My Anxiety Story: Part 4 - The Healing Process
Alright, my friends..
At this point in the story I’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I’m seeing a counselor about every other week. I tried one medication that made me question my sanity and stopped it. I wasted money on a bizarre bioscanning lady and had a second and even more intense anxiety attack. I started a different medication for anxiety and another one for sleep.
The new medication worked much better for me, and I started to feel a bit of peace again. I finally felt like I was in a place to start helping myself.
I started with gratitude lists, affirmations, and journaling.
Every night before bed I would write down ten specific things that I was grateful for that day. Not general things that I’m always grateful for like my husband, my friends and family, and our home, but specific things like not having to wear makeup that day, a new candle, having leftovers for lunch, etc.
After writing my list I’d journal a bit then jot down a few affirmations...
I am patient and courageous.
I handle everything that comes my way.
I am safe.
I am filled with peace.
Then I started shifting my morning routine.
I cut out coffee temporarily and drank protein smoothies every day.
I started to have good days – days without anxiety!
But I was still having “chest pressure.” You might remember from the last post that I had chest pains after the second anxiety attack and went to the doctor for an EKG. Everything was fine, which was a relief, but then the chest pains dulled to a feeling of heaviness that was most present in the morning.
One time I got so in my head about this “chest pressure” that I woke up in the middle of the night projecting heart attack symptoms (numbness in my left arm and chest tightness). And I was even taking a sleeping pill. The day after this episode I started a new morning routine.
Pre-anxiety, I would get out of bed at the latest possible time. As a freelancer, my schedule is different every day. Some days I would leave at 7:45 and others at 10:20. So sometimes I would get up at 6am and other times I would get up at 8:30am. No consistency whatsoever, and my only priority upon waking was getting ready and hopefully grabbing something resembling breakfast and a coffee before heading out the door.
Post-anxiety, I found it necessary to give myself a bit more attention before the getting ready scrambled commenced.
A friend recommended the book Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod to get started. In a nutshell, Elrod tells you to get up at the same time every day, including weekends, and to take an hour to complete SAVERS.
Silence (meditation, prayer..)
I started getting up at 6am every day regardless of my work schedule, and I experimented with the Miracle Morning routine. I’d start off by making a cup of warm lemon water. For a while I tried using the Headspace app for meditation. I pulled my trusty copy of Jack Canfield’s Success Principles from the shelf and used his method of writing affirmations. Visualization was always a challenge for me, and I didn’t really take the time to practice it. For exercise, I turned to 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene. I didn’t practice yoga every day, but Adriene’s approach to “finding what feels good” was a gentle and helpful way for me to get my body moving again. I tried to read a page of whatever self-help book I was reading at the time, and I tried to take a few minutes every morning to journal at least a paragraph.
After all of that I’d make a protein smoothie THEN get ready, take supplements, and fingers crossed there’d be time to fix up a coffee to go (when I started drinking coffee again).
It was a lot of work! And I know now that self-care is something that is supposed to be fueling, not depleting.
Over time I experimented with different versions of this morning routine and have settled on something that works for me (for now), and I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get around to doing all of it.
The main two things that have helped me feel peace in the mornings are getting up earlier, so I can get ready a bit more leisurely and eating a proper breakfast every day (no more granola bars or oatmeal cups).
Having these two anchors to my day, morning and evening routines, helped me gain stability and start to come to an understanding of my anxiety. And once I understood it better (with help from my counselor), I was able to separate myself from it and transform my beliefs about it and about me.
For the longest time, I felt so mad that I had to spend so much mental energy coaching and affirming myself. I just wanted to let my mind wander freely without fear of intrusive thoughts, but all the self-coaching and small shifts and lifestyle changes eventually paid off.
My first anxiety attack was August 18, 2018. The second one was September 18, 2018. The last time I felt any kind of anxiety was mid-December 2018.
As of two weeks ago, I am completely off all medication! I still have some of that “chest pressure,” which I think was a side effect of medication, but it’s lessening and becoming less noticeable.
I sleep great. I am healthier, and I feel more joyful and creative than ever.
And in this moment, I am the most confident version of myself that I’ve ever been.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. The conversation is only starting.
With peace & compassion,