2015 was a pretty cool year. Kendrick Lamar and Drake came out with an album, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and legalized it in all 50 states. Some pretty sweet movies debuted like Star Wars, and I went from never experiencing anxiety to having it completely ravage my life.
I remember sitting in my apartment the year before reading about anxiety and thinking, ‘that sounds awful.’ Was I a nervous kid? More than most. Did I struggle with stomach twisting anxiety before the SAT’s? You bet.
But what I began to experience in 2015 was a next-level, fight-or-flight and unrelenting state of mind. My autonomic nervous system kicked into constant overdrive. It was unprecedented territory for me, marking it equally as one of the most unfamiliar and formative years of my life. I was walking down the road that became a dark forest, leading me to a door I would have otherwise missed.
My Generalized Anxiety Disorder
My immediate experience with anxiety began after being a part of a spiritually intense environment, and a codependent friendship that left me burnt out. Somebody turned the switch on for anxiety and glued it in place. My bed was a cage and my thoughts were racing as my body couldn’t retract from a state of fight-or-flight. If you can relate, I want you to know that I’m with you. I can’t point to the exact cause for my anxiety, but I can look back with 20/20 vision and explain to you an amalgamation of unfortunate events that certainly didn’t help.
I was eating poorly, burning out from overworking to pay my way through college, serving limitlessly for a spiritual environment, maintaining toxic relationships, not sleeping enough, functioning out of stress, and harboring unprocessed trauma. I have a sensitive nervous system and a genetic propensity for anxiety, so stressing out my body in all of these ways exasperated it.
What I didn’t know then but now know is that I needed a total overhaul of my life. You see, in the words of Brene Brown, “genetics load the gun but your environment pulls the trigger.” My gun was locked, loaded, and firing on all cylinders, so I went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
I began to take medication to gain my footing. I had no idea what the journey would look like but I began to realize that if I didn’t change anything about my life, then what got me there in the first place would never be addressed, and I would never deal with the root causes. 2015 was the year I learned one of the most valuable lessons for my life: pain is both a powerful teacher and an invitation for change.
It Was Time to Make a Change
After constant anxiety and experiences with depersonalization, I felt totally disconnected from myself. I started to see a trauma-informed counselor who helped me understand that my body was communicating something to me. She explained how anxiety can be your subconscious’ way of telling your body that something is not working, and it has to change.
I went to a holistic certification course and I learned how my gut health affects my mood. I began to tend to my movement, hydration, thinking, breathing, and sleep. I learned how desperately I needed to quiet my mind. I started meditating and doing tai chi. I played like a child, walked barefoot, watched the sunset, ate the liver of a healthy, happy, local chicken and implemented real, unprocessed, and fermented food.
I spent the next 5 years relearning health and wholeness for myself, reorganizing the people in my life, revisiting old traumas, and recalibrating my beliefs.
The GAPS Diet
There is a powerful connection between the flora in your gut, or GI tract, and the effect it has on mental health. This is also known as the gut-brain connection. Dr. Nicole LePera wrote a powerful article on how she healed her lifelong anxiety and explains that “70% of neurotransmitters like serotonin are made in the gut then sent through to the brain via the gut brain axis.”
For someone who felt completely at a loss with my constant anxiety, this information was transformational. I stumbled upon a diet called The Gaps Diet. “The GAPS Diet focuses on removing foods that are difficult to digest and damaging to gut flora and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods to give the intestinal lining a chance to heal and seal.”
I committed to giving this a try, and while this was a tough diet, I felt an incredible shift afterwards. It jump started my healing journey and allowed me to rebalance my gut microbiome as I recentered myself for change. I felt completely empowered to support a healthy gut, a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy emotionality.
Maintaining a Holistic Perspective
They say that time heals all. While time does heal, I believe you must also pair it with intention. It has been 5 years since I began this journey, and I feel exponentially better. I am no longer in a constant state of stress and anxiety.
When I do feel anxious, I have learned to be mindful of it. I now understand it to be a mode of communication and one that I am actively listening to. It doesn’t take me long before I realize that I have some sort of mental, physical, emotional, or relational imbalance.
Think of your health as a whole pie. Every little slice makes a difference. Without a slice, you still have most of the pie, but begin to take away each piece and you will soon be empty-handed, and your stress levels and body will let you know. Whether it is a good night’s sleep that I am lacking, the quality of food that I am eating, or tension in a relationship, I can now trust my soul to caution me with imbalance, and I trust my body to listen with intention.
What I shared is my experience with being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and how utilizing a holistic approach and changing my life little by little overtime made a massive impact on how my anxiety manifested. Your experience and healing journey is crucially valid. We recommend you seek professional help with your journey. The right way of healing is the one that works for you.