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Anxiety: Part One of a Zillion

I realize that I talk a lot about my anxiety disorder but I’ve never really told my story. I think it’s important for all of us to share stories but since I can’t serve each one of you a giant glass of wine (or coffee, or an Ativan…lol) and coax you to tell me yours, the least I can do is be vulnerable and tell you mine. I’ll split it up into parts as it’s too long for one post.

With hindsight being 20/20 and all, I can see now that I’ve always been an anxious person, right from birth. I was a colicky infant, a stressed out elementary student, and a self-medicated teenager.

In grade five my mom brought me to the doctor to figure out why I would always get stomach aches. He spoke nothing of anxiety and merely put me on a dairy-free diet to rule out a milk allergy. Soy milk and rice cakes became a dietary staple, and the shitty food selection combined with some gut-crippling anxiety caused me to drop a few pounds of much-needed athleticism. I didn’t get waify or anything, but I knew something was wrong.

Once I got into high school, I figured out that Gravol (an anti-nausea drug) made me drowsy which really helped take the edge off of my anxiety. So I took Gravol every day, and topped it off with alcohol at night when it was available.

Everybody gets anxious. Anxiety is a normal and healthy response to danger and stress. But you’ll know when it’s not normal. You won’t be able to eat or sleep. Your anxiety levels will fuck with your relationships, with your work, with school. It will rob you of your passions and interests. It will make you feel like you’re dying, which is so scary that you’ll actually want to die just to get it over with.

Almost every decision I made back then was out of fear.

Do you guys struggle with anxiety? And if so, were you anxious as a child too?

I’d love to hear your stories. Feel free to leave a comment or email me privately if you’d rather not share it on here. <3

Has being on a dairy-free diet helped any of you guys with stomach issues?



{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes September 9, 2015, 7:53 pm

    I always appreciate and value your honesty so much! Anxiety doesn’t debilitate me but I am regularly anxious about small things: the stove being left on, a gas leak, the door being locked.
    I significantly decreased my dairy consumption recently because of stomach issues. If I’m cooking or baking a bit of cream or half and half is ok, but I don’t have milk anymore and only eat low lactose cheeses. It was completely self-diagnosed, but my stomach has been much better with the change. Sometimes, for pizza, it’s so worth it, so I’m not 100% dairy free.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 9, 2015, 8:26 pm

      I know a lot of people with GI issues who avoid dairy for that reason and it really seems to help. I relate to your anxiety stuff, but I’m really glad it doesn’t debilitate you. I think people know when it crosses over to the debilitating side because it’s SO uncomfortable that they (we) can’t help but get help.

  • SK September 9, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Oh my gosh Susy! You say so many things that hit so close to home. I love ready your posts and yes this one – as simple as it is – is so validating. Thank you! Anxiety is new for me – difficult situations in life can trigger this beast. Unfortunately, only the person that has the relationship with this beast can understand it completely. It is foreign to some which makes it hard for them to understand the reality of anxiety. For anyone who has never experienced anxiety – validation, security and reassurance is key – even just swallowing someone up with a hug while they are experiencing this beast can calm it.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 9, 2015, 9:09 pm

      YES! That’s why I keep stressing about how important it is for us to connect with each other. Isolation and avoidance breed anxiety like rabbits. For me, stress can trigger anxiety but it’s usually not until after the stress passes that my anxiety shows up. I cope well under pressure but once the storm passes, then it’s like WHOA. The ship docks in crazy town.

  • Kristen September 9, 2015, 11:08 pm

    I’ve shared with you some of my generalanxiety woes – I have had it since childhood and was only diagnosed & medicated 5 years ago (thank gawd!!). It still surprises me, though, and the older I get and the more aware I become of my disorder the more “ah-ha” moments I have of my childhood. It’s fascinating. Exhausting, but fascinating. It would be nice if the anxiety nightmares would stop soon, especially since I’m about to have a baby and sleep will become even more of a luxury/necessity.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 6:52 am

      Ahhh yes. The anxiety nightmares. I forgot about those! They’re more extreme during pregnancy, so once you have your baby the nightmares will settle down. I promise.

  • Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine September 10, 2015, 3:09 am

    I’ve actually become more anxious as I have gotten older, not to the point where it gets i the way of my life but its just makes me way more stressed out than I should be.
    Last school year I was working with a 5th grader who was clearly dealing with anxiety and having panic attacks…and his pediatrician told him to stop eating hot cheetos because he thought it was heart burn. So then the poor kid thought that all his “anxious” feelings were brought on by food…it took alot of work to try to teach him that his physical symptoms were actually due to emotional and psychological causes rather than just what he ate!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 6:51 am

      Oh, I totally relate to that! I spent an entire year (grade 5) eating only toast and honey because my mom promised me that it’s impossible to throw up toast and honey. I was so scared of throwing up. I hope that boy will be okay, and learn how to deal with the anxiety side of things. What a tough thing to go through as a kid!

  • Susie @ SuzLyfe September 10, 2015, 4:20 am

    My anxiety and depression became much worse after my Crohn’s Diagnosis, but I remember my first real anxiety attack happen while watching the movie Armageddon, which I had (at that point) seen umpteen times. I suddenly came to grips with my own mortality. I was 10. Not fun.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 6:49 am

      Awe, little muffin. That would have been scary. 🙁

  • Erin@BeetsPerMinute September 10, 2015, 4:23 am

    Oh Suzy! I can so relate. I have always been nervous and anxious. My mother even to this day says, “look at how you fidget and shake!!” It’s really scary. I’ve definitely found ways to cope with it and learned how why I do a lot of what I do, but it’s terrible! I had it so badly in college that I used to have panic attacks before I could even walk into the building for a class. It feels like a box is closing in on you. I’ve certainly been working through it after my big move, but it’s also been a great way to help my anxiety. I’m talking about it today on my blog! I just feel for you so much! <3

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 6:49 am

      A box is closing in on you… that’s a spot on description! You’ve obviously been doing really well at managing it, seeing as you moved across the world, away from your friends and family. That takes courage!

  • Gretchen September 10, 2015, 5:44 am

    I used to be super anxious when I was in high school and college..it was bad but luckily I used exercise and being in activities to “cure” me and never had to take any drugs or medicine. I’ve gotten a lot better as I grew older, and surprisingly traveling the world has really changed my entire being. Now I realize how precious life is and how lucky I am, and just don’t find myself getting anxious anymore. Funny how I had to travel thousands of miles to “find” myself..just like in the movies!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 6:48 am

      See? I think traveling around the world is what I need too! I’ll tell Andrew that it’s necessary. 🙂 But seriously, yes… there’s something about traveling that makes us feel connected to each other and that’s what we all really need, even if we don’t want to. I use running to manage my anxiety symptoms too, obviously. It really, really helps a lot lot lot.

      • Nikki @ will run for pizza September 10, 2015, 7:21 am

        Have you watched the movie “Wild”? With Reese Witherspoon. It’s a true story. After watching that, my Hus has decided that that is something we need to do when we are 40 and some of his burdens are off of his shoulders. He feels like walking that PC trail will help him calm down and “find himself” – and I agree! I can’t wait to do it! I mean, we won’t walk the entire thing, but I think a good month or 2 out there would do wonders for our souls!

        • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 7:31 am

          No, I haven’t seen it, I don’t think. I saw that movie “Into the Wild”… I think it’s called? Where the guy dies in a bus after he eats the wrong plant? Or something? That was awful. I hope you don’t do that.

      • Gretchen September 10, 2015, 1:46 pm

        Your first trip should be to Pittsburgh 😉

        • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 3:22 pm

          Ha ha! No doubt. 🙂

  • steve September 10, 2015, 6:52 am

    Ok. I’ll play too.
    I was a totally fucked up kid/teenager/young adult. I figure it was a combination of massive insecurity and separation anxiety. I had one of those childhoods where my mom left and my dad and I moved around a lot. My dad was a super cerebral guy and just couldn’t really provide a nurturing environment due to his own issues with depression and shit so I never really had a good support system. (All of this being said, there were dimensions of my childhood that were phenomenal so this isn’t a sob story.) How did this translate for me as I grew older? In high school I turned into a massive party guy. I just felt like I needed drugs and alcohol to feel better about myself I guess. It helped me break out of my shell but, of course, had it’s own set of detrimental effects. I couldn’t commit to relationships for a long time and when I finally did, I was fraught with insecurity. I am still sometimes a mess but I get better every day (except for the days I don’t.) 🙂

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 7:38 am

      I knew this story, of course, but I’m glad you wrote it out on here too! It’s so amazing to me how most of the greatest people have the roughest life stories. I think one of my favourite things about life is that every single one of us have a story of SOME kind or another. A jaw-dropper of sorts. And it’s never what we think it is when we see people or meet them at schools or work or at the store. The rich and beautiful people just hide it better. But just because they hide it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be seen and heard and known. I’m nattering on here. But I just think it’s so important for us to share our stories. Not to air our dirty laundry, not like that, but to just connect with each other. Relate to each other. It’s pretty awesome.

      • steve September 10, 2015, 8:10 am

        True – As you also know, I have lots of child and family services connections – I was so surprised to see that the wealthy areas of town were also areas that certain problems were more more prevalent. I guess problems are just a universal thing. Too bad that resilience isn’t.

        • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 8:51 am

          Best comment ever. You’re such a thinker.

  • Nikki @ will run for pizza September 10, 2015, 7:03 am

    Well, I really haven’t dealt with anxiety – personally – but I WAS a very nervous kid. To the point of passing out a LOT. And being tested a LOT because they thought it was seizures. But nope, after being tested in 2 different hospitals, 10 years apart, they both came up with the same conclusion: it’s my response to stress or pain. Maybe I DO get anxious?! I dunno…I know I can be nervous a lot. And in dealing with a bipolar hubby, I have seen anxiety firsthand, so I know ALL about it! lol. He self-medicated as a child/teen as well, and now he’s on prescriptions, but it’s still a daily struggle where you don’t always know what you’re gonna get…I tell him that as much as he is predictable, he is still unpredictable. Coffee is one of those things thought, that he never knows how “it’s gonna hit him”. Sometimes he’ll drink a cup in the afternoon/evening, and feel great, and other times it’ll put him in “a mood”. I love him. haha.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 7:29 am

      Innnnnnteresting. All of it. Man oh man oh man oh MAN what I would GIVE to be able to sit down with you and talk for hours about all of this!

  • Allison September 10, 2015, 8:17 am

    I don’t struggle with it – my husband might even tell you I am way too relaxed, which is also not a good thing! But I have a friend who struggles with crazy anxiety and my heart hurts for her when I hear how it affects her life. I’m so sorry that you struggle with this.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 8:51 am

      Thanks Allison! I can’t really complain too much and I hope that’s not how this post is coming across. I actually want to help people, more than just sound off about my own life. I know that it really helped me back in the day when other people would tell me that they struggle with it too. I didn’t feel so alone, and that’s what I’m trying to do here: to help people not feel so alone.

  • steph September 10, 2015, 8:18 am

    My confirmation saint is Dymphna, mostly because I recognized my own probs with anxiety even when my parents blew it off as typical teen angst. I wish the stigma would go away. I have a lot of things to share, but suffice it to say I can empathize.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 8:49 am

      I had to Google “Dymphna”… so intriguing! I’m really glad you stuck to your guns even when other people blew it off. I know for me, it always made it worse when I’d be feeling totally insane and then someone would tell me to relax, that it’s no big deal. I not only felt stressed out, but then I also felt so alone, too. Like nobody understood me. And that’s even worse than anxiety.

  • Megan @ Meg Go Run September 10, 2015, 9:09 am

    Thank you for deciding to share more of your story with us! I think it is very important to sometimes share these private things so we can understand each other better. I didn’t grow up being anxious, but as I have gotten older, I have developed a healthy dose of anxiousness- aka, I am just as anxious as the average person and it is not debilitating. There was about 9 months last year though where I was extremely anxious and I was on my last nerve. It got really bad. My husband has seizures and after a very scary hospitalization last Aug, I was so worried at work since he was home alone. I would text him and if he didn’t text me RIGHT BACK I assumed he was dead. I had a valid reason to be worried, but I was TOO worried. Luckily, this summer, I chilled out a little and I am not super worried while I am at work anymore! Thank goodness, it was horrible last year.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 9:32 am

      I can’t even imagine how stressful that was for you guys. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again… you two are strong people. A power couple. That’s a lot of reality to deal with at such a young age.

      I think your bout with anxiety is a normal response to life stresses, right? Anxiety disorders include extreme anxious responses to normal life stresses and it doesn’t just happen for a season, but for years (off and on, or non-stop). I’m not a doctor, so this is just my experience with it and also from hearing about it from other people who deal with it too.

      • Megan @ Meg Go Run September 10, 2015, 10:01 am

        Yes, I totally agree it was a normal reaction to a sucky situation, so definitely different from what you deal with. I am thankful I was able to get through it, and I can’t imagine what it is like for someone with an anxiety disorder. 🙁 I look forward to hearing more about it and understanding what you go through.

  • Heather@hungryforbalance September 10, 2015, 11:20 am

    I was an anxious child and teenager, so of course, I am an anxious adult. My doctors never classified it as anxiety; I was always given a ‘depression’ diagnosis. I never found the depression medicine to be particularly helpful, so I stopped taking it.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 10, 2015, 4:14 pm

      Well, it’s funny because even though I was only diagnosed with anxiety (I had no symptoms of depression), I was put on anti-depressants because they work for anxiety disorders, as depression and anxiety are so closely linked. The meds also take a long time to work. Months, even. So it’s hard to stick with it long enough to see the effects, and even longer to find the right medication.

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets September 11, 2015, 3:53 am

    I love you are sharing you story. I can’t wait to read it all.

    For me, I’m the opposite. I don’t like to feel anxious at all (not that you enjoy it per say), but anxious people make me anxious and I want to get away. I tend to live in a world of denial where I don’t have to worry about anything (even maybe the things I should) and anxious people rob me of that. It’s hard for me to manage that and I want to say don’t worry about it, yet I know how hollow those words actually are. My in-laws are incredibly anxious folks, and their son, post brain surgery, developed anxiety so I’ve learned to cope and I’ve learned a whole hell of a lot more about brain chemistry than I ever thought possible. Somehow we make it work though.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com September 11, 2015, 8:35 am

      Anxious people make me anxious too. I hate reading about anxiety because just reading about it makes me anxious. I don’t like talking about it much either, or even writing about it but I know that people might learn from my experience and not feel so isolated, so I do it anyway. The brain surgery thing would be a huge risk factor in developing anxiety. Like, no shit. I’d be a wreck. You two would be such cool people to hang out with and talk to. I can just imagine the perspective you both have on life. We all need a little more of that.

  • Ange @ Cowgirl Runs October 2, 2015, 9:28 am

    I’m so glad Christina shared your blog today!
    I’m also an anxiety suffering runner and was most definitely hugely anxious as a child.
    After a few years of having my anxiety REALLY well controlled, it’s become not so well controlled and dang, it’s a mindfuck.

  • Rosey Rebecca March 12, 2016, 4:06 pm

    I love reading posts about other people who share in my experiences. I wrote a similar post about my anxiety a few years ago. (link: http://www.roseyrebecca.com/2013/11/12/when-anxiety-attacks-what-to-do-about-it/)

    It’s definitely helpful and therapeutic to write it all out and let the world know!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com March 12, 2016, 6:56 pm

      Well, you’re right in that it helps to tell our stories. But there IS a part of me that hates to talk about anxiety because typing out that word brings my heart rate up. It’s stupid!

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