When I was first diagnosed with Anxiety, I really had no idea what it meant. The only thing that I was certain of was the fact that I was either going completely out of my mind or that I was going to die at any second. The weight of fear is like coming up close and personal with a massive tiger and instantly peeing your pants. I mean, our bodies are made to react to things that scare us, but being in constant fear when there is no real danger in sight. The worst.
In the beginning stages of my illness, I did not want to become that person who asked for help. I have always prided myself on maintaining my dignity, I have always been the strong-tell-it-like-it-is little sister amongst my older siblings. So, imagine how difficult it was for me to show weakness and it wasn’t just that; no one would understand what I was going through. Prior to my struggle with Anxiety, I had girl-friends who had some portion of Anxiety their entire lives, some more severe than others. Then, I did not “get it.” I would always say, “girl, relax.” or “girl, calm down!”
Let me just say this, those who struggle with a mental health illness HATE when people tell us to “calm down” or “snap out of it.” Um, excuse me heifer! If it was that easy, don’t you think I would have “snapped out of it already?!” It was a complete mind-game that I could not seem to win. I did not know the codes, I did not know how to cheat my way out of it, and my strategic plans had completely failed.
Medications Are Not My Thing
My mental illness severed any hope I had in Doctors as well. I get it, I was scared of everything, that means several unnecessary trips to the ER, and calling my primary care physician every other day because my stomach was hurting longer than usual (whatever the hell that means). However, you are a Doctor, this is what you signed up for, DEAL WITH IT. Every time I would go to doctors appointments, the doctor would look right through me, or looked as if she wanted to slightly giggle when I would tell her I thought I had stomach cancer, breast cancer, ANY cancer with complete conviction. The conversation would always end with recommending the latest medication that can remarkably work.
“Your mind is the most powerful medicine.” -Someone Cool
Look, I am no fan of medications and I am a true believer that if you have any strain of strength left, fighting through a mental illness can be done without medication. Please do not be mistaken, there are severe cases that require medication (I am no clinician, and I cannot diagnose, treat, or even get my times tables down packed) but in my case and other cases that I have seen-medication should not be the first plan of action. One thing I learned from being a part of mental illness groups and watching TED TALKS (love!) is that medication is just another tool in your tool box, it should not be the ONLY tool. Not to mention, if you have health anxiety like me, medications scare the shit out of you. Oh, and lets not even get into the side effects! Screw that shit.
Anxiety Tool Box
- Reading. I made it my duty to try everything at least once before I would even consider medications. There were moments when my anxiety levels would be at a hard 3 (this is a good day!) and therefore, I was able to sit still long enough to read. The first book I read was called, “The Worry Trick” by David A. Carbonel. This book was great because it taught the worrier (me) how to re-train my mind into not being afraid of the things that I felt-because they were only just feelings. Carbonel shed light on how we worry about things that never actually happen, and then we worry about them not happening and worry why they did not happen. It was about breaking the cycle of worrying. The author also throws jokes in there that makes you really sit and laugh. I like to laugh. Laughing at my illness made it lose it’s power over my thoughts.
- Yoga. I must admit, I was never a fan of Yoga. Hot bodies, silence, impossibly stretching my limps, and having butts in my face was not my way of beating Anxiety. However, as I progressed through my tool-box, Yoga was next on the list. When I first started Yoga, I expected it to start working right away. I thought I was going to walk out of the yoga studio with my head held high, super zen, and just loving life. Nope. This frustrated me, I wanted to see some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I did not want to go through the process, I wanted the easy way out. Everything is a process. I forced myself to keep going, and eventually, I was doing downward dogs, spinal twist, and breathing from the pit of my stomach. Now, let’s not excited, I still struggled with Anxiety, but this tool gave me some clarity. I breathed my way through my scariest thoughts. Hell Yes!!
- Wine and hard liquor. Not much advice I can give you there, only that instead of doing my favorite thing on the weekends- going out with my girl-friends, chatting it up, and speed racing through bottles of wine; I cut down my drinking. I cut hard liquor completely out of my life, and refrained from getting shit-faced. I understood my limit, as I began to see what could possibly give me a panic attack.
- Food. I never been a big junk food eater, but my diet was reckless. So, I incorporated more greens, fruits, and a hell of a lot of water into my everyday lifestyle. Now, I crave water. I can’t believe it! I completely transformed my body into liking nasty, stale, water. Go ME!
- [insert new tool]
As I always say, I am still a work in progress and more times than not, I still struggle-one tool does not always win me over, and therefore, I throw it back in the box and pick out another tool. These tools have helped me into using my mind as the medication versus a drug. I put my mind into changing the way I view things, I try new things, and I am comfortable with being uncomfortable. And, these tools have been an important part of Lala’s journey.