Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Healing Anxiety Naturally

Let me start this post by saying that I am not a doctor or a certified mental health specialist. I am writing this post from the perspective of someone who used to suffer from intense, chronic, anxiety and no longer does.

20 years old- anxiety consumed night
out dancing salsa
So why natural? I grew up in a holistic minded household. My mom fed us organics and we took homeopathic remedies when we got sick (and would recover from our colds more quickly than our friends).  My mother also healed from agoraphobia (even worse then anxiety; she suffered from a case so terrible she couldn't even leave her house) naturally in her mid twenties, a condition that the majority of those who suffer never come out of.  In addition to this I researched antidepressants and felt strongly that the negative effects greatly out weigh the possible beneficial effects. The thing about medication is there are not "side effects." There are only effects of taking the medicine. Only marketing puts forth their desired result, and state anything else is a "possible side effect." I did not want to be numbed out and I did not want to risk my symptoms getting worse. My wish for anyone on the path to healing mental health, or anything for that matter, is to research any medication a doctor is wanting to prescribe to them and make an independent, educated decision on whether or not this is a good fit for them.

My tango with anxiety started when I was 17 years old. I moved to a new high school for my senior year of high school, I thought it would be an adventure. Keep my old friends, and make new ones. Something about that time period, the huge change, my age, everything, knocked me into anxiety. It was so terrible. I woke up every single day feeling like I was under water. Being around people that I knew intellectually I loved, and loved me, but feeling miles and miles away from them. Being in the middle of a festive party and feeling emotionally dead. Feeling a continuos tightness in my chest, like a hand was gripping my heart. On top of these symptoms, and maybe even worse then them, is I felt so shameful. I felt like SUCH a freak for having anxiety. Everyone else was walking around living life, what was wrong with me??

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The road to healing was not a straight shot for me. There was a lot of two steps forward one step back. I held onto the advice my mom gave me like a life preserver. She had a psychiatrist teach her that it is impossible to be depressed when you do one hour of cardio every day. My mom also gave up white sugar and white flour during her healing time, which I just wasn't ready to implement yet. I did the cardio but was still very addicted to white sugar. I even read a great book "Sugar Blues" which opened my mind to the effect white sugar has on our mental health. White sugar was one of those things that I quit several times before I actually quit for good.

I also delved into mindfulness. Reading spiritual teachings, and working to apply them in my everyday life. Learning about the power of our minds and thinking to create our lives. In the depths of what felt like endless anxiety I just had this kernel of hope, one I borrowed from my mom. She had told me that in her twenties she knew that if just ONE person had healed from this, then she could too. I adopted that and took that stance myself.

Right after turning 22 (and living with anxiety for 5 solid years) I had had enough. Something had to give. I was in the depths of desperation. I had been living in an internal hell for years. Though, on the outside I had appeared to be a typical girl. I went to class, had had boyfriends, worked with other people, had people tell me what I lovely young woman I was- but I knew I had been hiding.  I finally gave up white sugar. I also gave up eating meat. I had already been gluten free for a few years. I started eating organic WHOLE FOODS. Real food. I would over time start to enjoy running. This dietary lifestyle change is when things started cooking with oil.

Shortly after changing my diet and lifestyle I discovered that my school's health insurance included mental health. I went right over and signed up for therapy. As a requirement I had to have one meeting with a psychiatrist (the one who doles out the meds). I told her about all the changes I have made, and all the research I had done. I will never forget what she said. She looked right at me and said, "you will not be able to heal from anxiety without medication. Especially eating a vegetarian diet. You need the omega-3's, which is impossible to get without eating meat and fish." At that moment I felt so validated by my hesitation to trust the medical society. This was a Harvard doctor, speaking with total authority, and completely wrong. I knew that there are an abundance of plant based omega-3 sources. I very graciously left her office, without saying anything, but also never returning to her.  Though I DID meet with the therapist once a month for a year, and it was one of the best experiences. Just being able to say all of my fears, terrors and anxieties to a neutral person was so freeing.

Which leads to another important part of healing from anxiety. Embracing and accepting it. In the depths of anxiety I felt like a total freak, once I started climbing out of it I could see that I was not so unique. Every single person walking this planet suffers from anxiety to varying degrees. Thats why we come home and drink a few glasses of wine, eat that bowl of ice cream, juggle a few lovers, smoke that joint, etc. Everyone is managing anxiety. When we stop fearing it, it loses its grip.

26 years old - happy day, spontaneously
getting matching tattoos with friends
These days, after walking down this winding road to wellness, I am a completely different person. I genuinely love life. I have a consistent feeling of well being. I thoroughly enjoy and am present spending time with friends and family. I get excited about the simple things in life. In place of a tightness in my chest and impending feeling of doom there is this sense of, "everything is always working out for me." Always evolving, changing and growing.

Occasionally I will wake up with anxiety, and luckily now it is such a foreign feeling for me. I even think, "wow, I can't believe I used to feel this every day!" What helps me the most now when those moments happen is to welcome it, remember "this too shall pass," and not let it effect how I live my life. I will even think, "okay, Im just gunna do what I need to do. Im gunna be kind to the people around me. And anxiety is just gunna have to come along for the ride I guess." Then, next thing I know, quickly the feeling has passed.

So, in summary, here are the things that helped me the most to heal from chronic anxiety:

-running (one hour each day of any cardio will do)
-practicing mindful meditations (Louis Hay has great meditations on YouTube)
-giving up eating white sugar
-giving up eating white flour (I went gluten free)
-giving up eating meat
-and when I am feeling off, taking it easy on myself
-positive self talk

We each have our own individual path. Not everyone's story of anxiety is the same as mine, so everyone's process will vary. I am not writing this post from a place of authority. I am writing as an imperfect, evolving, messy human being saying that I have been there. I have been in that place of tremendous, constant, mental suffering and I am not there anymore! Like my mom told herself in her mid twenties, and I told myself in the depths of mental hell,  "if one person has healed from this, I can too." So, I guess I am that person here to say that if I did it, you can do it too.



  1. when I am feeling off, taking it easy on myself..

    1. something so simple can make the world of a difference