My Anxiety Story + How I Cope

07.23.14

fashionlush, anxiety, how to deal with anxiety

I know I always kid around on the blog a lot saying “it gives me a maj. panic attack” or “#OCD”… but it’s actually no joke.

I suffer from moderate to severe anxiety (depending on the day), & it’s been a constant struggle for as long as I can remember. With this big trip around the corner (a huge trigger for me), I figured now is as good a time as any to share my story.

I am a pretty personal person, so this post is definitely out of the norm for me, but I feel it’s necessary. I think writing post will be helpful to me, but more importantly, I want anyone else out there suffering to know that they are not alone.

Forewarning: this isn’t gonna be one of my typical “fun” posts w/ tons of pretty pictures, cause in all honesty– this isn’t a pretty or fun topic. It didn’t seem appropriate to try to dress it up as something it’s not. It’s my truth, my story, & my reality. Plain & simple.

If you’re down to stick around and read it- awesome! I appreciate it. If not, no hard feelings- come back tomorrow cause I have a great DIY project I can’t wait to share.

anxiety quotes, scott stossel, my age of anxiety

The Past:

Considering I come from a long line of anxiety and/or depression sufferers, I basically had anxiety before I was born. I am not going to go into much detail about this because it’s not my place to share their stories. I don’t blame or point fingers AT ALL, but I do think it’s important to point out that these type of issues can most definitely be passed on.

My first memory of anxiety started when I moved from Nashville to California at the age of 6. It started with me being severely nervous about sleeping in my bed. I would insist/cry/scream/beg to sleep on the couch in my parents room every.single.night. My parents, thinking it was a stage, let that go on for a while. Eventually, it had to come to an end & I didn’t do well with that.

They decided to take me to a therapist. That therapist insisted they lock me in my room from the outside w/ a tape recorder. The tape recorder wasn’t for me, it was for my parents. He wanted to see how many times they came in when I cried. It took about 20 minutes & they couldn’t bear it anymore. We never went back to that kook again & they laid off therapy… for a hot minute.

I finally started to agree to sleep in my bed, under one condition: my Dad did NOT leave the living room/stop watching TV till I was way past sleeping. If it turned off to soon, I was in tears. He then learned all about “sleep timers” & things were working out great. Eventually he got me my very own miniature TV. It was the size of a handheld radio, had long antennas, & only got the Spanish channels. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.

At this point, I was sleeping in my bed, but I had developed severe separation anxiety. I could barely make it to school. So, we found a new doctor- a psychiatrist. She was great, but being that her job was to prescribe, she immediately put me on a low dose of Lexapro. For the most part, this dosage got me through middle school, although I did miss out on a lot of fun sleepovers. If I did go, my parents always had to pick me up after a sobbing phone call that I was dying. This was always embarrassing, so I just stopped going altogether.

Then I entered highschool & decided I wanted to get off pills altogether. Bad idea. My anxiety didn’t neccesarily get worse, but I also started to get the depression bug. I was dealing with mean girls, fight with friends, & a volatile relationship with my then boyfriend. I took all of this really hard– crying was a daily (if not more) ritual. Everyone was worried, so I got back on on pills. It helped tremendously & I finally started to get a grip on things. Got my grades up, graduated with honors, & got accepted to a good school. Things were lookin’ up, for the time being.

Then it was time for me to go to college & the anxiety was back. I remember the day I got dropped off at school like it was yesterday. I cried, sobbed, begged for them take me home, cried some more, & was left there. I spent a whole week crying in bed, not meeting anyone, & not looking forward to classes starting. I wanted to make friends, but I just didn’t want to get adapted into this new life. I wanted to go home. I was still in a volatile relationship with the same boyfriend & I had severe anxiety he would cheat on me if I wasn’t home. Shocker- he did, but I was so insecure/weak I stayed with him… which just made my anxiety 100x worse always worrying when he would cheat next (which… he did, many times).

I blamed it all on college, naturally. I suffered big time, but eventually I made some great friends, & decided I was going to get through the next 4 years (although I will say, I went home nearly every weekend!). It’s a shame really, anxiety kinda ruined that whole “college experience” for me.

Towards the end of college, the volatile relationship was fizzling out (praise!!) & I was spending a lot more time in Long Beach… which is something I really wish I did sooner. I was having a ton of fun, was nearly anxiety free, & made some amazing lifelong friends who were so supportive and understanding of all my lil’ “idiosyncrasies”.

Then I graduated, & the time finally came for me to move home. I was sad college was over, & nervous about the new phase in my life, but I was excited to be back near my Mom aka my comfort zone. I got a good out-of-college job in a real office, moved in with some old friends from highschool, & at this point- I was stable. I was still on a concoction of pills, but I was cool w/ it since I was feeling good. Which brings me to…

anxiety quotes, scott stossel, my age of anxiety

The Present(ish):

Heads up: when I say present, I am referring to the past couple years as well as now.

So… I got laid off from the job, which although sad, was a blessing disguise cause I ended started my own company w/ my best friend. I had also met an amazing guy who treats me like a queen & also fully gets my “”idiosyncrasies” (I prefer that word to anxiety FYI). BUT– for some reason or another, the anxiety was back & this time around it was crippling.

I have a few phobias that have always stuck with me: being away from home, throwing up, death (me dying/ my dog dying/ family dying/ etc.), & hypochondria (you name it, I was convinced I had at one point or another). These phobias were controlling every aspect of my life & I couldn’t function.

One day I called a talk therapist I found on line (great Yelp reviews) & left her a pretty desperate/rambling message. She called me immediately & squeezed me in the following day. We talked about everything (i.e. the whole story I just shared w/ you guys), and she felt really strongly about me trying to get off meds and opt for other alternatives to get my anxiety under control.

This scared the shit out of me. Get off my meds? What?! At this point I have been on them for 10+ years & I had no idea who I would be off of them. I definitely thought about it, but ruled it out as soon as I left her office. Nope, no way, can’t do it, too risky.

Shorty after I started seeing her, a weird thing happened- I became emotionless. Completely deprived of all happiness & sadness. The therapist recommended I really go talk to my Psychiatrist about my meds. Although apprehensive, I made an appointment. She actually agreed with my talk therapist, it was time to ween off the meds. I had reached a point she referred to as “leveling” out. I guess it happens a lot when you’re on too high of a dose of anti-anxiety/depression medicine. So… we started to slowly drop my dosage.

At this same time, my therapist recommended I see an acupuncturist to help with transition, this was a game & life changer. If you have anxiety, please please please give acupuncture a try. It has been the best help thus far.

The weening off the pills continued and continued… & I am now down to 5mg of Lexapro a day (I was at 40mg!!). Best of all, I didn’t turn into a basket case, psycho, or cry baby. For the most part, it’s been quite easy & very rewarding.

Which brings me to the real current day, like right now. My anxiety is back, but with good reason. I am going on a big trip abroad (Sweden) w/ my boyfriend for 10 days in August & I am pretty much freaking out. This time around, I have opted not to up my meds. Instead I have started doing some hypnotherapy & EFT, it’s too soon to tell if they are working, but I am optimistic about it! I am also looking into energy healing, but haven’t yet set an appointment, if anyones tried it- LMK how it worked for you!

anxiety quotes, scott stossel, my age of anxiety

The Future:

Since I am not a psychic & the future is another “trigger” of mine, this will be the shortest section of all (I am sure at this point you’re happy about that!).

Basically, I plan to take things day by day, continue to go to hypnotherapy, continue my acupuncture, & always look for new things to try to remedy my anxiety.

I have accepted the fact that this is most likely something I will deal with for the rest of my life, & I am okay with that. I’ve made it this far… so I am pretty sure I can get through the struggles that I will surely face. Plus, I have an epic support system always by my side (love you all!!).

Currently, I am working on separating my thoughts from reality & just getting on that plane to Sweden. It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime & I am not going to let anxiety steal anymore damn memories/experiences from me!!!!

fashionlush, anxiety, bach flower essences

Other things I’ve Tried (+ how they worked for me!):

+ Books: I love reading so this has proved helpful to me, some of my favorites include- My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel, EFT & Tapping for Beginners, Mindful Meditation, & I Thought It Was Just me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown.

+ Chinese Herbs: These were given to me by my acupuncturist & when I remember to take them, they do help to take the edge off. If you opt to see an acupuncturist (which I again, highly reccomend) be sure to ask them about Chinese herbs.

+ Supplements/Vitamins: I also take Pro DHA 1000 which helps with mood stabilization, Suntheanine which promotes relaxation & reduces stress, & Vitamin D (the happy vitamin!).

+ Natural Calm: aka “the anti-stress” drink. It’s a powder & when I am feeling nervous, I mix some in with my water and it pretty much immediately helps soothe my nerves. I love this stuff, but it sometimes makes me sleepy so I only drink it before bed.

+ Flower Remedies: Red Chestnut for over-worrying of others, White Chestnut for unwanted thoughts, Mustard for gloom/sadness, Rock Rose for alleviating fears, & Rescue Remedy for general anxiety (I also use Rescue Remedy for Pets when Bitzy travels- works wonders!).

So… that’s it. The novel has ended & if you got through that all- props to you & thanks for reading! I hope my anxiety rant shed some light on the condition as a whole & will prove helpful to any one else going through similar troubles. Also, if you have anything to share about your anxiety story and/or anything you’ve tried- please please please comment below & let me know :). I’d love to hear from you.

The struggle is real, but if you put in the work, you can get through it. I promise.

xx, E

[ all quotes pulled from Scott Stossel’s “My Age of Anxiety” ]

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  • Amber

    I totally feel your pain with anxiety..went off meds and doing it all naturally as well – working out and eating healthy have been my new drug of choice. I wanted to try acupuncture and curious on who you go to (I am local in SD as well). Thanks for sharing!

    • Erica Stolman

      Hey Amber- I am so glad you relate :). Shoot me an email erica@fashionlush.com and I can reccomend you to my acupuncturist!

  • wow… you pretty much described my life. i hope you’ll do more posts on this

    • Erica Stolman

      I am so glad you can relate and that you liked the post, I will definitely do more posts like this :) thank you for your input & if you have any tips to how you cope- I’d love to hear ’em!

  • Kelsey

    Thanks for sharing! I used to have a lot of anxiety as well, and although I don’t have it too bad on a day to day basis, it flares up every now and then. Hearing your story made me feel a lot better and less weird, haha. Good luck! I’m sure you’ll have a blast in Sweden :)

    • Erica Stolman

      Thanks love :) Anything you did in particular to help with your anxiety?

  • Dawn

    Thanks for sharing Erica. I’ve never gotten to the point where I have been on meds, but my anxiety has at times been quite debilitating, preventing me from getting to work etc. I find regular exercise helps – but then sometimes it’s a case of getting over the anxiety to get to the gym! Those days yoga DVDs in the sitting room definitely help. It’s always good to know you’re not alone – I’m in Sussex, UK, and I’m not convinced anyone here will have even heard of acupuncture, but I’m definitely going to search to see if there’s any practitioners locally! Your trip is going to be awesome – don’t let the anxiety convince you otherwise! All the very best – Dawn x

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you so much for the kind words Dawn. I know exercise helps– I just have to get myself to do it!! I know how you feel about having too much anxiety to get to the gym, I too do at home workouts as it’s much more comfortable for me. Hopefully you can find an acupuncturist in the UK- it’s a life changer!!

      Thanks for reading & for your support, I really appreciate it!

      xx, E

  • I won’t pretend I can understand what you’ve been through or give any useful advice but I do want to say this is a great post and I really hope it does help others in a similar situation. It’s great to get to ‘know’ you better and I hope you do have a wonderful time in Sweden and can create so many happy memories.
    Shannon

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you Shannon. I appreciate that :) I hope it does help someone as well!

  • Alice

    Hi Erica,

    Love your post! I’ve been reading you for a while but this one definitely affected me.
    Thank you. It helped realize some of my issues and give me an extra push to look for help.
    I am seeing someone who did EFT with me and it was great.
    Another way to reduce anxiety is by working with your inner child. My therapist also works with voice – binding soul and body to outflows emotions and energies.
    I wish you all the best and a safe trip to Europe! (I am French living in Antwerp – Belgium)

    Xx Alice.

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you for the great tips! I just started EFT & am really excited to see how it works :) xo

  • Amanda

    This is soooo balls to the wall brave and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! I can totally relate as well. Anxiety at times has completely debilitated me. I have been on meds and off meds. I will definitely try the acupuncture. I also have to share something that totally helped me as well. It was this six hour lecture called The Power of Vulnerability (probably good for a long plane ride) by this researcher named Brene Brown. She talks a lot about shame and vulnerability and I think anxiety is tied into those two things BIG TIME. She has written a ton of books as well. Anyway, it was a freaking game changer for me. I highly highly HIGHLY recommend buying the lecture or any of her books! Shoot me an email if you have any questions about it or if you do end up listening/reading I would love to hear what you thought. amandaquam@me.com I sound like I am her publicist but I swear I am not!

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you so much! I did have to muster up a ton of courage. I love Brene Brown ( one of the books I listed was by her- I Thought it Was Just me- But it Isn’t). Thank you so much for telling me about the lecture- I am already googling it :)

  • I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and this post was so refreshing, even though it came from a dark place. Its always helpful to see people be real with who they are behind the screen… I’ve struggled with anxiety too (and been diagnosed with clinical depression) and your post encouraged me to stop ignoring it and hoping it will go away, and to work back towards getting myself on track! Thank you for all of the tips :) I hope Sweden rocks! -Pamela

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you Pamela. I am glad that it has helped you. It was definitely scary to write- but I am so glad I did!

  • Kathryn

    Thank you so much for doing this post! I’ve also really struggled with debilitating anxiety for pretty much my whole life and have been on and off meds too. (damn genetics!) You really inspired me to talk to my doctor about possibly starting to lower my dosage (something I’ve been too scared to do in the past!). I’m definitely going to look into acupuncture as well. This past year I started doing yoga regularly and I can’t believe how much it has helped! It clears my head, helps me relax, and put things into perspective. I hope you do more posts like this in the future!

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you Kathryn for all the kind words. I am so glad you can relate & that I inspired you :). I need to get back into Yoga- I always forget how helpful that is :)

  • Chelsy

    I am such a big fan of your blog and I could not be more thrilled you chose to post about anxiety. I too suffer from moderate to severe anxiety and have since childhood, we even have some of the same triggers. I recently found acupuncture and believe it helps!! I always question whether it really helps or I just feel like it does but either way relief is relief! I am still currently on meds but am hopeful I can go all natural someday too

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you Chelsy for reading my novel of a post & sharing your story as well. Don’t get me wrong- I am not all natural yet, but hopefully on the road to be :). It’s definitely a journey & sometimes can be tough since upping my meds is just a reflex when times are tough— but there are so many other (maybe even more effective) outlets to help manage anxiety issues!

  • I came across your blog after finding your bestie over at the Skinny Confidential. Two words for you two: amaze balls. Erica, after I started reading today’s post, I immediately stopped everything, because my eyes literally froze to the screen. I wanted to call you frantically(like I would my own bestie)and tell you that I have struggled my entire life with almost this exact same life story!! No joke, no sarcasm, no fillers of any kind — I just couldn’t believe after my 20+ years, I was hearing someone other than myself describing the exact emotions, frustrations and fears that I too share. Maybe, well, most definitely now, that is why I love your blog so much! Those idiosyncrasies have been debilitating my own life for years. As far back as I can recall, I have had the fear of death, and still do. My mother had cancer when I was really young, she survived, and since then, I have had this bizarre connection both physically and emotionally to her. I used to cry myself to sleep every single night. We tried lavender, sound tapes, and even had the exact “let’s get her a small tv w/ a sleep-timer” convo with my parents. Didn’t work. I would pretend to have fallen asleep, waited for my parents to go to their room, sneak in ten minutes later, and proceed to sleep on the floor at the foot of their bed. I still have that exact same fear. Has the feeling subsided? Well sure, I am choosing healthier habits, but I still tremble at the thought of losing anyone or anything for that matter(love my black cat as if she were my own child. whole other story)and continue to break down almost on the regular. I have never been on meds of any kind, nor have I ever had surgery of any kind(knocking on wood<—OCD) due to this fear & my approach to living a holistic lifestyle. I seriously cancelled a surgery to avoid having to be "put to sleep" even if just temporarily…scares the s#hit out of me. Other part of my own story, is that my brother has been suffering from schizophrenia & bipolar disorder for the past 10 years, so I've seen first hand the entire spectrum of what meds can do, both positively and negatively, as well as the effect it had on our entire family. The meds are not for myself, but they are working out great for my brother(still needs adjustments from time to time). I would love to chat more about your journey to coping with your anxiety & other idiosyncrasies, and your opinion regarding herbal medicine & natural remedies. Just fell in love with your blog all over again, and I really needed to hear this, especially today!! (sorry, this got ridiculously too long!) Thank you Erica for sharing! xx

    • Erica Stolman

      Jennie- thank you thank you thank you!!! You are amazing. I am so happy to hear that you can relate to all of the similar phobias/fears I deal with on a daily basis. It’s always good to know you’re not alone. Props to you for going at it without any medicine– that’s amazing!! If you ever need to talk you can always shoot me an email (erica@fashionlush.com). I know it’s a struggle, but it’s one we can get through :) !! Thank you for all your kind words again and again! It means so much to me <3

  • Lisa

    Hi Erica!

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I have pretty severe anxiety and I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff because of it. It makes me so mad, but when I’m in the middle of a panic attack, I really don’t care about anything. Anyway, I was wondering what Chinese herb you take. I used to go to a really great acupuncturist in the LA area (I’ve moved out of the state) and she recommended Schisandra which worked great for me. I wish you lots of luck and love on your journey! :)

    • Erica Stolman

      Hey Lisa!! I am so sorry to hear you are having issues with anxiety- feeling like you’re missing out cause of it is really the worst :(. As far as Chinese herbs go I take Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan which is a daily regimen & then for the occasional panic attack situation I take Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Tang. Crazy names- but if you google them you will find where to buy :) xo

  • I love this post. It’s honestly so brave to share such a personal experience that you go through on a regular basis. I have mild anxiety/OCD so I can relate to some of your triggers. I’m definitely going to try some of your recommendations. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you for reading love :) I appreciate it!

  • jaz

    HI Erica ‘
    I can’t believe your story because i was the same since 5 i never slept in my room alone i would cry and beg mom to sleep with her until i was in middle school and anxiety and depression ruined my life tried many many diff meds and don’t tolerate a lot and stayed on a low dose which I am trying to ween off yet so scared. Thank you so much for sharing because i am a homebody and feel so alone and depressed that no one understands but it was great to know that I’m not the only one and genetics since i was little proved that. Thank you again wish we could hang out ;) i do do yoga everyday thats really imp to me and helps.

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you for sharing your story! I really appreciate that– just know you are not alone & that there are many other ways to help ease your symptoms of anxiety!! If you ever need help or some words of wisdom- you can email me at erica@fashionlush.com! xxo

  • I do energy healing and it is how I got over my bulimia, and I even became a certified energy healer due to how much it changed my life. I also read Gabby B books she has helped me come to terms with my past and really helped me dig up the crazy and let it all go by forgiving it all. Because of all of this enlightenment I have been able to move to Bangkok Thailand stress free, make drastic changes in my life without that sudden urge to binge eat and be the bulimic I was and have been off of Lexapro for 3 years! All my love to you on this journey, I truly believe since reading your posts this last year that you know that energy healing will help you become one with your inner guide, I saw you posted crystals awhile back sometimes those beautiful stones are telling you something of your chakra imbalances! If you need someone I know of Karen in Los Angeles which is far for you but I am sure you can find someone good where you are, just make sure you feel comfortable in their surroundings! All my love and light, Courtney

    • Erica Stolman

      Hey Courtney- thanks for the message! If you have heard of any in San Diego I’d love a recommendation :) unfortunately I don’t have time to get to LA before this trip.

  • Kira

    Hi Erica, I have been following your blog for two years now. Wow I love, love that you were so brave to write this post! It was so refreshing to hear! I myself have struggled with anxiety/depression since I was young too. It was so comforting to hear your story and I also got some great tips for me and my bestie, she has terrible anxiety about dying and taking trips too! Thank you for your post and for writing this wonderful blog that I love!! Have an amazing and memorable trip! <3

    • Erica Stolman

      Thank you Kira- I really appreciate your kind words :). If you ever have any tips for me- LMK! xo

  • me

    have you tried medicating with cannabis?

  • Hi Erica,

    Thank you for this post.
    I have suffered unknowingly with anxiety for many years. My symptoms went totally unnoticed (which encouraged another barrage of problems).
    I consider myself lucky now, however. I was old enough to decide that I wanted to deal with my anxiety without medication. I took the talking therapies route and it has worked great for me!

    Definitely going to try acupuncture in the new year and also some Chinese herbs.

    • Erica Stolman

      Thanks Nicola for sharing :) Talk therapy is a great route! xx, E

  • Andrea Broom

    Hey Erica, First of all thank you for this post. I suffer from anxiety and also from a mood disorder and I also have to say that acupuncture is amazing. totally game changer. it helped me so much. I LOVE bach formulas. they are awesome. thanks so much for sharing something so personal.

  • Lulutxu

    Thanks for this! I was listening to you on skinny confidential podcast and after hearing the tidbits of your story on there I decided to check out your blog. Your childhood sounds much like mine!! Nice to hear of someone with similar anxieties. Currently getting off of celexa which i have been taking for anixety and hoping to move forward with more natural remedies.

    • Thank you for the comment lady! Congrats on getting of your medicine- that’s amazing- I am sure you will do great!!! Definitely look into CBD ;)

  • Kristen May

    So glad you have found healthy ways to cope with anxiety! I was also on Lexapro while struggling with depression and an eating disorder, so I understand how helpful it is! Heard of this post from the TSC podcast..you guys are great (:

  • First of all, I’m so sorry that you deal with this. I relate so strongly to everything you wrote, so I know how hard it is and can be. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to handle it and get better. A lot of the same things as you make me anxious too…primarily being away from home and throwing up. I don’t know anybody else who gets anxious from throwing up (myself or other people), but I can’t handle it. I also had the same things as you as a child with being terrified to go to sleepovers, forcing myself to go, and then embarrassing myself and calling my mom crying at 10pm.

    Thank you for writing this post. I think it’s so important to normalize anxiety and teach the world that it’s not weird or me being rude or stand-offish.

    • Thank you for sharing Allison! Ever since writing that post, I have found so many people suffering from the same anxieties & it’s always nice to know you’re not alone!

  • Amy Congleton

    Girl I am so proud of you for writing this! You are helping shed light on a disease that hinders so many of us (me included). Just know that you’re an inspiration to me and so many others….Life changing, really! Keep it up, sis.

    insta: @dreamqueenscatchers