Anxiety update

I was amazed at all the love and support I received from my last post about coming off my medication. I had no idea so many of you were screwed up like me! Totally kidding. (I knew) So for those of you are curious and following my journey here’s my update…

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Today is actually 2 weeks and 1 day that I have been completely off of my anxiety medication. While I am excited about detoxing my body and brain, these past two weeks have not been uneventful. I have had a few “waves” of panic and anxiety “out of the blue” and I 100% know that it’s just withdrawals from being on the medicine for 18 months.

In fact, with the help of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book Switch On Your Brain and her 21-day brain detox plan I have retrained my brain to acknowledge these uncomfortable moments as my body’s way of thanking me for removing (slowly) these chemicals. For example: I literally will say, “You’re welcome” when I have a “brain zap” or any yucky feeling associated with anxiety. I have been through 3 rounds (so far) of her 21-day detox program and I believe that is what has helped me the most.

How incredibly powerful and intricate is the bond between the mind and the body!

This intentional response to my anxiety does not come natural. I have explained to my husband that when I am in the middle of a difficult moment it reminds me very much of being in the middle of contraction during labor. When a contraction hits you, your brain goes into survival mode. You think thoughts like, “It’s too much…This cannot continue… I have to escape this or I will NOT be ok.” The reality of an episode of panic (and a contraction for that matter) is that the feeling will eventually subside. But in the moment you would do anything to make it stop.

For me, labor was one of the most transformative mental exercises I have ever experienced. I have 3 totally different birth stories that I won’t go into here, but by the time I had my third I was so overly prepared it was ridiculous. I meditated, visualized a joyful experience, spoke over my body to do what it was made to do without any medication or trauma- all during my pregnancy and before birth. And guess what happened? Everything I that I told my brain would happen. Amera’s birth was peaceful, joyful & quick- truly a gift that I remind myself of in moments of self-doubt.

I know it has only been two weeks but (like in preparation for birth), I have been mentally preparing myself to come off the medication for many months. I decreased my dose s-l-o-w-l-y and under a doctor’s care. I vowed to renew my mind daily in scripture. I made exercise and diet (even more of) a priority. I embraced self-care: meditation, yoga, mindfulness, compassion towards myself. I looked for natural supplements to help stabilize my mood and combat withdrawals such as 5-HTP, B vitamins and CBD oil. And I’ve sought out natural endorphins: smiling, reading, writing, hugging & kissing- just a few of my favorite things.

I am replacing toxic thinking with a healthy diet of good

thoughts, choices and behaviors. 

Since I’ve been off the meds I am feeling ALL the feelings. I am certainly more emotional. (I actually forgot that I’m a crier!) I am happier about things that make me happy. I am more sad about things that make me sad. I am more passionate about things that fire me up! And I am more angry at things that should upset me. My husband remarked that I seem “brighter”. I like that description.

I feel bright, and exposed and like this version of me- the real me.

So I am fighting for this me to stay. 

For the record, I do not regret getting starting the medication. The alternative was hell and I needed help. I do wish, however, that more doctors would be honest (like mine) about the realities (weight gain, low libido, difficulty coming off related to dosage and time on the medicine) I am also thankful for the honesty and wisdom of “Neurotheologist” Dr. Jerome Lubbe– especially his Hopeful/Grateful learning technique.

Also, here is a truth you may have never heard: Alcohol does not mix with anxiety and depression. I know right? Shocker! My life-coach (who is also friend) literally cussed me out when I told her that drinking made me feel worse. “You’re detoxing your brain and drinking? Bleepity- bleep Bonnie!” she told yelled at me, “Don’t dim your light!” I love her. Let’s be real.

Do all the things to get well mentally, emotionally, spiritually & physically!

Make a better choice.

And the world will be brighter because you are. 

 

 

 

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Coming off the meds


I’m coming off of my medication.

I almost typed I am trying to come off my medicine, but trying isn’t part of the plan. Here’s the thing. In my own research, it has been challenging to find success stories of people coming off depression/anxiety medication. This discovery reminds me of when I was researching positive natural child birth stories. They are out there, but you will find a lot more negative ones. (especially from eager lips- but I digress.)

Now don’t worry- I am under medical supervision by my doctor. I started taking the medicine about a year and a half ago (for the second time in my life) to combat some debilitating anxiety. I am grateful to live in an age of modern medicine, otherwise as I discussed with my husband/human Xanax, I would have to be “put away” for my malfunctioning brain.

At the time, I needed medicine and I am thankful I recognized it sooner than later, because this time around I had three small children who needed me sane.

I did question why my particular medicine treated both anxiety and depression because I wasn’t feeling depressed. I was told (basically) that long-term medicines usually treat both. While Xanax is a short-term somewhat immediate relief of anxiety, it isn’t a medication you want to use often. So, I started my medicine and it took forever to “kick in”. (It took 2ish weeks but it seemed like an eternity.)

What I wasn’t expecting, even though I had been down this road before, was that I would gain weight. Like, fifteen pounds of I-didn’t-ask-for-this weight. Well now this explains why I also need to simultaneously treated for depression because dang it- gaining weight bums me out.

It has been super frustrating because I have done all the physical things and I’m a bit vain. I have been a personal trainer/bodybuilder/crossfitter/ worker-outer ALL of my life AND I would like to look good naked dammit. But losing this extra weight has been near impossible. (P.S. My husband hasn’t been able to keep his hands off of me no matter what I weigh and THAT my friends, is healthy.) When I complained to a doctor (not my doctor) that I had gained weight from the medicine he tried to tell me that there was no correlation. BULL. I know my body.

BUT, the awakening through this journey has been a deeper compassion for women who are on a similar journey. It is dang hard balancing life and motherhood and career and mental health. And some of us, for a time, need some help. I mean, we all need help in the form of people being with us on the journey, but I’m talking about medical intervention. And when “we” do, that is the time to be the most loving and tender towards our fragile selves.

No, I’m not happy that I’ve put on some weight, but I’m proud of myself for taking care of me. I can honestly say that the weight has been worth the relief. The medicine helped me get my head above water so I could take a deep breath. So I could see things more clearly, learn more about what I deeply needed, and to take action steps towards getting better. (BTW-my actual doctor has been fantastic and supportive, even recommending natural supplements to help with the withdrawal symptoms that have hit me hard.)

I have learned SO MUCH about mental health and healing and I would not have if I didn’t go through this AGAIN. My life-coach says, “There are only a few lessons we learn in life, and we learn them over and over, deeper and deeper.” The first time I learned when to recognize the need for help without feeling shame. This time I learned to be gentle with my spirit when there is chaos in my mind that eventually manifests in my body. What a powerful lesson to learn more deeply.

So with a doctors help, a clear vision of what I want, the support of family and friends, and some incredible tools* that I have learned along the way, I am choosing this path of recovery. Armed and ready for my body to fight back, because it already is. (*Things that have helped me: Prayer, self-compassion, vulnerability, renewing my mind with Scripture, meditation, healthy food/drink choices, yoga, counseling, leaning into my incredibly strong husband and being open and honest with my children about my struggle.)

Ravi Zacharias (who is my favorite person on the planet) describes standing on the top of a mountain and looking below at a destination, “If the only path down the mountain winds around it, at times you may actually find yourself farther from the city, sometimes even losing sight of it, in order to get closer to the city.” He wasn’t talking about anxiety, but this is exactly how I feel on this journey. I am getting closer to my goal because I am sticking to the path no matter how much it curves and winds down the mountain.

On this path I’ve learned that so many women have suffered/are suffering from anxiety. My three closest friends have similar pain-in-the-ass anxiety that manifested in unique and frustrating ways. We share the meltdowns and then we lift each other up. My encouragement to you is that you are not alone. My advice to you is a hug. Love yourself down the mountain and let someone hold your hand on the journey.