Last year, about May of 2018, I decided that because I was feeling great, I wanted to go off of my anxiety medication.
I spoke with my doctor and we made a plan to wean off slowly. (If cut cold turkey, some anxiety meds will cause mild to severe side effects.)
It took me 2 weeks of slowly decreasing my medication dose, and I was done. Yay!
I was so excited because honestly, I hate taking medication, even for something as simple as a headache. And I especially hated having to “depend on” or take medication daily to feel “normal.” Not to mention the possible short and long term side effects that all medications have.
But I did it! I was off the meds and I had decided I was going to overcome my lifetime of anxiety “naturally” by practicing self-care, mindfulness, and maybe even try meditation (again).
My doctor recommended talk-therapy, so I did just that – I started seeing a counselor every other week (expensive, by the way!).
After doing some research on natural supplements to relieve anxiety, I went to the local vitamin & healthfoods store and walked out with all kinds of goodies that were going to “cure” my anxiety the “natural” way. Supplements that the owner of the Vitamin store, of whom is a retired RN, told me she “guarantees” will defeat my anxiety. And I believed her, too, because, after even more research on reviews on Amazon of the same supplements she had given me, it seemed everyone swore by this stuff.
I learned everything I could about CBD Oil and because everyone also swore by it. I gave it a shot.
A little (lot) more research told me that even the foods I’m eating can be contributing to my anxiety. So I started following the 21-Day Fix diet plan because I wanted to make sure I was eating right.
But the biggest thing that I just knew was going to be my cure-all for my anxiety was to take more time out for myself. Self-care.
It’s Time For ME
I am a stay at home mom to a toddler and a VERY extroverted preschooler (the kid never, ever stops talking!) and let me just say this: every day by about 3 PM in the afternoon I am mentally DONE! Mama can’t take anymore! (It doesn’t help that I’m a highly sensitive introvert, but that’s another topic in itself!) Needless to say, I very rarely get time to myself, or even a moment of peace and quiet. Like, ever lol. Let alone get time to practice self-care.
So I told my husband that for my health’s sake, we needed to make some changes to our routine. One change being that I needed to carve out time for just me. And I needed his help on this, such as taking over the kid duties and such.
So we did. When he would get home from work he would take over the kids for a little while so that I could have a mental break. I’d go in our bedroom and read my book, work on my rock painting, write in my journal, watch a mindless show, or whatever else felt great at the moment.
On weekends I would go for a drive alone (rare!) and listen to my audiobook, or even just drive in silence! (Again, I’m an introvert and silence is basically the best sound ever to us innies!).
After about a month of no meds and working on overcoming my anxiety “naturally,” I started having anxiety attacks. Something I hadn’t had in a long, long time.
My anxiety meter was through the roof. I had the shortest fuse ever. I was yelling at my kids constantly because of my complete lack of patience. I felt mom-guilt x100 all day every day. I was a B to my husband pretty much always because he and the kids were, just, there. They were in my line of fire so they were the ones who felt the burn. The constant worry and what-ifs. The nonstop irrational thinking of all things life. The feeling of being lost and out of control but not being able to slow my mind down enough to even think things through in order to get myself back on track. Breaking down and crying and losing my sh*t over freaking everything. (I lost it and had a total crying fit of a meltdown over my 1-year-old accidentally toddling over and knocking down a marble maze run I had just built for my preschooler, you guys. It was bad.)
The list goes on, but hopefully, you get the idea. And this was all day every day.
My anxiety was back. Just as bad as it had been before I was on my medication. If not worse.
And all the natural supplements, foods, counseling, woo-sah’s, and self-care in the world did absolutely nothing to help it.
The Self-Care Revolution
Self-care and the commercialization of it
If you are unsure what “self-care” is, then all you have to do is log on to Pinterest and start scrolling; you’ll see pin after pin on how to and why you should practice self-care (You may even see some from me here at Silver Jasmine, on there!) Google “self-care” and you will be overwhelmed with articles. It’s talked about in practically every women’s magazine. It’s in commercials. Countless books. There are thousands of mindfulness and meditation and self-care reminder apps. The self-care hashtags are endless on Instagram and Facebook.
Here’s a quick rundown in case you’re lazy like me and don’t feel like googling or pinterest’ing or hashtag’ing…
- Avoiding mental and/or physical burnout by mindfully taking time away from crazy daily life and focusing on yourself.
- Taking a moment or 10 out of your day to do something fun that you enjoy
- Taking time to love yourself
- Subjective, and everyone’s way of practicing self-care is going to be different – there is no right or wrong way as long as you get the “chill out” time you needed
- A time to decompress
- Maintaining your own wellness – mentally and physically
- Needed in order to be our best 100%. “You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must refill your own cup first.”
Yes, of course. Self-care is something that we need in order to be able to function and keep functioning. If we don’t take a minute for ourselves to recharge by giving some self-love, then it’s like trying to run a car on fumes. Eventually, it’s going to keel over and STOP.
And you will stop. Trust me. I’ve keeled over many ‘o times. Especially since becoming a parent. And especially when the kids were newborns! (Anyone else hate the newborn phase of parenting?! Just me? Well, ok then…carry on.)
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And it’s true. Penciling in some time each day just for yourself is absolutely needed. I can attest to what happens when you don’t, as I tried to be “supermom/housewife/wife/friend/daughter/sister” for far too long without taking time to recharge myself. (Like, years, y’all.)
Neglecting your personal needs can cause you to suffer from deterioration in wellness and self-love. For example, you may notice increases in anxiety, distractibility, anger, and fatigue. You may also experience decreases in sleep, relationship satisfaction, self-esteem, empathy, and compassion. Ongoing exposure to stress without proper self-care can put you at risk for serious consequences such as depression and heart disease. – Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC
But I want to make it known and clear that for some of us, this idea that self-care (and wellness in general) being a cure-all for all things stress, including anxiety and depression, is simply not true.
Yep. Go ahead and call me a hypocrite. Because I totally am one of those bloggers who talk about anxiety and how to get relief from it without medication.
Yes, it’s true. Some people can and do very well get anxiety relief without medication. But not everybody.
And some people can get at least temporary anxiety relief without medication. But again, not everybody.
Some of us need a little (or even a lot) more than the occasional “me-time.”
I’ll get into why wellness and mindfulness and self-care is not the “coconut oil” or “duct tape” of fix-its in just a minute. But first I think it is necessary to talk about anxiety, what it is, and the different levels of it.
Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It is a human emotion where we expect something bad will happen.
- Worried about that presentation you have to give? – “What if I lose my presentation notes and have to wing it!”
- Stressed about a test you must take? – “What if I fail it!”
- Job interview? – “What if I bomb it and they don’t hire me!”
- Concerned about your child coughing up a lung or two as he’s been sick for what seems like forever? (‘Cause 3 days straight of a sick, whiney, clingy kid 24/7 is absolutely considered for-
ev-er. Ugh!) – “What if he has pneumonia and DIES!”
These are all normal, ordinary forms of anxiety. Everyone has it at some time or another.
Anxiety and fear are part of our body’s built-in “fight or flight” response. And without fear and anxiety the human species, or any species for that matter, probably wouldn’t have lasted very long.
An anxiety DISORDER however:
- Is excessive and persistent worry that doesn’t let up
- Gives you the feeling of fear and “what ifs” all the time
- Is difficult to control – you can’t “just stop” or “just chill out”
- Lasts longer than 6 months
- Interferes with your everyday life
- Depending on severity, may need medication to regulate
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive (OCD), Social Anxiety, and Generalized Anxiety (GAD) just to name a few, and oftentimes people can have more than one simultaneously.
I personally have GAD. And I have a pretty “high dose” of it! When I’m not on the correct dose of my medication, my anxiety is out of control and I pretty much turn batshit over ev-ry-thing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of those of us with GAD include:
- Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
- Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
- Difficulty handling uncertainty
- Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
- Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”
Now, getting back to…
Why self-care, meditation, mindfulness, and other wellness stuffs just ‘ain’t gonna work’ for those of us with a little more than just the occasional anxiety…
First of all, the occasional “spa day” or mani/pedi does not help anxiety in the long run.
Sure, it feels wonnnnderful while you are in the middle of that massage. Or while you’re enjoying your own company at the movie theater. Your anxiety may even seem to melt away in that moment.
You head back home thinking and feeling so refreshed. You think, “See, this is all I needed! I just needed some me-time!”
You walk in the door to your house and the kids are hanging from the ceiling fans, the 4 baskets of laundry are still blocking the walkway in the laundry room, you remember that you still need to schedule that doctors appointment that you’ve been putting off, you realize you forgot to set out the meat to thaw so now what the heck are you going to make for dinner??
Remember that feeling of bliss that you felt while you were at the spa? Yep, that’s completely out the window. It was fun while it lasted, you guess. Ugh.
For those of us with severe anxiety and/or anxiety disorders, stepping away for a few minutes of self-care is, well, pointless. It feels great
Stopping to practice self-care makes us more anxious
The anxious mind doesn’t stop spinning. Like, ever. Just because we step away from the chaos of life and go sit down to read a book, doesn’t mean our anxious brains are going to just suddenly stop churning while reading that book!
The persistent worry about evvverything keeps us anxious folk in a constant state of fight or flight. And when one is in fight or flight-mode, sitting and doing something “chill” is like going against nature. Our bodies are literally ready to either pounce or run away… not sit and chill in a bathtub or read a book via candlelight.
Personally, stopping to do self-care ironically makes me more anxious because I have too many other things (I feel) I “should” be doing.
We feel guilty
Taking time out for ourselves leaves less time, we feel, we “should” be spending with others.
I can’t be the only one who feels a little like an a-hole when I decline a friends invitation because I’d rather sit in my house bra-less in silence. (That’s the introvert in me!) Especially when it’s the 3rd declination in a row. (Oops. Sorry friends!)
Or I can’t be the only stay at home parent who feels guilty that by the time the weekend comes, I’m so touched out by mini-humans that Friday evening I honestly wish I could just drive off into the sunset and not show back up until sunset Sunday night.
The guilt is real!
Those of us with anxiety disorders can’t just “turn off” our anxiety
I sort of already touched on this, but I just wanted to reiterate…
Thanks to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I basically have an inability to relax. And I can’t
So just because I sit down to read a book, or watch mindless TV, or head out for that mani/pedi, that doesn’t mean my mind will just suddenly STOP and relax.
As a matter of fact, I can’t even focus on the book I’m trying to read, or the mindless show I was trying to binge on Netflix. The entire time my jaw literally aches in pain and I have to consciously tell myself, “relax” because the muscles in my body are so tense even though I’m just sitting on the couch.
Hardly the calming and relaxing feeling I was going for.
Knowing that I’m “supposed” to practice self-care to tame my anxiety, gives me anxiety!
This may sound sort of weird if you are someone reading this who doesn’t really have an anxiety disorder and instead has normal everyday anxieties.
But having in my head that “everybody needs to practice self-care, and so should you” is just another thing added to my already ridiculously long to-do list that I’m already overly anxious about.
Us anxious peeps (as well as of us introverts) overthink
When self-care just won’t cut it
Needless to say, after a few months of suffering after weaning off of my anxiety medication, I talked to my doctor and decided I needed to get back on my meds.
I’m not gonna lie and say I wasn’t devastated. I hate that I have to depend on medication in order to maintain my mental health.
But there are a few things I have come to realize…
1. It’s ok to ask for help
I am one of those people who would have to be underwater drowning for a good few minutes before I break down and ask someone for help (lol). I always have the “I can do this on my own” mentality. Call me stubborn, I guess.
But after years of struggling with anxiety through my nearly 40 years of life, I did finally break down (literally and figuratively) and went to see my doctor.
Best thing I ever did. I wish I had got over my pride and sought help years ago.
Don’t quote me on this because I am not a doctor (PS…read my medical disclaimer HERE), but if you have an anxiety disorder, it is typically not something you can just “make go away” on your own. (Gah, if only!)
But here’s the good news: There are people who are trained to help you with your specific struggles!
Counselors, doctors, support groups, etc. These people have gone to school for YEARS to learn how to help YOU with your anxiety and/or depression. They have made it their career to help YOU!
Think of it this way: Obviously what you are currently doing to minimize your anxiety isn’t working. And neither has what you’ve tried in the past. Otherwise, you likely wouldn’t have found your way to this post (lol).
So somethings gotta change! It’s time to move on to the next idea: Seek help from the professionals.
You’re never alone. 🙂 Find us on Facebook! Join our Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders Talk And Support Group.
2. It’s ok to need medication
This was a hard one for me to come to terms with.
After months of my stubborn self telling my counselor that I really did not want to go the medication route to treat my anxiety, one day she finally mentioned this:
“Sometimes you need medication just to bring you back down to earth so that you can work through your problems without a severely anxious mind getting in the way.“
And that’s all she said. She didn’t push medication down my throat or anything like that. But that night I went home and thought about it.
And I realized that she was right.
Those of us with anxiety disorders, our anxiety is much higher than the average, “I’m a bit worried about this interview I have coming up.”
When we are in an anxiety-driven spiral, all rational thinking is completely gone, and all of the worst of the worst-case scenarios of every possible thing takes over our brain. The occasional self-care, meditation, simple breathing techniques, etc. more often than not are just not enough to bring us back to reality when we are eyebrows deep into our anxious spiral. Especially when we are on the verge of a panic or anxiety attack.
If you have found that you need medication to keep your head in the real world, then so be it! Like my counselor suggested if your constantly spinning mind won’t slow itself long enough for you to think rationally, productively, and positively then how will you ever better yourself?
Personally, I have accepted that at least for the time being, I need medication to level me out. It’s the only way I am actually able to now practice self-care and get something out of it.
If you are a lazy reader and totally skimmed this post (It’s ok, no hard feelings lol), please take away one important thing:
Just because something is working for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Even if it’s something that is seemingly working for everyone else.
Everyone’s situation and mental state are different. Self-care may work for some people. But for those of us with severe anxiety, self-care alone may not be enough.
Take care of YOU and what you need to live a happy, peaceful life.
In addition to self-care, what have you done to reduce your anxiety? Comment below!
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