Let me tell you a story of how I healed my anxiety and depression in hopes that my story helps even one person.
Rewind to 2014, I found myself depressed and frequently anxious which was my version of normalcy. In hindsight, I had actually been dealing with these issues most of my life. At this point in my early adulthood about to graduate college, I had tried all the different medications and was annoyed with the side effects. I was fed up with not feeling like a “normal” human and thought everyone else had it all figured out. I was never super thrilled to be alive. For most of my teenage years into my early twenties, I did not genuinely enjoy much except for sleep, my only refuge and escape from reality. I was generally what you would call emotionally overwhelmed and confused.
I’ve always had a lot of emotions, and never really knew wtf to do with all of them. As a Cancer, I’m highly sensitive, and I took everything to heart for a long time. I had a lot of wounds and unconscious patterns of self-sabotage. These things heavily contributed to my depression and anxiety.
I felt really hopeless and broken for a long time. I was sick of wearing the label of “severely depressed” given by multiple therapists, and my only answer being an expensive prescription that was only half working. I hated the thought of being tied to a pill to feel somewhat normal every day for the rest of my life. I knew there had to be another answer and I refused to believe it lied in the hands of another doctor.
My journey towards healing
Fast forward to 2016, I had enough. I made a decision that I was going to heal my mental illness myself, and by golly I did. Do I still sometimes feel anxious? Yes. Does it consume my life like it did before? No way. And I have tools that helped me overcome it and keep me on track which is what I want to share with you right now.
I feel like I have to preface this post by stating this is simply my personal experience and I am not recommending any sort of treatment plan for you, should you be struggling as well. This is just what I did that worked for me and how I healed my anxiety and depression naturally. If you are struggling with depression, know you are not broken and there is hope.
From medication to meditation
I quit all medication. cold turkey. Please note that I DO NOT recommend this approach. I was a total mess for a few weeks. I felt like I was going insane. I stopped taking my Vilazodone abruptly which was, let’s just say, not a great decision. However, after the medication was out of my body completely, I was back to feeling things completely.
All of the shit I had been hiding came up. Fear, abandonment issues, unworthiness, all of those fun things that unconsciously control our lives if we give them the power to, were there for me to confront and learn how to manage.
This is when I went down the self-help rabbit hole. How do you heal depression naturally? What about childhood wounds and trauma? I kept seeing mediation and mindfulness as the answer. These concepts were quite foreign to me at the time, and I struggled to understand how they could have any real effect on my mental state permanently. I also hated that it wasn’t a quick fix. I wanted to snap my fingers and immediately be cured.
Desperate and willing, I tried meditation in 2016 for the first time that I consciously remember, and I… hated it. My mind would not shut up, and I felt so annoyed at the prospect of doing this every day. It was unpleasant, and the incessant thoughts would not stop. I felt like I was failing, again.
I didn’t stop though. I read so many testimonials of people healing mental illness through meditation, so I figured I must have the same basic capabilities, you know, being human and all. I decided to download an app to try and gain some guidance around it.
The first app I used was the Calm app, and I began to do the “daily calm” guided meditations every morning for 10 minutes. It was much easier to navigate than working with pure silence and an obsessive mind, as a beginner. I found the daily insights helpful and inspiring.
After about 3 weeks, I began to build the habit, and noticed my sessions were becoming easier to sit through. In fact, I actually looked forward to them, as they somehow resonated with what was going on in my life at the time.
Through meditation, I learned that my thoughts didn’t have to control my emotions. I could think something, but that didn’t necessarily mean I had to act on it immediately and had permission to question its validity.
After two months, it had become such a habit that I felt weird if I didn’t start the first 10 – 15 minutes of my day in meditation. I looked forward to these daily calm sessions and started to realize I was beginning to appreciate life a little more. I noticed that I was less reactive, and felt like I had some control over my emotional state.
Choosing our feelings through conscious observation
When I was triggered, I became aware that I had a choice. To tap into my breath, and reconnect with my body. Three deep breaths always lessened the intensity of whatever emotion I was feeling.
All emotions last for less than 90 seconds, brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor explains from her book, A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. If anything continues after that it is because we have added our own story and chosen to hold on to the emotion. Therefore, we are causing our emotions to escalate further and we are ensuring that they last longer. The more often we replay the memory that is attached to a thought, or repeat one of our old painful stories, we remain caught in the feedback loo[ and it will get more and more difficult to disconnect.
The key really is to stop, drop, and breathe. It’s cutely effective. Breathe into your emotion and give yourself permission to feel everything as soon as you notice that you’re triggered. Have a cry, a yell, or whatever movement you need to do to make sure it doesn’t stagnate in your body. After 90 seconds, it’s up to you if you want to stay triggered or resume to your normal state.
The benefits i’ve seen from emotional awareness and meditation
It’s now 2020 and I’ve had a consistent daily meditation practice for about 4 years. According to the apps, I’ve spent over 160 hours in mediation since starting, and my competitive spirit doesn’t want to break my 122-day streak.
What are the benefits I have seen? Well, meditation has made me more sensitive, but less reactive. I can feel the energy in my body and when something is wrong or emotionally charged. If I don’t allow myself to feel through a situation fully, I can literally feel the blockages in my body. However, I can breathe into them to release them. It feels physically uncomfortable when I’m mentally stressed or sad, and through conscious breathing, I can transform this into peace, and move on.
Less reactivity means being more at peace, and gaining the power to choose. I deeply realize I am worthy and that the energy I put out matters, and has an effect on myself and others. I’ve raised my self-worth and realize I can help any situation through mindfulness and by simply being present. When I’m triggered, I can make the choice to step away and breathe, rather than engage and heighten the emotion.
I decided to choose new beliefs
Through meditation, I began to realize the ways that my mind held me hostage most of my life, and how I was subscribing to old beliefs that didn’t really serve me. These looked like, “I’m not good enough”, “Somethings wrong with me”, “I’m different and therefore unloveable”, ect. The unconscious beliefs we pick up in childhood think in absolutes, black and white. These were running the show, and I finally started to question them for the first time in my 22 years of existence.
I started journaling
So I began journaling. Half the time we don’t even know how we’re feeling until we write it on paper. It’s really effective in getting to the root of our problems and releasing them. I was done being comfortably numb and I was ready to experience what the foggy abstraction called “self-love” felt like. You can read more about my morning routine for wellbeing here.
I started writing new beliefs, or affirmations. What if I told myself I was confident and clear-minded in my decisions? Empowered and worthy of love and connection? Hmm. My mind scoffed at first. But after enough repetition, I can say I have chosen these new, empowering beliefs and believe them to be true now. No, it did not happen overnight, but consistently affirming my ideal state of being enough times incrementally began to affect my mindset.
I started focusing on how I wanted to feel. Happy, free, loved, peaceful, empowered. All of the things that we start out with our early years, and somehow manage to distance ourselves from while we grow and experience pain. I kept a log of how I was feeling and made time after my morning meditations to check in with myself.
I started doing yoga
At first I didn’t really like yoga because I decided I was bad at it and easily gave up. But like meditation, I gave it a second chance and started to see some radical changes after a month of consistency. I had no real relationship with my body, and yoga brought me back into harmony with it. I started to become aware of what was going on in my body, and loved the way I felt after savasana.
Since 2015, I’ve made yoga a priority and try to go at least a couple of times a week if not more. With traveling frequently this can get difficult, but oh man do I notice such a difference when I have a constant yoga practice in my life. I am so grateful for yoga, and the sense of unity it’s created. Unity with myself, and unity with others. I love the sense of community I feel in a yoga class, the resonance of all beings together engaging in the same practice.
Yoga is my crutch now when I feel stressed, sad, depressed. I always feel better after tuning in. It’s an amazing release, and it’s ok to cry at the end of a yoga practice as so many things can come up!!! This was a huge component in how I healed my anxiety and depression.
I started taking supplements
There are so many natural remedies out there that I hadn’t tried. Adaptogens are now my BFF. What are adaptogens, you ask? Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help the body resist stressors of all sorts, whether physical, chemical or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, but they’re having a renaissance today.
Personally, I found 1200mg a day of Ashwagandha to be the most effective. I feel calmer when I take my beloved Ashwagandha, and it’s definitely reminiscent of taking an antidepressant but you still feel like yourself! Just more at ease. This is my favorite brand of Ashwagandha and it has the highest concentrate of the herb per serving: Oregon’s Wild Harvest Ashwagandha *note: this is just my personal experience. it may differ for you and I am no way a doctor or naturopath.
In addition to Ashwagandha, I began taking a good B Complex, which helped with my energy levels. This is the brand I prefer: Solgar B-Complex with Vitamin C. There’s a whole myriad of other supplements I take as well, but these are the two that I directly contribute with helping have healed my anxiety and depression naturally.
I started pushing myself to live outside my comfort zone
I can undoubtedly say solo travel was a big factor in overcoming my social anxiety. Try being awkward in a new country and see how much fun you have. LOL, you’re literally forced to make friends with strangers and while traveling, it’s actually easier than ever because:
- a. you’re a foreigner so you’re automatically more interesting
- b. other people are also traveling and looking to make friends
- c. no one knows who you are so you can literally be whoever tf you want to be and re-create your self-image to the most ideal version of yourself!
You also begin to build self-trust and self-reliance. I have learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for. Read more about my first day of solo travel here.
When you live in the same place most of your life, your mind runs conveniently on autopilot. You go to the grocery store and feel comfortable knowing the difference between kidney beans and black beans, because it’s in plain english and english is your first language. Try going to a small polish grocer and understanding what kind of fasolkis are inside those cans.
So, you have to ask questions and risk looking like an idiot. I’ve looked like an idiot so many times while traveling just by not speaking the language, and guess what? It made me more resilient to embarrassment, and more importantly, forgiveness. I’ve also become less afraid to seek out answers and even ask the question to begin with. Part of my anxiety came from the fear of sounding unintelligent and being judged. Now I don’t care if that’s what someone chooses to think of me. That’s on them.
Your brain evolves through travel. More importantly, I became inspired again through travel. Monotony kills inspiration, and I was depleted of it in my younger years.
So, do something that totally freaks you out. I promise it’s not so bad, and every time I’m scared I think of all the times in the past I took a leap and felt so much support and joy on the other side of it.
This helped me overcome anxiety and lean into trust, and write a new belief that everything is working out for me no matter what. I truly believe that to this day.
So, that is my story of how I healed my depression and anxiety naturally. Do I still experience these emotions? Of course, but in moderation. I don’t feel anxious as much, except for when I have to talk in front of a large number of people. I still deal with a bit of social anxiety in that regard, but am working on healing my shadow around being seen. However it’s not chronic or as consistent as before. I start my days with gratitude and feel blessed to be alive on this planet, and try and appreciate the little things.
As Albert Einstein said: There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.
I vastly shifted my mindset from the former to the latter, and it’s made all the difference.
Awesome article Christine !