Get Thee Behind Me Foul Beast - or Anxiety, Scram!
Updated: Oct 2, 2018
Written by: Rebecca Ramdeholl, C.H.N.C.
With the rise of mental health issues, and subsequent overdoses and suicides noted in the media, I feel I should do my part by posting a little something about my experience with mental health issues.
This blog post is meant to address new mothers, women who feel lost, women who feel like they need a kick in the a** to wake up. With shades of recommendations from a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant, it's meant to shed light on this topic, and give ladies permission to become totally politically incorrect when it comes to dealing with Anxiety.
The pounding in your head overwhelms you. Your senses are on high-alert, so jumpy, so twitchy. You are on guard, the hand on the hilt of your sword never loosening. Your eyes dart left and right, waiting for the next Hell to befall you. The shivers and the prickles climbing up and down your spine make you hunch your back, retreating further and further into your shell, your armour. You welcome your hyperventilation as it distracts you from the fear coming at you from all direction. Focus. Focus. But what now? What now? You must be ready for it, it comes soon. You won’t survive it. But what is it? How can you fight something you can’t see? How can you fight what you don’t know? Why can’t you breathe? You want to punch something so hard, the angry energy just charging up and up, spitting out of your finger tips, only to dissipate into your soul as you have nowhere or nothing or no one to punch.
Your ears are pricked and catch every sound that silence makes. Your eyes catch shadows in the sunlight, convinced that the end is drawing near. Your heart thumps so hard, so alive but you’re so convinced that it’s dying. Bone-weary, short-breathed, so longing for soft sleep but your body is so wringed with wires, getting tighter and tighter. Your razor-sharp teeth snap at the kindliest gesture and then you cry forever. The blackness seems to get darker and longer and more…. comforting. If you can fall into the darkness once and for all, the pain will stop. Oh, how the end seems so welcoming. The voices will quell and your dread of the onslaught of hurt will end. When the night draws near, you either thank all the gods that you’ve survived another day, or you pray that they kill you because you can’t take another day like this again.
Have you ever felt like this?
This first paragraph describes my own personal sense of anxiety. It’s nowhere near what I truly feel, but it’s close. One cannot get all the nonsense, terror, and the heat of an anxiety attack truly down pat. The second paragraph depicts my spiral into depression. I hate it when I hear that when you have anxiety, you have depression, or vice versa. I’ve had depression without feeling anxiety. I’ve had anxiety attacks, all the while looking forward and living a beautiful life. For me, they are two different things. But they share a common trait: fear.
The fear is real and in a world that is increasingly getting louder, madder, and greedier, how can anyone be expected to be strong all the time, and keep their fear in check? The major part of anxiety, really, is the imbalance. When all you need is a little break for yourself, your anxiety is screaming that you want to drop off the face of the earth. When you’re searching for a comforting hug, the anxiety has convinced you that you need to be hospitalized, hand-fed and monitored while in a comatose state. When you want to spend alone time with your new baby, your anxiety is slashing at people to keep them away…. far away.
It's the extremes of it that makes it difficult to cope. Instinctively, we are meant to experience some form of caution and vigilance when it comes to our children, finances, and health – this is to protect and steer us clear of danger and keep hold of our security. But with our defenses down due to trauma, changes, illness or poor lifestyle choices, it becomes harder to be stronger and deal with everyday common instances.
Here are some statistics on the state of mental health in North America:
While there are many theories as to why there’s a rise in anxiety/depression and how best to cope, I offer my personal recommendations on ways to cope with your own special brand of “crazy”:
1 – First and foremost, KNOW…. really KNOW that you are not alone. What you’re feeling has been felt by many people for years, and for all kinds of reasons.
2 – KNOW…. that it will end. Anxiety is like an uninvited, unwanted guest. He barges in, and you can’t kick him out until you’ve satisfied his need for attention and conversation. Welcome him, however begrudgingly, for he’s come with something to say. Listen. Feel it. He may stay for weeks or months, or even years. Slowly, but surely, he will slowly start to pack up his shit and leave. But he’ll have the keys to the house, so always have a cup of tea ready for him.
3 – Consult your doctor. Get that diagnosis, listen to what your doctor says about your condition and if it’s a good doctor, he’ll let you cry it out as pamphlets of information on support groups are handed to you. Take his prescription if he writes one. After that, go see a Naturopathic Doctor and get a second look at your condition. Armed with information and prescriptions and suggestions from both doctors, you now have the power to decide on which road to take to get your health back. Both will lead you there, it’s just the scenery that’s different.
4 – Go to a support group – especially if you’re a new mother. Don’t even say that you don’t need it, that you have your friends to offload to, or your mother, or your neighbor. They don’t know s**t. You need to be around people who know what you’re talking about when you say that you want to throw away the iron because you’re afraid you might use it on yourself, just to drown out the crying of the baby or the demons screaming in your head. Support groups help you realize that you’re not a bad person because you feel the way you do, you have support from your fellow anxiety sufferers, and in moments of lucidity, we’re all warriors and it’s those moments that we catch more of when we’re in support groups.
5 – Seriously consider your lifestyle choices. Not to add on top of your burdens already, but one really must understand that there are things we do to ourselves that pushes us to breakdown faster. Smoking, drinking alcohol, using recreational drugs may help your anxiety initially, but it will not address the true reasons for it – this will create a destructive coping cycle creating further mental issues. If you are not sleeping enough, sleep more. When you are not experiencing anxiety, take that time to eat well and rest. Make sure to get enough healthy foods in your system. Raw, whole foods, leafy greens, home-cooked made with love type foods are always welcomed by your body. Over time, your body will get sick of crappy food and let you know it. While these do not take the place of whole, clean foods, supplementation may be of benefit for those who need that extra boost to help get started on the right track. Probiotics, omega-3 oils (animal or plant-based), good multivitamin that contains C & B vitamins, and calming tea here and there are great products to incorporate into your life to start bringing down stress levels.
6 – When you are in the throes of an anxiety attack, it is not the time to eat. Your digestive system has shut down because you are in full fight/flight due to stress (will have an article on that!) and eating anything will only mess up your stomach and make you feel like crap. You don’t need to deal with that while you’re in anxiety. Water should be your best friend.
7 – BREATHE. Preferably, outdoors!
8 – As prevention, start exercising. You don’t have to go full out Jane Fonda, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. A simple walk will be sufficient, at least 20 minutes, outside. I find that those cooler days have a more soothing effect on anxiety, especially if there’s a little breeze.
9 – Be Selfish. Now’s not the time to worry or care about everyone or everything else. The world doesn’t benefit from your weakness. You need to get strong for yourself first, before you can be strong for someone else. Think only of your own self. Enlist help from your spouse, parents, friends. Problems will always be there tomorrow. Your heart and mind is in a rough place right now, and now it’s your turn to be taken care of. If you need to hurt feelings to get your point across, f**king do it. In my own personal case, I’ve had enough one day when my baby was 4 months old. I sent out a MASS email to all my family members on both sides of the family, at the risk of embarrassing anyone by airing out dirty laundry, and basically said, if I don’t get help now, I can’t be held responsible for what I’ll do to myself. They needed to hear it and finally got it. This was not Baby Blues, and not me crying for attention. I was crying for survival, and they all rallied to my side, for which I’m forever grateful.
10 – This last point is the hardest and I personally struggle with. Staying off social media, electronic devices and eliminate news watching. Unless you’re living in a very isolated community, and you don’t have a car or access to public transportation, there’s no reason to go on social media as a crutch. If you are, then online support groups and contact with long distant friends and family are important. But most of us should make more of an effort to seek person to person contact for support. We are social beings. As an anxious person, we feel strongly. We feel everything TOO strongly – and we are easily triggered when faced with graphic images of a disturbing nature, usually from news channels or from online trolling YouTube, or something pops up on our newsfeed, and our curiosity makes us watch, only to have us recoil in terror and disgust. And it haunts us. For days. We get nightmares. These can trigger our anxiety, or our current weakened state while in anxiety makes us less capable of coping with issues. The world can be ugly and scary – and unfortunately, this is mostly what we see in media. Disconnecting is an important part of recovery, as it allows quiet to seep into our chaotic mind. The quiet makes us investigate what the hell is going on with us. The revelation is that we’re broken.
We’ve broken in 1 of 3 ways, physically, spiritually or mentally. And yes, it’s all 3 sometimes.
When power is taken from us, we start to break. When we are worn to the bone for a buck, our spirit breaks. When the ability to build our own tree house is taken from us because we can buy it now, it breaks our creativity and resourcefulness. When the doctor doesn’t listen to you, media confuses you, and all you hear is that you must eat this, do this, feel this to be healthy, and there’s no time because you have to take care of the kids, fight traffic, tend to aging parents, work for that second income to pay off for that big fancy car that you didn’t need, it takes a toll on your soul. When the hammer and nail is taken out of your hands, as creative creatures we lose our ability to express ourselves. We have nowhere to expel our energy, our anger, our fears, and so it turns inwards.
So I end this with a positive note for all of my fellow anxiety sufferers. You are not Special. You are not a Super Hero. You are not a Force to Be Reckoned With. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You are a Human Being. You cannot save the world, if you cannot save yourself. Start saving yourselves, so that the world can get us bad-ass warriors back. Grab that hammer back from the media, corporations and sh**ty society ideals. Write again. Dance again. Paint again. Build again. Fight your way back to stronger health. And I’ll be with you all the way.
LINK: http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.Wac7pumQzIU–Accessed September 3, 2017
LINK: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics - Accessed September 3, 2017
LINK: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers - Accessed September 3, 2017
University of Michigan Health System. "Walking off depression and beating stress outdoors? Nature group walks linked to improved mental health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2014.
LINK: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140923121413.htm - Accessed September 3, 2017
LINK: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm - Accessed September 3, 2017
LINK: http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/ - Accessed September 3, 2017
European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP). "Internet addiction may indicate other mental health problems in college-aged students." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2016. LINK: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160918180002.htm – Accessed September 3, 2017
Pantic Igor. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. October 2014, 17(10): 652-657. LINK: https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2014.0070. Accessed September 4, 2017.