I started having severe anxiety when I was just 6 years old. My Mmm was very meticulous in cleaning the house and I had to clean the house every day. If a magazine was out of place, my mother thought the house was a mess. My parents also shouted a lot.
It gave me a lot of anxiety because I never knew where my center was. So to deal with these issues, I developed OCD to deal with my severe anxiety. I had many rituals I had to do to get ready for bed. It probably took me another 30-40 minutes before I could “safely” get into bed.
When I was 16, I was sexually abused by my boss’s husband (I went to a work/school program).
A few months later I went out with a new guy in the next neighborhood and he picked up two other guys and drove me to a desolate part of town where all three of them sexually assaulted me. These horrific traumas caused me to suffer from PTSD and amplified my already high anxiety.
I started an incredible labor when I was only 19 and became constipated for three weeks due to extreme anxiety.
My anxiety continued to drive me to make bad choices throughout my twenties and thirties. In my late twenties, I married someone who would change my life and dramatically increase the PTSD and anxiety I was already suffering from.
The marriage was extremely abusive on all levels. I needed all my strength to leave after four long years. During those four years, I suffered broken bones, lacerations, bruises, skin punctures from biting my nose, and emotional torture.
What helped me to leave was to continue to work in an incredible job and to network with people who believed in me and helped me to see through the maze of power and control to me -same. I have an escape security plan in place. I carried out this plan and left him.
After gathering the courage and strength to leave, I thought I would be better off if I took 6 months to abstain from dating. However, when I entered my next relationship, my anxiety returned with a vengeance.
Even though I had serious doubts about my boyfriend’s fidelity, I was using this relationship as medicine for my anxiety until one day I hit a breaking point and left him.
I continued for several years to get into one dangerous relationship after another because I was wrong that relationships made me whole. I didn’t understand that I was using relationships to cure my severe anxiety.
I was in a vicious cycle of dealing with my anxiety through relationships (I would be single for a while, get my life back together, then get into another destructive relationship).
In my mid-thirties, I had an extremely dangerous relationship (he was a drug addict). He put me in high risk situations and gave me a sexually transmitted disease.
By the grace of God, I left at that time, but I continued to struggle with anxiety.
Because the relationship had such an impact on me, I became homeless, which also increased my anxiety.
Because I slept in my car and showered on the beach, I had no access to a doctor or other medical care for my problems.
After becoming homeless, I called my parents and finally shared my situation with them.
They started to help me financially, which motivated me to do something other than medicate myself with drugs, alcohol and relationships.
Signs that you could self-medicate include:
Stay away from family, friends, social events and other activities.
A sudden change in hobbies or who you spend time with.
The secret to how you spend your time, like getting into dangerous relationships.
Neglecting physical care, such as showering, eating, exercising, and doing calming activities.
Having difficulty at work, school, or in relationships, especially serial relationships.
Sudden anger or sudden depression or anxiety.
I became more and more interested in diet and exercise and became a vegan and walked the beach religiously for 16 miles/week.
I had been eating healthy (when I could buy food) by most standards for a while, but now I started to be more careful and it anchored itself into my being. I wasn’t eating perfectly at all, but i did stick to my healthy eating for the rest of my life. I still didn’t know I had PTSD and needed more help from professionals.
When I moved across the country and had another unhealthy relationship, I started having panic attacks.
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A light bulb went on and I realized that I had to stop drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana (which I had used to treat myself). I hadn’t realized that I was also using relationships to cure my anxiety, which only exacerbated it.
My therapist at the time recommended that I use pharmaceutical drugs which can sometimes be effective (I took an antidepressant for a few years). I told the doctor that I was quite sensitive to the medication and that I would only take half the recommended dose.
After a few years I asked to wean them and was guided to do so. This antidepressant got me down to basics but didn’t resolve all my anxiety and I was worried about other negative effects taking the meds might have on my body.
Choose natural solutions to fight against anxiety
I never wavered in the decision to quit drugs and alcohol and it inspired me to pursue naturopathic medicine to deal with my anxiety issues. Because the anxiety was so rampant due to a long series of traumas, I was going to have a tough climb.
I devoted myself to my self-care at this point. I started taking supplements containing adaptogens, amino acids, and certain vitamins that help control high cortisol levels. Cortisol is created by your adrenal glands going into fight or flight mode.
Rhodiola, ashwagandha, cordyceps, glycine, B-6, pantothenic acid, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and Asian ginseng; with pharma Gaba, melatonin and phosphatidylserine, as the day progresses, continue to lower my cortisol levels so that by bedtime my nervous system is ready for sleep.
I recommend sticking to a strict routine with how you take these supplements. I now sleep 7-9 hours almost every night which is an amazing improvement from how I slept in the past. These are natural supplements and not pharmaceutical drugs of any kind.
I have also done activities that help reduce my anxiety including talking therapy, myofacial release body work, craniosacral therapy, chiropractic, energy work and freedom technique therapy emotional EFT (tapping).
My exercise routine includes swimming with pool weights, beach walking, elliptical, cycling with upper body weights, and gyrokinesis.
You may not have heard of gyrokinesis, but it is the Gyrotonic exercise method without machines (using your own body weight).
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Gyrokinesis is a sacred body movement where the entire muscular body has been stimulated, stretched, extended, contracted and wrung out, leaving it able to better support the skeletal body.
I find it reduces my anxiety exponentially because it combines the breath with the body movement that allows you to live in all the space that is meant for you.
These are some of the different things I do to help my body stay in parasympathetic mode versus fight or flight mode.
People might think it would be a lot easier to pop a pill and be done with it. My well-being and health are priceless, and I inherently knew that it would be up to me to keep working to elevate myself to new heights so that I could discover my true self. Pharmaceutical drugs cannot do this – they only treat the symptoms, not the cause of the anxiety.
Today, the sky is the limit as I continue to find new parts of myself through my self-care and self-love.
Here are some tips for taking care of yourself/self-love and avoiding pharmaceutical drugs:
Taking supplements designed to lower my cortisol throughout the day.
Taking supplements in the early afternoon gets my cortisol levels to where they need to be for restful, peaceful sleep.
Doing schema therapy (involves looking at the pitfalls of life (patterns created by trauma) and re-parenting parts of the child.
Sound wave chiropractic to align the atlas so my nervous system can function optimally.
Swimming and pool exercises with weights 1-3/week (also good for the nervous system).
Walking on the beach (re-ionizes the body and calms the nervous system).
Move my body. I prefer the elliptical and strength training.
Gyrokinesis “wrings out” tension and stress in the body by combining breathing and spiraling body movements to calm the nervous system, strengthen muscles, range of motion, and “take up all of its space.”
Which of the above options suits you?
Are you ready to be “responsible for your well-being and your life?”
If so, try some of the holistic wellness tips and techniques suggested above, but design it for you – what your mind/body/spirit needs. And remember: never give up!
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Arielle Spring is a life and health coach. In her new book When Birds Sing: My Journey from Trauma to Triumph, she recounts how her idyllic life spun out of control for over 20 years due to numerous traumas.