Saturday, June 9, 2018

panic at the disco

wild heart, by lisa parks.  acrylic, ink, paper on wood, 2015.

earlier this year i experienced a two-month period of panic, anxiety, depression, and chronic insomnia.  it came on quickly and unexpectedly and completely derailed my life for a time.  i had many nights without sleep, pacing the house and the yard in the dark, attempting to calm my racing heart and fearful mind.  during this time i made six visits to the emergency room even though they assured me i wasn't having a heart attack and/or suffocating.  (because it felt like a two-month-long heart attack/suffocation.)  and i discovered that i could sleep in the emergency room because they were the only ones who could save me should i die. (because i felt like i was about to die for two months.)   i really loved all the doctors and nurses in the emergency room.  they took such great care of me even though they were likely sick of seeing me there again.

i tried seven different medications and, with the exception of two (propranolol, a beta blocker, and hydroxyzine, an antihistamine which can control anxiety for some, both non-addictive), they made it all worse.  i became curious why the doctors started out with major life-altering and addictive psychotropics (benzodiazepines and antidepressants) before trying these more gentle pharmaceutical options.

i discovered that my anxiety likes to surprise me by showing up on any given day as irritability, disorientation, rage, hypervigilence, panic, depression, frozen state, or any random combination of these lovely states.  i learned that my anxiety may recur or it may never happen again.  either way, i changed a lot of things in my life.  i was committed to regaining as much of my health as possible.

here are twenty things i discovered worked for me:
  • reaching out to the people who love me and asking for help or just good company.
  • holy basil (tulsi) tea.  i love this so much, i'm growing holy basil in my garden this year.
  • reishi mushroom, turmeric, and raw cacao drink before bed (i make my own version now but this drink is what got me started).
  • vitamin d (i was very deficient).
  • staying hydrated (the worst panic attack occurred in the middle of the night in a hotel room that was as dry as the sahara desert).
  • being outside more.
  • reducing electronic devise blue light two hours before bed.
  • magnesium cream, a tiny bit rubbed on the bottom of each foot before bed (i use the cream made for children after the adult version oddly triggered jitters on top of my jitters).  most americans are deficient in magnesium and it plays a huge part in the healthy operation of the nervous system.
  • adrenal supplement with rhodiola, holy basil, and ashwaghanda.
  • acupuncture.
  • mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • i watched about sixty episodes of friends reruns while i had insomnia (i too was stuck in second gear) and avoided all news and/or shows with anxiety-producing content (which is like, ALL SHOWS).
  • reducing carbs after lunch; reducing the size of dinner and eating it at least two hours before bedtime.
  • a happy light at least 20 minutes first thing in the morning to regulate cortisol and improve mood.
  • increased movement.
  • grounding (bare feet on the earth for at least 20 minutes, i even laid down on the grass and napped a few times).
  • hands in dirt (things improved significantly once it warmed up and i was able to get in the garden).
  • 4-7-8 breathing (inhale through the nose to a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale through the mouth for 8, repeat four times several times throughout the day).  
  • nightly journaling and gratitude list.
  • changing my relationship with coffee.  i'm now a proud three-quarter decaf drinker supplemented with coconut oil, raw honey, collagen powder, and lion's mane mushroom.
as i write this, i am anxiety-free, sleeping pretty well, and still practicing each of the things on this list.  i am medication-free with the exception of 1/4 of the antihistamine dosage at night to help insure sleep.  i have hope that this recovery is permanent.  and if it's not, i have confidence that these practices can help me through again.

i know this list is long.  some of the things may seem doable for you and others may not.  each of us is blessed with a unique body and brain and life circumstances.  i tried about 120 different holistic practices and these were the things that worked for me this time.  what worked most is that i didn't stop trying.

if you struggle with anxiety and depression, know that there is help and hope.  the heavy this is how my life is going to be from now on feeling is one of the worst things about it.  standing on the other side for now, i know that this is a lie.  

the truth is that your life can be even better than it was before.

* * * * *

more about my experience with anxiety here.
i collected lots of resources on a pinterest board here.