It’s all about the perspective, they say. If you practice gratitude, you can decrease your anxiety… well, I call bull shit.
Do you know what happened to me when the world constantly tells us if you were just more grateful your anxiety wouldn’t be an issue?
I felt shameful about being so negative. I began to take stock of my life and agreed that everything looks fucking dreamy from the outside. Then I wondered why I couldn’t just get my act together, paste a smile on my face, and skip down the road, happy to be alive.
Mental Health Stigma
Let me start by saying the thing you’re not supposed to say.
I firmly believe there should be no stigmas around taking medication to strengthen your mental health. However, if I’m really honest, I felt that was true for other people, not myself. (That’s an internalized stigma, isn’t it?)
I made this fancy chart for you. 👇🏻 You’re welcome. 😘
Maybe it was stubbornness, ego, or a general distrust of our medical system. Either way, I had refused anti-anxiety medication from my family doctor several times since becoming a mother.
Each time my doctor recommended anti-anxiety medication, I’d leave my appointment feeling deeply offended and frustrated that my doctor was so quick to prescribe medicine without trying to get to the root of my mental health struggles.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt deeply flawed in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. You can read more about that in this post called Maternal Mental Health, ADHD and High-Functioning Anxiety.
While talking to a psychologist about my suspicion that I’ve been living with undiagnosed ADHD, she reported that she believed I had anxiety that had never been dealt with. She told me she wouldn’t speak to me about ADHD until I took anxiety medication for at least six months because the symptoms could overlap.
I left that appointment indignant. I mean, how dare she? 😅 That was April of 2021.
Would You Like Some Meds For That?
Again listen, I believe there should be no shame in using medications if needed. However, I couldn’t consider anti-anxiety medication until I ruled out more natural alternatives.
As an overwhelmed mom of three, I knew there was a ton of lifestyle changes I needed to address first.
Please Note: If you find any of this post triggering, remember there is no one correct answer when addressing your mental health; this is simply my story.
The Natural Path
Here is a breakdown of the lifestyle adjustments I made, before trying anti-anxiety medications.
Exercise & Fresh Air
In the fall of 2019, I discovered yoga and several women in my community that loved hiking as much as I did. My family and I did our best to make space in our schedule for me to get out. It wasn’t always possible with young kids and busy friends, but there was a drastic boost in my mood and patience levels on the days I went to yoga or hiked.
Asking for Help
My husband and I were raised by stay-at-home moms, and both had a specific vision of how it “should be.”
This meant I had to get honest about what wasn’t working for me. Then I had several uncomfortable conversations with my husband about what I needed to feel fulfilled.
We worked together to divide up/outsource more labour around the house. Sometimes it meant him forcing me to do things that I couldn’t force myself to do, like going to a yoga class or a hike, even if guilt told me the timing was wrong.
Therapy/Mind Set Work
In 2019, I walked into my first therapy session and told the therapist I didn’t know which of my thoughts to trust. I switched therapists twice before finding one I truly connected with. We worked together from October 2020 until July 2022.
Read: To all of the Therapists I’ve ever loved. -Coming Soon.
It just so happened that the same day I visited with the psychologist, I had an appointment with a naturopathic doctor who ran several hormone tests which reported that:
- My Progesterone was low, which can significantly contribute to PMS symptoms.
- My Testosterone was high, contributing to irritability, agitation, and weight gain.
- My Cortisol was much too high during the day- this causes anxiety, irritability, weight gain, and inflammation and can cause Progesterone to drop too low.
Her goals for me were to increase Progesterone, lower Testosterone, and balance Cortisol.
TLC for Anxiety
I switched from having the occasional glass of wine in the evening to relax to THC gummies. I found that if I ate a small amount of a THC gummy before putting the kids to bed, I could enjoy the process and be present instead of trying to rush through it and being short-tempered.
When I used TCH, I noticed my self-doubt was replaced with creativity and confidence. This was my first taste of realizing how much easier life could be if I weren’t battling my brain all the time, but it also left me slightly depleted the next day.
For me, TLC is love-hate. I generally put everything through my “would I want this for my kid’s filter,” and if I was honest with myself, I crossed that line when I began to rely on THC to “feel good” whenever I felt discomfort in my body.
Results of Using Holistic Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety
From where I started in 2019, I feel like a new woman. I have gained clarity on how I want to feel in my life, my confidence has soared, and my values and priorities are clear.
I began to shift away from the dread that hung over my days and more towards contentment. I’ve also learned to be compassionate towards myself and the stage of life I’m in.
Still, I was often short-tempered with the kids by evening. I felt a ton of social anxiety and most opportunities or steps forward in my blogging journey left me riddled with fear and unable to sleep.
The Turning Point
In the summer of 2022, our family went into crisis mode. At a particularly low moment, I cancelled my recurring therapy sessions. I’m positive the experts would have advised against this, but I needed to remove any extra demands on my time and refocus entirely on my family.
The problem is the most demanding voice I heard was the critical, demeaning, self-doubting troll that lived in my brain.
The years of therapy helped me understand these stories weren’t all true, but they were relentless and made navigating a tough time even harder.
One night as I was putting my son to bed after an exceptionally terrible bath time, he asked, “Mommy, why did you even have kids? It seems like you hate them.”
I called my doctor the next day and asked for the prescription anti-anxiety medication.
Truthfully, making this phone call felt like a failure and admitting defeat. Like I “should” have been able to manage naturally, that if I only tried harder and was just a little more grateful, my brain could have stopped attacking me.
I called a friend and said, “I got the anti-anxiety medication, but I’m too anxious to take the anti-anxiety medication.” 😅
They say the medication takes six weeks to take effect. My appetite was off for the first two weeks, and I felt fatigued, but I could already feel a shift in my patience levels.
It’s been over six weeks, and I’m more peaceful and centred than I’ve felt in years. Life feels more manageable and way less aggravating. I am yelling less and haven’t wanted to take a gummy to deal with my kids in the evening. Another unexpected bonus is I’m not snacking on sugar at night to soothe myself. 🎉
I can also feel the clarity I gained from years of holistic self-care and feel empowered to have made a choice that feels very right for this stage in my life.
I don’t know what the future holds. However, I now know what it feels like not to be battling a brain that’s constantly telling me I’m not worthy of my life. I also feel more unapologetically present in the moment and less affected by relentless guilt, which feels amazing.
I’m unsure if these meds will be a short chapter in my life or a long one. The current plan is to reassess in six months and use this mental clarity to help support my family and move my own goals forward.
I no longer feel shameful but empowered.
Has the stigma of mental health struggles ever stopped you from getting help?
You may also enjoy Mom’s Mental Health- Depression & Anxiety by Codi Darnell
About the Author
Christine lives on the West Coast of Canada with her husband, their three kids and approximatley one million plant babies.
She is in the exploratory “InBetween” phase of rediscovering herself after being a stay-at-home mom for the last decade. She loves all adventures on the water or in the forest and connecting with other open-hearted lifelong learners.