Do you have anxiety? Have you ever felt anxious?
I have most definitely felt anxious – a lot. In fact, I struggled with anxiety at a very young age that worsened when I started high school. In college I also had panic attacks until I started self-medicating with illegal substances. Not the way I would suggest dealing with anything!
So today I’m here to share my anxiety story, how I’ve dealt with it over the years, and how I deal with it now.
In fact, I’m devoting every Wednesday for the entire month of May to share proven techniques on how to deal with anxiety, sadness, depression, and fatigue due to sadness & anxiety.
The most healthy way I’ve found to deal with all of these issues is with yoga, meditation, mantra, breathing, and self exploration. Self exploration and self study is really the key to all of these techniques. Even if we’re successful in reducing or eliminating anxiety symptoms with the mentioned practices, we must identify what is making us anxious or the anxiety will come back. This is why I love yoga and meditation so much, because we learn about ourselves, our triggers, and we have a healthy way of processing the emotions that come up while exploring.
The first time I had a very memorable experience with anxiety was around age 8. I was having shortness of breath that had nothing to do with asthma or any other type of physical lung issue. After that experience I don’t remember any other issues besides upset stomach (which I now know also had to do with my consumption of nightshades, so it’s hard to blame it on only anxiety) until age 14 when I entered a public high school after being in private school my entire life.
I had headaches almost daily, I started grinding my teeth every night while I slept and that made my headaches worse, I had chronic shortness of breath, and sometimes my hands would shake so badly I couldn’t hold on to things. Chronic upset stomach was also still present.
I treated myself with Excedrin and other NSAIDs for headaches and I also somehow learned about the pressure point in the thumb webbing for headaches and I remember sitting in class constantly massaging my hand for relief.
At one point a long time family friend gave me her yoga VHS tape. It was 30 minutes long and I don’t remember how often I practiced, but I did use it and it did offer relief. Of course I had no idea why it worked or how, but when I started feeling a little bit better I quit using it. Again, this was all age 14 & 15.
Around age 16 I started using cannabis. It was such a relief! I felt more like myself, just dialed down 100%. I no longer had daily headaches, my chronic upset stomach was much better (I had less flare-ups, but still experienced some), my hands didn’t shake as much any more, and I generally felt calmer and like I could actually relax. These effects weren’t limited to only when I was actually using cannabis, but also helped even when I wasn’t “high” at the time.
I started experimenting with other drugs, much harder ones, around age 17 and that continued basically until I met my husband around age 22. I used xanax (illegally) VERY heavily during college. Needless to say I didn’t have any anxiety issues once I started taking it, but any time I couldn’t get it I would spiral down into some fairly heavy sadness.
Fast forward to age 27 and I was given a prescription that I would take for acute panic attacks during our international move back to the U.S. with the Army. At this point I was practicing yoga fairly regularly. I had never attended a class, online or in person, but I had read some books and magazines and was practicing at home. It definitely made a difference, but I had only scratched the surface and didn’t yet know how to apply it therapeutically.
At age 28 I started practicing multiple times per week and learned about meditation. Since then I have not taken any prescription drugs and any cannabis use was purely for my own enjoyment.
Now, at 31, I still feel anxious occasionally, but only about things that I would consider to be normal. Moving, starting at a new school, starting a new job, etc. Things that people without anxiety disorders would still find stressful.
Depression & Sadness
I’m placing these together just for the sake of ease and keeping this post short, but I am not, by any means, suggesting that depression & sadness are the same thing – they are not. (If you feel as though you are suffering from depression, please reach out to someone. Your family, friends, a neighbor, etc. Pharmaceuticals aren’t your only option.)
I’ve always been sensitive. Some would say moody with a tendency towards sadness, and I would agree, up until I found yoga. However, even while practicing yoga I still suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder while living in WA, but that was easily remedied with a Happy Light. You can read about my experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder here.
Again, I suffered from depression as a child, but was never diagnosed. We did not have the money to go to the doctor all the time and it would come and go quickly and easily. I would say that without the drugs & alcohol in college I would have been depressed, but with them it just felt like a party.
During my pregnancy while my husband was deployed I was sad a lot, even after our baby was born I was sad because my husband was gone, but when he came back the sadness quickly flipped back to anxiety.
My most recent experience with sadness was when we moved from WA to HI. It was hard for me leaving a job I loved, my friends, and the comfortable schedule I had created with work, my daughter, and home life. I noticed right away the drop in my mood, how much my shoulders rounded forward unconsciously to protect my fragile heart. My asana practice had to take a back seat to all of the responsibilities of the move and my meditation practice all but stopped.
Even while I was still deep in the sadness of such a big transition I knew that I needed to open my heart physically so that I could make space energetically. And I did physical practices just for that, even if my head wasn’t interested.
And that is how we will start next week. I will share with you my suggestions for gentle heart/chest opening, allowing stagnant energy to flow through and out so that we can make room for the positive.
I hope you will come back and join me for this journey. Please feel free to share this (or any!) post with someone who might need it. None of us is alone and together we rise and lift each other. Just as I hope sharing my story will allow others to feel safe to express their journey, your story might do the same.
Wishing you all a wonderful rest of your week.♥