Anxiety. It seems to be the “new” mental health buzz word. Everywhere you look on social media there are articles and blogs about it. It is something I think we all deal with at one time or another in our lives. Most of the time we can just power through and get past it. Looking back on my life from the vantage point of a wise older woman I see that I have always been an overly anxious person. I remember as a child having horrific stomach aches. My mother took me to the doctor and I overheard them talking in hushed tones, they used the word ‘hypochondriac’. My young self didn’t know what that big word meant and I was sure I was dying of some horrible disease. My Mother took me home and told me it was all in my head and I just needed to smarten up. I was six.
As I grew older I developed my own coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety. My mantra was: “If I worry hard enough about it then when it happens it won’t be as bad as I think.” Not a super healthy train of thought and one that I have been working hard to shake. My modus operandi to deal as an adult has been to always be ‘in control’. If I can be in control of as much of my life as I can, then what can go wrong? We know how that can turn out.
Fast forward to my 5th decade on this earth. Peri menopause is in full swing. Hot flashes, nights sweats, no sleep, a veritable storm of symptoms that come and go on a daily basis. Things that women of a certain age have dealt with forever. No problem, I can deal with this on my own. A few herbs and vitamins, some fish oil capsules and I’m good to go. That is until one night about a year and a half ago. Menopause decide to throw another symptom at me and I had my first ever, full-blown anxiety attack. Attack is the perfect word because that is exactly what it felt like. I woke up and sat bolt upright in bed. My heart was pounding and felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. My arms felt like they were made of lead. I could not stop pacing the house. My mind was racing a mile a minute and I had no control over my thoughts of doom and gloom. Oh yeah and the proverbial stomach ache. For someone like me who likes to be in control of everything at all times it was quite honestly the scariest thing I have ever experienced. It happened to me every night for about a week. Before I could get to the doctor I sought advice from everywhere. On line medical sites, and friends and family. I was totally freaked out! My older sister gave me the best and most practical advice having been through it all herself. She assured me I wasn’t dying and told me to get to the doctor and get some Ativan. I did that and it definitely helped but I didn’t want to be dependent on those tiny little pills. I needed to get this under control (there’s that word again) and deal with it on my own.
I decided to come at it from a more natural and educated angle. I visited the library and researched many great books on Menopause. I had blood work done to check hormone and cortisol levels and then took those results to Landon Mclean ND at Whistler Integrative Wellness. His help was key to getting these attacks under control. Common sense things like reduce coffee and, sigh, wine. He also prescribed herbs to help deal with my wildly fluctuating hormones. He taught me ways to meditate and self calm when I feel an attack coming. I can tell in advance when I may be going to have an attack and I put into motion a more healthy string of coping mechanisms that work for me. A cup of mint tea, deep breathing and a mindful positive mantra to repeat in my head seems to do the trick most of the time.
In this day and age of a pill for every little thing I feel it is important to educate ourselves and seek help when we need it from all aspects of the medical fields.There is so much out there. Naturopaths, Chinese medicine,Hebalists, Nurse Practitioners as well as MD’s. We know our selves better than any one else and we need to be confident in that knowledge.
When all else fails, I still have the Ativan in the cupboard.