My heart starts racing and I start feeling warm all over. I then start to feel dizzy and almost disoriented. My legs feel wobbly and my brain automatically tells me I'm going to pass out or have a heart attack. This is just the beginning of a full-blown panic attack for me and they can set in at any time. I can be having a perfectly normal conversation with someone and then boom! Panic starts to set in. There are usually triggers, and it's usually stress or too much caffeine and not enough food.
Lately, I make sure not to leave my house unless I'm properly hydrated and properly fed because of how scary my panic attacks can get when I'm alone in public. And although I've found some hacks to avoid them turning into full-blown panic attacks, it takes every single ounce of my mind and body to control the episodes before they begin. The hardest part about my panic attacks and anxiety is that they can happen anytime. I have no way of predicting them. I'm better when I'm always with someone, which is one of my main reasons my dad or my husband are usually with me in public. I don't do well in situations where I feel trapped or stuck and I hate being inside places, which makes going to therapy in a medical office extremely hard. I swear if my therapist and I could move our sessions outside, I would do so much better in those tiny offices.
When I'm at home and I start to feel panic, I have the ability to control it better because I can go outside, my dogs are usually with me and I can lay down if I need too. In public, it's much harder because I'm alone and when I'm driving that is the scariest. I automatically think: What if I crash the car? One of my biggest fears is blacking out so I always make sure to calm myself down before anything drastic happens. I don't like feeling stuck and I prefer to stick to the stores I'm familiar with. For example, I'm usually okay shopping at Trader Joe's or Sprouts, the places I usually go. I'm okay with coffee shops and non-noisy restaurants. But lately, movie theaters have become a problem as I'm now sensitive to noise and tend to have auditory anxiety issues, especially in loud restaurants.
It's a constant, daily struggle to reset and tell myself I'm okay.
If you've ever struggled with anything like this, I know exactly what you are going through. Some days I wish I could back to 25 when anxiety was never an issue and I never talked myself into passing out or hyperventilating. What I have learned throughout all of this is that my mind is a very powerful instrument and I cannot let my fear take over. One of the main reasons my husband and I don't have a baby yet is because up to this point, I've let my fear take over. I've convinced myself that it can't go right for me so why even try. Isn't that the silliest thing you've ever heard? Like I don't deserve to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and baby. I'm dying to be a mom! I know I will be a wonderful mama and my husband wants to be a daddy so much that I know I have to let go of all of these anticipatory fears soon. We want a family so I can either let the fear dictate me or I can dictate it. Some more things that I've learned with anxiety are that a lot of is based on anticipation. My anxiety and hypochondria are based on things that haven't happened. Like, I'm afraid I'll black out, or I'm afraid I have a disease when I'm a perfectly healthy 31-year-old woman. Or, I'll lose the baby, so on and so on. It's all based on WHAT IF'S. All of it. And it started in 2016 when I found out I had to have a benign cyst removed on my right ovary. I had no clue I had one, so finding out I did was terrifying and shocking. Luckily, my doctor is a saint and knew what to do and everything turned out to be okay and I healed super quickly, but it was terrifying. All last year, I worried my cyst would come back, even know my OB told me on countless occasions that wouldn't happen. Now, I have a deep-seeded fear of cancer, even though there is no family history of it on either side. Let me just say, that walking around constantly believing there is something detrimentally wrong with you, is not only horrible on your stress levels, but it tricks your mind into believing things that aren't actually real.
My hypochondrium is a very real thing. This fear that I have something wrong and it's rather silly too. Normal body tissue that is supposed to be there, I freak out and automatically think it's a lump. For example, my sternum sticks out (especially since I've lost more weight) and for an entire month, I convinced myself there was a lump there. There's no lump, just the bone, muscle tissue, and fat that is supposed to be there. I make my husband check my breasts literally every week because of a deep-seeded fear of cancer. Again, no history on either side and I'm still absolutely terrified of it. I can't quite put my finger on when these fears began, but I know I've always struggled with anxiety. And I know that it runs in my family. My grandfather struggled nearly his entire life with anxiety and hypochondria. Tom Petty was also a huge advocate of his struggles with anxiety and was very open about it in his later years. Many movie stars deal with, many of you deal with it, and many people don't talk about it.
I'm here to be completely open and honest with you about my journey and struggles with anxiety and hypochondria. Some people think it's silly. Good on them, I say because when you're in it and you actually believe you are dying, it's anything but silly. It's terrifying and crippling and can make it hard to enjoy life and basic daily tasks.
Here are some hacks that I've learned along the way.
Hack #1: Make sure you eat breakfast. And not just a measly bagel or a bowl of cereal. Make sure you eat a healthy combination of carbs, protein, and veggies or fruit if you can. Not eating a proper meal is the fastest way to send me into a panic attack. Not eating sends signals to your brain that your body is hungry and it can cause your blood sugar to drop, which can cause a whole slew of problems. EAT.
Hack # 2: Stay hydrated. Why more people don't drink more water is beyond me, but drink your water. And real water or sparkling is a good choice too. Drink water right when you wake up in the morning, then have a glass of water with your coffee, then another at lunch, and every hour if you can. Getting dehydrated is the second fastest way to a panic attack and to blacking out. Drink all the water. There are apps to remind you to drink water. Bring water in your car; in a water pack if you are a runner like me, bring it with you everywhere you go. Water, water, and more water!
Hack #3: Lavender Oil. I carry lavender oil with me everywhere. I'm not sure how I ever lived without it before. This little oil is absolutely amazing and helps me in nearly every situation. Once I feel anxiety or a panic attack coming on, I rub it under my nose, inside my wrists, on the back of my neck, wherever I need it. I swear by this stuff! Invest in some and carry it with you if struggle with anxiety. This stuff is amazing! I've linked my favorite brand above and here.
Hack #4: Sedalia! Oh my gosh you guys, this stuff has saved my life! Anytime I feel anxiety, stress, racing thoughts, worry, a panic attack coming on, I take two tablets of this stuff and I'm instantly calm. It's a homeopathic medicine made by one of my favorite companies Boiron and it's amazing stuff! You can pick up some here, trust me, buy this stuff and try it. You won't regret it! You'll wonder how you've gone this long with your anxiety before trying Sedalia. It works and it's non-habit forming. I've heard people get off of their harsh anxiety medications due to taking Sedalia on a regular basis. This stuff is amazing and I'm so thankful to have access to it. This isn't sponsored either, I'm just a huge fan of products that have done wonders for me. I keep a pack in my car, in my purse, and on my kitchen counter at home. Try Sedalia, you won't regret it!
Hack #5: GABA-I started taking GABA recently to help me with my sleep, it's not a cure-all but it does help me sleep. I like that it slowly puts me into a relaxed state ready for sleep, rather than knocking me out. This is my favorite brand here.
I hope my story helps you and if you have any questions or feel comfortable sharing your story with me, please feel free to e-mail me or drop me a note on Instagram. I truly believe that the more we talk about anxiety and mental health struggles, the more awareness we can create around these typically taboo subjects. I will be writing more and more on my daily struggles with anxiety and hypochondria and I hope my story helps you.
Stay tuned for an entire YouTube coming out this week where I go into a bit more detail on how and why I believed this all started and what I'm doing to combat my anxiety.