Since releasing my retirement letter, I’ve received a steady flow of emails that include comments and questions from people who have struggled — or are struggling — with anxiety and/or depression. I’m going to try and help. I don’t have all the answers, but I hope my personal experiences can shed some light on the topic. At this point in my life, I’ve been lucky enough to find a doctor who has taken the time to truly help me understand my anxiety. Before I go into depth, I’d like to remind everyone that I am not a doctor (Dr. Bukowski does sound nice, though) and everything below is based on personal experience and my own research.
I’ve had a long battle with anxiety for nearly 11 years now and as many of you know, anxiety often leads to some degree of feeling down. During my freshman year of college, I was sitting in class when suddenly my hands started sweating, my vision went blurry and my heart began to race. I had no idea what was going on and I had to leave the room. This happened again over the next few weeks and I finally decided to see the campus doctor. He made me take an “anxiety test” and scored me a 10 out of 10 in anxiety severity (that’s not a good thing). At that point in my life, I honestly didn’t even know what anxiety was. The one thing I did know was it was the absolute worst thing in the world to me. The campus doctor gave me a prescription and informed me the medicine would start working within a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I was basically failing out of school because I wasn’t attending class as I honestly feared I would die in my chair.
I started the medication without a clue of what was going to happen to me. A week went by and I was tired…constantly. As time continued to pass, I started to feel good. I began to literally feel high on life…or maybe it was high on drugs. Regardless, this feeling got me back to “normal,” acing my classes and enjoying college the way every 18-year-old should. This first round of medication was the first and last time over the past 10 years that taking the drugs truly helped me.
Throughout college, I remained on and off meds to continue to treat my bouts with anxiety (which by then I was all too familiar with). Although the medicine would help me temporarily, getting off of it was an absolute nightmare. Attempting to stop taking the pills had me questioning if they were worth taking in the first place. I was going through something called “Brain-Zaps.” Yes, you read that right! What the hell is a brain zap, you ask? Imagine your brain being dropped in a bathtub full of water at the same time as a plugged-in blow dryer hits that water. It may sound a little dramatic, but that’s pretty much what I was experiencing.
After years of going on and off of these things (brain zaps included), I finally decided to dig deep and research my condition. Based on what my doctor had told me and all of the commercials promoting these medications, I had always assumed what I was taking was both safe and the best course of treatment. In fact, I felt like I was part of the norm by taking medicine and, to a certain extent, I was right. One out of 10 Americans over the age of 18 takes medication for anxiety. Though this particular type of medication can be used for other reasons, it mainly treats anxiety and depression. I thought to myself, “Holy crap! The whole country is anxious or depressed.”
Finally, as I was cast on ‘The Bachelorette’ — some five years after my original bout with anxiety — I thought to myself, “I have to get my anxiety under control before I go on this show.” Simply by chance, I came across a documentary called ‘Food Matters’ on Netflix. Although it’s not something I normally would have watched, that documentary literally changed my life. Please watch ‘Food Matters.’ It essentially explains the positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise while also talking about how messed up the pharmaceutical industry is. My research combined with this film had me thinking, “Why didn’t my doctor tell me about all of these other alternatives to treat my anxiety in the first place?” Probably because he doesn’t have the time — it has to be way easier just to write a prescription. After watching the documentary, I immediately started weening off of my medication, eating right and working out. The decisions I made following that documentary had me in a place where I never felt better in my life.
There was hope. And if there was hope for me, then there is hope for everyone. Am I smarter than my doctor? Absolutely not. I just had more time to commit to my health and myself, rightfully so. I don’t want to sound like one of those crazy health bloggers, but I mean it when I say “food is medicine.” Regardless of how you believe the human race came into existence, I can promise you it wasn’t with medication in our bodies. It took time for me to realize how to naturally heal myself.
But it really never ends.
Over the last three years, I have had times when I thought I needed to get back on medication in hopes of quickly fixing my anxiety. However, I’ve since realized that the moments of fear of when I felt there was no return were actually due to my unhealthy lifestyle full of stress and oftentimes alcohol. Why do we continue to take the easy way out!? Why do we continue to pump billions of dollars into an industry that is just barely keeping us alive to make money on us? Why do commercials get shoved in our faces about the benefits of these drugs? We need to be more educated on these things and we need medical professionals to look beyond the solution of a quick prescription. Drugs are an easy way out. I understand drugs can be extremely helpful in the short-term as well as long-term, but you need to also understand the extreme consequences that can come from them. [comments id=”33847″]
I can honestly go on about this matter for much longer because anxiety has been a part of my life for so long now. There were times when my anxiety was so bad that I was either in the E.R. or sitting in the hospital parking lot inside my car just in case. I have experienced the worst and here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me 10 years ago: “Chris, stop drinking, get back in the gym, and this is what anxiety is…” If you struggle with anxiety, my advice to you is simple. Do your research. Ask your doctor questions. Talk about your anxiety and/or depression. Holding it in only makes it worse. We only have one life to live and one body to take care of so don’t take the easy way out. Be selfish and be about you. You are number one.
As I continue to battle my anxiety issues, I’ve continued to receive amazing support from so many of you. My favorite comment from last week comes from Karen and it says, “Chris, never let ANYONE make you feel like you don’t deserve to be happy. We all make mistakes and yours are not so bad. You will find the love of your life when you stop looking for her. Do what you love every day and she will come. Good luck to you!” [comments id=”60618″]
Be about you!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me by filling out the form below.
Be sure to check back next week for more of Chris’ answers right here on RantNOW.