Sharing my story about living with anxiety and depression and answering reader questions in a Q&A!
I’ve talked a lot about my eating disorder on the blog (here, here, and here), but never really about my anxiety and depression. The ED actually stemmed from my depression not being under control and they all kind of binded together during different parts of my life. I thought I’d start off by giving a brief overview of my story and then diving into a Q&A. I’ve actually been sharing more about my story over on Instagram stories and that’s where I got all of these questions from.
Slotting this in early on in this post in case you don’t scroll all the way to the bottom — I am hosting a LIVE webinar on January 7th at 8 PM CST with Healthy Glow Co. and Monique. We’ll be continuing this mental health discussion and diving deeper into our recovery stories. Storytelling has been huge for healing our personal relationships with food and exercise and we’ll be chatting LIVE. So, mark your calendars and sign up HERE.
Before I begin my story and answer these questions, I want to say loud and proud that I am NOT a doctor and that I am simply answering questions about my experience. Everyone’s body is different and you should in no way take this advice without speaking to your doctor.
My Anxiety and Depression Story
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2011 when I was a junior in college at the University of Minnesota. This is when I hit rock bottom with my eating disorder. My ED is actually the reason why I ever sought help for anxiety and depression in the first place. Sometimes you can’t see mental illness on the outside, but with my ED (anorexia and orthorexia), you could. With all of the changes happening in my life, moving to a new city, and not having great self-confidence, I turned to the one thing I knew I could control and manipulate, my body. I counted every morsel that went into my mouth and every calorie burned at the gym. I saw results fast and so did everyone else, which is what fueled the disorder.
Weight loss was the biggest red flag that I was having issues and my family didn’t take the situation lightly. After losing over 30 lbs. in 45 days, my parents and sister got me in to see therapist and psychiatrist right away. At this point, I was in denial (mostly with myself) that I had any kind of problem, but deep down I knew something was very wrong. TBH, it took me about 2 years to say out loud that “I had an eating disorder”, but my doctors and family clearly knew. I got on board with the fact that I had some kind of mental illness…and called my ED “a poor relationship with food” + depression + anxiety.
During the midst of all of this, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. To be perfect in school, to have the perfect body, the perfect life, etc. At this point, I wasn’t living a very normal college lifestyle because I was so anxious all the time. I couldn’t be around food or alcohol because of the pressure to consume. I ate less than 1,200 calories per day and I wasn’t going to waste them on a shot. I didn’t date anyone because I didn’t think I was worthy enough and I didn’t have very many friends because I sucked. I didn’t like to party, do silly college stuff, or stay up late because all I cared about was “being healthy”, whatever the heck that meant!
The Turning Point + Today
The turning point of my illness was the day I started medication. I don’t give 100% credit to the medication itself, but for my mindset shift. I knew I needed to change my lifestyle and in more ways than one. I needed to have a better relationship with food and exercise and with myself. I also knew it was going to be a lot of work. I didn’t just take a pill and voila, I was cured. I made a lot of changes over multiple years to get where I am today. A big part of my recovery was actually this blog. I found a different place for that obsessive energy to live and it was building out this brand, which again didn’t come easy.
Today it’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been on medication and diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Guys, I’m doing great! I have a normalized relationship with myself and my ED is under control. Everyone in my life knows about my past and 100% supports who I am. I love my career and the life I’ve built for myself. I am happy and that’s the end goal, right?
I manage my mental illness with a combination of holistic practice and medication. I’m currently on 100 mg of Sertraline (I talk more about this below) and do lots of things daily, weekly, and monthly to keep my health at equilibrium (see below!). Most days I forget that I have depression and today my anxiety is more prevalent out of the two. With that said, my anxiety is definitely up and down…more up, then down so that’s great! Take a read below. I answer a lot of questions in relation to anxiety, depression, and medication (this was a hot topic on IG). As always, feel free to leave a question or two in the comments and I’ll try and answer as many as I can!
What do anxiety and depression feel like to you?
Gosh, this is a hard question to answer because sometimes I can’t even describe to you what I’m feeling. Anxiety feels like I’m trapped in my own thoughts. I fixate on things that stress me out and I can’t get myself to do anything about it. I feel like my thoughts go a mile a minute and I just can’t focus on my day to day. Depression, on the other hand, is this wave of sadness. It’s like a dark cloud that comes upon me and I just don’t know why I’m sad.
What are your anxiety side effects?
My anxiety side effects include insomnia, night sweats (this one is new), shortness of breath, nail/cuticle biting, and loss of ability to focus. I’m normally always able to fall asleep, my insomnia is more waking up at the wee hours of the morning and not being able to fall back asleep. The night sweats are new for me within the last 2 months. I don’t actually know that this is stemming from my anxiety, I’m just assuming it is, but I will wake up in the morning with completely soaked sheets, boob sweat (I have huge boobs), and wet hair. It’s actually quite disgusting and sometimes happens 2 or 3 times per week. Shortness of breath doesn’t happen as often for me, but when it does, its because I’m very overwhelmed. I would say not being able to focus on my day to day is the most common. My thoughts get swarmed with one or two things and I just can’t get them to escape my head.
What steps did you take to get diagnosed with anxiety/depression?
I don’t think I ever would have gone to a therapist if it weren’t for my mom, sister, and others around me who were worried about my drastic weight loss. I have a family history of depression, so my mom knew immediately what was going on. After seeing a therapist a handful of times, it was quite obvious to them that I had both anxiety and depression.
How do you manage anxiety holistically?
Is it weird to say that this is my favorite part of mental illness? That I am hyper-aware that I need extra self-love and care? There are so many things that I do for myself knowing that I am sensitive to anxiety and depression especially during the cold dark months of winter. Here are some of my favorite things:
- Surrounding myself with people who get it and who can lift me out of it.
- Clean and intuitive eating. I just feel better all around when I’m eating healthy and not on some rigid schedule.
- Outdoor time. The more I’m outside, the better I feel.
- Massages! I get at least one massage a month and it always makes me feel like I have not a worry in the world.
- Essential oils. Over the last year, I’ve been more into essential oils. I use them in my diffuser, on my pillow, on my body, etc.
- Acupuncture. I started doing acupuncture for injuries, but now I go for the meditation part of it.
- Yoga. I need to start making time to do this more frequently. I always feel so rejuvenated post-yoga.
What tools do you use to get through anxiety in the moment?
Deep breathing and talking about it. Vocalizing how I’m feeling actually helps me feel better.
Do you see a therapist?
I don’t currently see a therapist because my mental health is under control, but at the very beginning I did and thank goodness I did! It’s so great to have an outsider rationalize things with you. I always say that everyone should see a therapist and this is something I’m thinking about starting again in 2018.
Do you feel like you can’t get out of bed some days?
This isn’t really an issue for me anymore. My depression is under control and I’m a morning person, so I’m quite the opposite!
What do you do when you get really anxious?
When I get really anxious I like to do a few things. First, I like to talk about it. All of my closest people know this about me. If I’m feeling anxious I need to try and vocalize how I’m feeling and why. Second, physical touch does wonders for me. Basically, I just need to be hugged 😛 And third, self-care is huge. Whether it’s taking a bath, setting my phone down for an hour, taking a nap, or going to pottery, these help take my mind off what’s creating the anxiety.
How do you cure your insomnia?
This is a work in progress. The best thing I’ve found for curing my insomnia is to move. I need to physically get out of my bed and switch sleeping locations. It might sound crazy, but I can fall back asleep easier if I move to the couch then if I stay in my bed. Also I can check the time on my phone, but that’s it. Put the damn phone down, or there’s no going back!
How do you deal with mental illness and relationships?
COMMUNICATION. Man. Communication might seem like a no-brainer, but like I said above, sometimes it’s hard to even explain how I’m feeling. Mark doesn’t have a mental illness, but he’s an amazing listener. He knows my entire story from front to back and I’m thankful to have a man that will drop what he’s doing just to listen and hug me. The same with Linley and my sister and the rest of my people. I can not stress how important communication is especially in relation to mental illness. If you just try to communicate how you’re feeling, your loved ones will understand.
Any tips for seasonal depression?
This is a tough one for me because I for sure have this. One thing that I’ve done this year BUY ALL THE PLANTS. To me, plants symbolize life and make me happy. I also go out of my way to get out of my house. This means making more plans with friends. I don’t want to be the kind of person that just stops living their life because of winter and sometimes all I want to do is stay in and work or curl up on the couch.
I know medication is a very interesting topic because everbody is different, but I’m not sure where I would be in my mental health journey without it. I’m not giving all the credit to my meds, but they sure as hell allowed me to implement other, more holistic forms of recovery. Again, I am NOT a doctor and that I am simply answering questions about my experience. Everyone’s body is different and you should in no way take this advice without speaking to your doctor.
What medication are you on?
I am currently on Sertraline, which is a generic of Zoloft. It was prescribed to me for both anxiety and depression.
Did someone prescribe you this medication?
Yes! Of course! At the time, I was seeing both a therapist and a psychiatrist. I still go in every 3 months to chat with my MD about how things are going.
How long have you been on medication?
I have been on medication since 2011 when I was a junior in college.
Do you think you’ll be on medication for forever?
I do not know the answer to this, but either way I’m okay with it!
What was your tipping point when you knew you needed to go on meds?
My eating disorder stemmed from my anxiety and depression and this was definitely the tipping point for me. I went from 150 lbs. to 118 lbs. in 45 days and was extremely malnourished and unhealthy. My mom and sister were amazing during this time and are the ones who urged me to seek help. My mom also has depression and had an eating disorder in college, so she knew exactly what I was going through and that I needed medical attention. I started seeing a therapist and going to group therapy and it wasn’t until my doctor suggested medication that I considered it.
Was it hard for you to admit you needed medication?
HELL TO THE YES. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I remember sitting in my bedroom with the door shut holding the bottle between my hands and bawling. Bawling for hours because I thought this medication was going to change who I was. I thought it was going to make me gain weight, that it was going mess up my hormones, and that it was going to change who I was. Thank godness I listened to my doctor because it really did save my life.
Have you been on the same medication and dosage since you started?
Yes, I have been on the same medication since I started. My doctor said that often times what works for one family member will work for another, so I started on the same medication as my mom. Same dosage? No! I started my medication at 25 mg and a few months later upped it to 50 mg and a few months after that upped it to 100 mg. All of these changes were prescribed by my doctor at the time.
Does your medication make you want to sleep all day?
I don’t know how to answer this question because I’ve been on medication for so long. I am the type of person who needs a lot of sleep. We’re talking at least 9 hours per night and sometimes a nap. I’m not sure if this has to do with my meds or just my body in general.
I’m Hosting a LIVE Webinar!
Team! I am hosting a LIVE webinar with my girl Monique! One of the reasons we founded Healthy Glow Co. was to create a safe space for women to share their real stories, struggles, and triumphs. Mental health and wellness are top of mind during this time of year and we’re so excited to get vulnerable with you during our live chat. We’ll be talking about our wellness journeys and how we’ve healed our relationship with food and exercise. I think this webinar ties right into this post as mental health is important for all!
WHEN: Sunday | January 7th | 8PM CST
SIGN UP: HERE
YAY! Can’t wait to chat with you all <3