.
- Grounding techniques. Such as, five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
What Didn’t Help Me?
- People telling me to “chill out”, “relax”, “you’re fine”, “you’ll get over it”. Don’t ever say this to anyone struggling with mental illness. Saying nothing at all is better than saying this. Because, for me at least, it makes me feel like my feelings are invalid and I’m not in control. As if those words can magically cure anyone.
- Running from it. Anytime I felt my heart begin to race I would start looking for the nearest exit. That turned into me being wary of having no way out when I go places. So when I was stuck at a red light or in traffic I would start freaking out because I couldn’t leave. Even if it was just for a few minutes.
- Avoiding places, people, and things. I have horrible driving anxiety, I used to not be able to get in the passenger seat without being in tears. So, naturally, I stopped driving. I was too scared I was, still am, that I’m going to get into an accident as a result of an attack while driving. I still avoid freeways. I’ve learned that you can’t avoid family and coming into contact with things or situations is inevitable.
Where Am I Now?
I still have attacks from time to time but I am able to manage them if not stop them before they get out of hand. I still don’t really drive as much but I can look out of the window while riding passenger. I used to ride in the fetal position I was so terrified. I’m still working on that.
I try to alternate my stress-relieving activities because I get bored with them fast. I plan to find a therapist soon and get even more help — I’m excited about that! I haven’t gone to therapy since becoming a mom and I am ready to dive deep into my subconscious and get my ish together.