Fighting the Good Fight: My Battle With Anxiety

I am celebrating an anniversary today. Six months ago today, I decided to take control of my life.

On March 12, 2016, I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life, 223 lbs. I was suffering from constant pain from sciatica, which created a daily need for some kind of painkiller, be it an over the counter med like Aleve or something stronger that could knock me out.

What I wasn’t sharing – panic attacks that used to plague me for years had returned. Driving around this little island made me feel claustrophobic; like I couldn’t run away. I chalked up most of my feelings to homesickness, but the bulk of the truth was staring at me in the mirror.

I was sick. Overweight. Over-medicated. Physically weak.

At my heaviest.

At my heaviest.

I have always been an advocate of celebrating the body you have and not tearing yourself down. Though I’m not ashamed of the weight I gained, I was worried that the weight I had put on was destroying my body. Things I used to do rather easily (like climbing stairs) would leave me out of breath. I was more tired than usual.

But what I failed to see until that day in March was, my panicky feelings were tied to my body crying for help. Though I was put on an anti anxiety medication, I still struggled with leaving our house, worried that a panic attack might happen. That’s the worst part – the “what if” I have an attack?

I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I decided to get serious.

Before I "got it." Medication only helps so far.

Before I “got it.” Medication only helps so far.

To be clear: I am not advocating that anti anxiety/antidepressants are bad. However, through my experience, using medication alone to deal with anxiety was not enough. I had to make big changes to my diet and get physically strong. I needed to push through discomfort in order to make changes. Not only from a physical standpoint, but I needed to confront issues with myself. Meditation and seeing a therapist helped to quiet my ever-racing mind.

Today, I am positive that my body does not respond well to sugars and processed foods. Whenever I have given myself a treat and eat something with more sugar, my joints hurt the next day. I feel lethargic and also more prone to insomnia. So, I will eat a much smaller amount to avoid the side effects.

As I write this, I am 28 pounds lighter. My medication has been adjusted and I’m sleeping better.

Feeling so much better!

Feeling so much better!

My message is this: Anxiety and depression are very real. It’s not just feeling anxious or blue. I “white knuckled” through a lot of the anxiety for a long time, or I would try to distract myself by throwing myself into a lot of projects so I wouldn’t have to deal with my issues.

I know that I will need to continue to work out, eat well, and monitor my stress to keep the panic attacks and depressive episodes at bay.

The Hubby has been amazing through my journey. I really don’t think I could have got on a good path to wellness without his support. I love him with all my heart!

Love of my life!

Love of my life!

If you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression, don’t be afraid to get help. You’re not weak for doing so! It means you want to live a better life, and you deserve that.

Love, laughter, and shoes-

xo, Melanie.

 

 

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Taking My Life Back From Depression

Hello Lovelies,

This post is a departure from my usual fashion/beauty chatter, but I want to share my journey with you. If I can offer hope to someone in the same situation, then this entry is worth it!

The panic attacks began sometime in early 2001. I was in a supermarket, just doing my normal shopping, when suddenly everything around me felt unreal. My heart started beating quickly, I broke out in a cold sweat, and I just felt….terrified. Am I having a heart attack?!! I was only 30; this couldn’t be happening.

And as soon as I grabbed on to my cart and took a deep breath, the weirdness disappeared and I felt okay again, though shaken.

However, over the next year these episodes would continue. The worst one happened while watching a play. “The Fear,” as I could only explain it as, took over me quickly and I sat in anguish, wanting desperately to leave the theater. I couldn’t understand it. What was happening to me?

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I had a lot on my plate during that time. My final year of graduate school, an impending divorce, and uncertainty about the future. Perhaps all the stress was building to a climax with the panic attacks.

Over the next several years, I battled the attacks. The good news? These weren’t happening in random places as much. The bad news? They happened mostly when I drove. Talk about a BAD time to have a panic attack!

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Finally I had enough. Though I wasn’t thrilled about taking medication, everything I had tried was not keeping the attacks at bay. I tried meditation, reducing caffeine, positive self talk…these were just temporary fixes. I got started on Lexapro and after a short time, the panic attacks stopped. I could drive without worry!

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Something shifted this year. After about six months living in Guam, I started feeling restless, edgy. My sleeping habits got out of whack. I had a brief feeling of “The Fear” aura, which luckily, I made stop before it snowballed into a full panic attack, but I knew I had to check this out.

I saw my doc and she upped my dosage. However, now I felt….heavy. Felt like I was walking in slow motion, thoughts would come and go quickly, and had the worst time trying to wake up in the morning.

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I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so down. I’m in FREAKING GUAM, one of the most beautiful islands on the planet! The sun, the beach, the laid back lifestyle – these are things I love. I have a good job I enjoy; a wonderful husband, two adorable kitties. What is weighing me down?

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My doc switched me to Wellbutrin. Now….I FEEL EVERYTHING. Maybe a bit too much (I almost bawled my eyes out in a restaurant!), but hopefully things will even out as I adjust.

However, along with the meds, I realized I needed a professional to walk me through this mental maze. I have to know what exactly what kind of depression I’m dealing with, the issues surrounding it, and how to manage the tougher moments. I have a therapist now. It’s a little scary and weird to open up to a stranger, but in a sense that’s what I would do as an actor. Though, telling the truth as a character versus unloading my thoughts to a stranger is completely different!

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Along with meds and therapy, I am serious now about nutrition and fitness. I’ve eliminated (or severely reduced) processed foods and watching my calorie intake. I do a lot more walking and yoga. The movement is challenging sometimes because I still have back issues, but I’m finding my way.

Clinical Depression is not just “the blues.” People who suffer from it can’t simply “get over it.” We know we have blessings in our lives. We know other people have worse situations than our own. These feelings we get don’t come from a logical place. It’s a chemical imbalance, and it’s very frustrating at times to figure out how to treat depression, since there is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis.

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Thankfully, the depression I deal with is not severe. I am hopeful that the intervention I gave myself will keep this illness from getting worse.

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I will win!

If you are suffering, or know someone who is, don’t be ashamed to seek help. 

Love, laughter, and shoes-

xo, Melanie.