My Journey with Anxiety

my-life-collage

Hello!

My name is Kayla Costanzo, I’m 23 years old, I currently live on a huge farm in Ohio (but born and breed in the great New Jersey!). I received my BA in English from Marietta College, an itty bitty college in OH. There, I met my boyfriend, Garrett, and we have been together ever since – about 5 years now. Together, we are raising our child, Echo. When I say child, I mean a very white and fluffy Samoyed puppy 🙂

Like so many college graduates, it’s tough out there to find work. As a new graduate, I haven’t been able to land an awesome full-time writing job so I’ve been doing freelance writing and little writing gigs here and there. You gotta do what you gotta do, right? That’s enough about the trivial stuff for now. Let’s move to the important things and the reason you’re likely visiting my blog!

My Battle with Anxiety

Young Childhood

my-childhood-collage

Unfortunately, these days so many people suffer from anxiety. You could be a sufferer because of genetics (yes, anxiety is hereditary), from a difficult/traumatic experience, a tough childhood, or for no definitive reason at all, which maybe the most frustrating of all. It’s easier when we are able to actually understand why we are a certain way. When we are unsure why we feel certain things and struggle in certain ways, we are left feeling confused and defeated.

My anxiety is a combination of genetics and the ‘I’m just not sure why’ category. I can reach back into my memories from when I was a little girl and remember experiencing anxiety…consuming and irrational fears, OCD tendencies in an effort to sooth myself, shyness and nervousness around my peers. I thought I was crazy, abnormal. I felt like there was something wrong with me and I knew other kids didn’t experience the same things I did. The craziest thing is I never knew why I felt that way. I never knew what I was feeling had a name, and how could I? I was only 5 or 6 years old when it started. For a lot of people, anxiety starts in young childhood.

My anxiety was centered around the fear that something terrible would happen to my mom, I was scared to go to sleep fearing I would never wake up. I was very self-conscious around my classmates and felt paranoid every time a laugh came from behind me, thinking for sure someone was laughing at me. There would be times, out of nowhere, I couldn’t swallow and would have trouble breathing in the middle of class. In an effort to soothe my anxieties, I resorted to destructive behavior and OCD-like habits. I would bite my nails until painful, bloody, and sore, pick my skin, and rip out pieces of hair. I convinced myself I had to repeat a mantra I created 6 times, every night before I went to sleep, or something terrible would happen to me or my family. I even had to hold something in my hand when falling asleep, otherwise, I would feel too anxious and vulnerable. Before going to sleep, when my mom came to tuck me in, I would also tell her “I feel weird,” which I now know that weird feeling was anxiety.

Anxiety can morph in the most bizarre ways. At this point in time, I still was unaware I had a disorder. I simply thought there was something wrong with me. For such a young child, feeling so strange and so different from my peers ostracized me. I always felt like an impostor around my classmates.

Teenage Years

I didn’t think my anxiety could get worse, but boy was I wrong! My anxiety began to amplify in high school. I still didn’t know I was actually suffering from anxiety. I experienced YEARS of anxiety without addressing it or doing anything to heal my mind, which only made things worse. It’s like having a disease that you never treat. Symptoms aren’t going to get better. Rather, they will continue to progress until your body puts out a huge distress signal. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

I started having a lot of trouble with my friends and began falling out of our social group. I was shy, I was struggling with my mind. I always had to pretend I was something I was not around my peers. I didn’t want to go out and party or drink, I didn’t think it was fun to hang out with friends constantly, I liked keeping to myself, having alone time, and spending time with my family. As a result, I was actively pushed out of my circle of friends. Consequently, I was quickly completely ostracized by my entire freshman class. I tried to hang onto my friend group for as long as I could, but I couldn’t hold on any longer, they didn’t want anything to do with me.

Soon after, other classmates started treating me differently and I knew my “friends” were talking about me and it was spreading around school (to this day I still don’t know what was said about me). Kids would laugh, whisper to each other about me in a not-so-secretive way, never pick me as a partner in class, and whoever got stuck with me made sure to express their feelings of discontent. It was harsh and the anxiety was brewing inside me, ready to burst at the drop of a hat. I felt horrible about who I was, I thought I was disgusting, weird, not worth anything, I hated myself. I stopped talking to everyone, participating in class, and I completely withdrew myself from everything.

I hid everything from my family. I pretended to have friends and that everything was fine at school. But in reality I dreaded waking up in the morning, I hated the feeling kids eyes burning into my back when I was standing at my locker, I was filled with fear that in class we would have to pick partners, I was eating my lunch in a bathroom stall and crying the entire time. I felt so much self-hatred, I felt total worthlessness.

My body, my mind, and my heart couldn’t take it much longer. I became physically sick. I was exhausted all the time, I was constantly nauseous, I had horrible headaches, my vision was blurry, and I had debilitating dizziness. It got so bad I missed school all the time because I couldn’t get out of bed. I would get up and try to walk and it felt like someone was pulling me over to the side as if I would fall, my head would spin, the room would spin. My mom would have to help me walk to the bathroom because I couldn’t make it there on my own. It was the most helpless feeling in the world. It got to the point where I had to take leave from school and have my teachers come to my house to give me assignments and keep me caught up in class.

I went to dozens of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong and they couldn’t find anything. I felt confused and defeated. My mom was a mess, consumed by my health issues, consumed be fear. I felt responsible for all the stress I was causing my family. I finally went to an ENT, who told my mom he thought my symptoms were due to anxiety, which she didn’t believe at first. It took 2 visits to that same doctor to finally convince her it was time to treat me for anxiety.

I started therapy and seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed me Prozac and Xanax, even though I didn’t want to go on meds. Slowly but surely I got better. My symptoms went away, my anxiety subsided, I was healthy again. I changed schools, started fresh, found new friends. I was content and relieved that I felt like myself again. I eventually went off the meds and my anxiety could be managed on my own…

College

college-days-collage

…Until the end of my junior year in college, that is. Although still unclear, my anxiety came back because I was feeling the pressure of college ending, finding a job, paying back mounds of student loans, etc. I didn’t think it was bothering me that much, but it clearly was subconscious.

This time my anxiety began morphing itself into physical symptoms right off the bat. I had a constant ache in my right forearm that wasn’t going away. After a rush of fear and anxiety and a few Google searches later, I was convinced I had either MS or ALS (please don’t use Google, guys. It’s the epitome of bad). I was absolutely consumed by fear I was dying from one of those diseases. Other muscles started to ache, I was having trouble holding things, my eyes were going blurry and my vision was shaky, I was having constant head pressure and dizziness ALL the time. It never went away.

I would beg Garrett to take me to the ER for an MRI in the middle of the night when I was convinced that I couldn’t move my legs and that my head pressure was so bad my brain felt swollen. I knew my anxiety was back in full swing and that I couldn’t control it. It was time for me to get help again, so I didn’t spiral even more out of control.

I needed a quick fix under the circumstances, so I went back on meds and I started seeing my school therapist in the health center. The counseling and meds helped me, yet again, and I was able to break through my symptoms, fears, and overwhelming anxieties. I eventually went off my meds again.

Currently

current-collage

As we speak, I am currently facing another period of high anxiety. However, this time I am taking a different approach to treating myself. For the past couple of years, I have committed to living an organic and non-GMO lifestyle, which certainly doesn’t permit the use of a cocktail of anxiety and depression meds. I am in therapy, use essential oils, do meditation, workout, use an awesome mineral lamp, and more! I am slowly but surely healing myself in the right way.

As is typical with anxiety, I have some great days, some ok days, and some really terrible days too. It’s all normal, which it so important to remember!

My blog is going to be a place for learning, advice, personal experiences, natural and creative anxiety alternatives, and cooking for your anxiety! I am not a professional so before you try some of the tips I’ve used, talk to your doctor or therapist first.

We are on this journey together. I still have a lot to learn and am still in the process of healing my anxiety. Let’s help each other out because we are in this together, we are a union of anxiety sufferers, and if we work together we can get through this, we can take control of our minds and bodies once and for all.

~ xoxo Kayla