I can still remember my first panic attacked at age 17. It was in the lounge room with Mum. I can’t remember what exactly I was saying but something to do with not wanting to finish school. That it was all too hard.
I was crying and then my breathing turned shallow and panicked and I couldn’t stop or control what was coming over me. My Mum just held me and talked me through it to calm me down. She knew what to do because she knew exactly what was happening. She’d experienced it herself. I’d seen her experience it myself. And now it was happening to me too.
I was half-way through Year 12 and it had come on as if all-of-a-sudden. I wasn’t coping with anything. I felt overwhelmed trying to keep up with school, dancing, time for my mum and dad, my friends, just being a teenager and most of all, time with my boyfriend who I could only see on the weekends due to various reasons. I’d gone from being the girl who thrived on being an A-grade student with lots of responsibilities to feeling debilitated by it. I wanted to quit. That’s when Mum took me to the doctor.
After a short session and a few questions, I was given a script for medication for anxiety and mild depression. Unfortunately, I feel I was seen as a case of “it runs in the family and now she’s got it too.” I didn’t want to see a counsellor, but I also wasn’t encouraged to. I just wanted something to “fix it”. The idea was for the medication to help me finish the school year, which it did. Within a couple of weeks, I was feeling better. My school and Year 12 coordinator were brilliant in helping me get more free period study time at school, due to dancing meaning I didn’t have a lot of after-school hours and having to catch up over weekends adding to my stress.
And so goes my story from that point until about the age of 23. Up and down, on and off meds. Good periods, bad periods. Just assuming that was my life.
If things were going great I coped fine, but if they weren’t then I couldn’t handle it and would find myself spiralling down again. I had no beneficial and helpful tools or coping mechanisms to empower myself with. I felt I had no control over how I felt or how I could actually be the one to change it.
That all shifted in November 2009. I attended a small wellness event with my now husband, Byron, where we listened to a professional athlete and wholefoods advocate talk about the importance of diet for health, in particular fruit and veg. It just made sense. I’d already been exposed to the idea of holistic health and eating for health, not just to be “skinny”, through my job at a gym. What if concentrating on better food choices could affect my health in other ways, too? That was the day I began incorporating Juice Plus+ into my life. Nine years later it’s still a huge part of my health and just as it played a role in being a catalyst for further change in my health and mindset, it continues to be for my clients and me today.
Fast forward three months from that talk and I was excited to begin my studies in Holistic Counselling and Mind-Body Medicine. I had been searching for a new career path, one that spoke to me on all levels and one that I knew would enable me to help others, too. I remember walking out of my first class and driving home with the biggest smile on my face. I now know, it was a new sense of hope. Finally, through my studies, I was going to learn the tools I needed to take control of my mental and emotional wellbeing back. I was going to turn my life around.
I call that year “the year of my 180”.
While I wasn’t yet in a place of complete self-awareness, I had come forward in leaps and bounds. And even through an 8-month break with Byron, I’d begun to feel a sense of peace and happiness within myself internally that I hadn’t felt or recognised for a long time. Instead of feeling hopeless when I felt down, I had begun to engage in activities to help get me out of it. Reading books on self-awareness, using flower essences, body balance classes, walks outside (being a dancer I always trained and moved indoors), being more aware of the food I fed my body, spending more time with friends and those who lit me up, including the awesome holistic and wholefood community I begun to surround myself with through studies and Juice Plus+.
They were small but effective steps that all helped me manage and feel in control of my mindset, thereby avoiding bouts of anxiety or depressive episodes and eventually being free of medication altogether by December 2011.
I still applaud myself for that. It was a big win and we shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to celebrate our wins.
I’ve come to now understand that what this really was, was the start of my developing my juicy daily rituals that I now aim to live by every day. They’ve become my way of life. They fall within my top values and empower me to thrive and live at my very best, so that I can also serve others at my best, from friends and family members, to colleagues and clients. You can read them all here: (link to nourishing rituals blog?)
That’s not to say that life flows perfectly. Of course I have days and moments that can feel more challenging than usual, but those moments of ‘that’ feeling happen very rarely now.
And if I do notice it creeping up, I know exactly what I need to do so I can squash it on the head before it grows any bigger. It’s work. I’m always working on myself as the alternative is simply not an option. I know how good I am designed to feel and I refuse to settle for anything less. Nobody should. Nor should we ever feel out of control when it comes our own health and wellbeing. Empowering myself with the tools to do this was the greatest gift I ever gifted myself – and now my “why” each day is to do my best to gift it back to others.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice on anxiety, it’s to listen to yourself. Be aware of those internal conversations and explore your ways of balancing them out, acknowledging those thoughts, then sending them away. Be kind to yourself, nourish and nurture yourself and understand that those feelings and thoughts are a part of you and therefore you can gain control over them.
If you are struggling or know someone who is, please know you can always reach out. I will help you where I can and have a whole list of wonderful professionals to refer you to should I not be the right one to help.
Lastly, Sarah Wilson’s book, first, we make the beast beautiful is also such an empowering read and I’d recommend you give it a look. Most people know her for I Quit Sugar and yet her message and story on anxiety is the rawest, most truthful and real account I have ever encountered. Not just for those going through it, but for those who know someone that is. And let’s be honest, that’s most of us! You see, anxiety isn’t something you fix or get rid of, it’s a part of who you are and what’s made you that person. It’s just about learning to manage it and see the beauty within it.
“In my experience, living with a wobbly mind is akin to being charged with carrying around a large, shallow bowl filled to the brim with water for the rest of your life. You have to tread super carefully so as not to slosh it all out. So you must learn to walk steadily and gently. And be super aware of every moment around you, ready to correct a little off-balanceness here, a tilt to the left there. This is just the way it is. Living this way requires vigilance and is about constant refinement.”