An Interview with Your Body: Anxiety
At some point in our lives, we all yearn to change. In an ideal situation, that yearning is a focus on maturing into a better version of ourselves, but that can only happen with a lot of self-discovery and evaluation. I think back on my life and the years I spent as a young woman unable to better myself. When I was 18 years old, I found myself entering into the adult world feeling stupid and anxious, with extremely low self-worth. Worry was an innate part of my life, and because of this, I was fearful and uncertain almost all the time.
I had stomach aches, frequently felt nauseous, was fearful I’d throw up, and had bowel problems like diarrhea. This was compounded by feeling out of body, dizzy, and generally panicked that something was majorly wrong with me. I went to my doctor’s office nearly every other week. The only concept I had of “bettering” myself was trying to figure out how to make it through the day without finding myself hiding in a bathroom, hovering over the toilet, sobbing and terrified.
I was never formally diagnosed with any incurable disease, my doctor merely said I was suffering from anxiety attacks. But this was 1994, and maybe he didn’t know as much as we do now because he didn’t really give me any advice or ways to approach my life differently. The only thing he did was give me a referral to Dr. Truelove (no joke) at the my local dental school because my anxiety and fears of throwing up had given me a terrible case of TMJ, (temporomandibular joint), disorder. I was so anxious and stressed out, I was subconsciously clenching my teeth to the point that I fatigued my jaw muscle and could not open my mouth wide enough for more than a toothbrush to fit inside. And I had a lot of jaw pain.
The dental school enrolled me in a study for TMJ and later set me up with the intoxicating prince Valium to chill me out. Between that and the physical therapy, my jaw started to recover. But, I didn’t want to stay on medications long term and I certainly knew that my anxiety would rebound my jaw problems if I went off my medications. I wanted to completely heal, so I stopped cutting emotional corners and experimented with the sober root feelings.
By this time, I was in college studying Zoology. I had my basic biology classes under my belt, knew how to write a scientific paper, and how to look at data. I took my knowledge about science experiments and turned it inward to look at me and my anxiety. I started with finding the root cause of my anxiety by journaling about my symptoms off medication. I made a list of what I felt. From my journal work on my own health, here is a list of what I found to be major co-factors of anxiety:
- Stomach aches
- Racing heart
- Pounding heart
- Issues with weight gain
- Chest pain
Here I was, an amalgam of symptoms, all inducing my metaphysical self toward introspection and inspection. My everyday physical experiences were navigating me like an internal GPS system to my unhealed pieces.
My introspection found the layers upon layers of moments in my life where I felt loss of control and totally alone. It was was the fear I had about not being able to control that my dad moved my family five times before I was 14 and I constantly had to make new friends. It was being home alone at 12 when I found my cat stuck in the garage door hanging by his neck and watching him die in front of me, helpless to do anything. It was the fights with my dad and how I didn’t speak up when he placed on me what I considered to be unfair expectations.
None of us grow up in a vacuum or in a well controlled science lab. There are always outside factors called the ‘happenings of life’ that occur to us as we grow up. I had never considered the effects of my life on my life until I was dealing with anxiety in my flesh and a mouth I couldn’t open all the way. My body was telling me through symptoms, that I was suppressing the emotions I didn’t want to admit to others, admit to myself, or deal with. My body was telling me I couldn’t “stomach it” anymore.
If you’re really honest with yourself, right now, what is your body saying to you? What is it in your life that you can’t “stomach” anymore? How can you adjust your course this week to ensure that you are heading towards less anxiety?
Here are four alternative health ideas I want you to explore for yourself this week.
- Get yourself a journal and start recording what you’re feeling. Being able to flesh and flush out the things of your past and dive straight into the core meaning at the heart of the symptom, will evolve you into new areas of yourself. Writing will separate the anxiety you feel from the real issues in your tissues and will allow you to give voice to them.
- Try sound healing. This is one of my favorites. All you have to do is be in stillness and receive a unique and wonderful sensory experience of sound that transforms you with vibrations, healing you on an energetic level.
- Get a massage. Human touch is crucial for healing and the deep muscle work of a good massage therapist can help work out stuck emotion from your body.
- Find a life coach or therapist. Working to uproot my anxiety was a gradual process. Therapy gave me a structured format with someone else coaching me to go deeper than I would have been able to on my own.
Give these a try and reach out to me if you want some help along the way. If I can do it, I know you can do it! Using alternative therapies, and committing to this practice of self-care, I was able to regain full function of my jaw and facial muscles and my anxiety and stomach aches went away. Today, I feel comfortable in my own skin and the only place where this anxious younger self exists is on the pages of my journal, and not in my flesh.