After being diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder a few years ago, I felt like my life was over. I didn’t want to leave my house and was terrified of being alone. My doctor said that my only treatment option was medication—and I believed him.
Shortly thereafter, I developed an addiction to the medication I had been prescribed to ease my anxiety.
Here I was, a 26-year-old father of two, with a habit that no one knew about. On the outside, everything looked normal, but in reality I was losing control of my life.
The only thing that kept me from attempting suicide was the fear of repercussion if I was unsuccessful.
Surprisingly, it was during my time of weakness that I discovered my inner strength. I refused to accept life as it was. I knew there had to be a reason why I was blessed with this disorder. I had to have faith in the idea that all things work together for the greater good. I needed to remember that healing is a process and not something that happens overnight.
Once I knew I was prepared, I took the first step.
1. I started juicing.
I started researching how these two incredible individuals were able to heal themselves by drinking fruit and vegetable juices (among other lifestyle changes). Although I wasn’t suffering from the same diseases, I was still suffering. I needed to know if juicing would work for me like it worked for them. Within 48 hours, I was at my local Wal-Mart buying my first juicer.
The idea behind juicing is that fruits and vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. By extracting and consuming their juices, our bodies get a faster, more efficient way to absorb and use the nutrients.
Juicing gave me the much-needed nutritional boost I'd been lacking from years of poor eating habits. It also gave me a new focus. It became my healthiest addiction.
2. I cut out dairy, red meat, gluten and processed foods.
Juicing was helping a lot, which made me take a deeper look at what else I was putting into my body. For instance, dairy was a staple in my diet, despite my being lactose intolerant (only to milk, not milk-based products). So imagine my surprise when I learned that it was the second most inflammatory food group.
After delving further into the dietary effects on anxiety, I realized that my affinity towards certain foods was a potential trigger for my anxiety/panic attacks. I took a closer look and starting making adjustments. I cut out dairy, red meat, processed foods, and refined sugars. These are all known to have negative effects on health, including heart disease, certain forms of cancer and Type 2 Diabetes. I also became gluten-free.
3. I stopped smoking.
Smoking was my hidden escape. Nearly everything I did revolved around smoking. I never thought I'd have the willpower to quit. One morning I woke up not feeling well. I was coughing a lot and having a difficult time breathing. I thought it was a common cold, but as the day progressed, breathing become increasingly difficult. I felt like I had run the New York City Marathon. I was terrified!
I was rushed to the hospital. After hours of waiting and countless testing, I was informed that I had walking pneumonia. I was fine with that. What shocked me was when he said my left lung was beginning to shut down. He informed me that if I didn’t stop smoking, I'd lose complete function of my lung. That was my last day as a smoker.
4. I started practicing yoga.
I had my first panic attack during a workout. For the next eight months, I was afraid to exercise. I avoided anything that would drastically raise my heart rate. Outside of training clients, I didn’t do anything else fitness-related. I started researching activities to ease anxiety and decrease stress.
That’s when yoga discovered me. Everywhere I looked, yoga was staring me in the face. I had to see what it wanted with me. My practice started in my living room. I didn’t have anything more than my laptop and a subscription to Tara Stiles’s YouTube channel. Now I’m a certified yoga instructor. (Thanks, Tara!)
5. I started working out again.
By taking all of the steps above, I rebuilt my confidence and conquered my fear of exercise. Changing my lifestyle has led me down an unforgettable path. The road has been rough, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I am no longer on any medication.
This does not mean that I don’t fear relapse or I’m not susceptible to anxiety attacks. It simply means I’m getting better. Be well!