Are You Struggling To Manage Your Anxiety? I Know How It Feels. Here Is My Full Anxiety Story.
I’ve always been a bit neurotic. I never really got sick but if swine flu was making headlines, I was sure that I’d be its victim; similarly, I was always afraid of flying, sure that my plane would be the one out of a million that would crash. When I was two years old, my mother was in a severe freak accident that changed the course of my entire family’s life, and it left me with a deeply ingrained sense of uncertainty, and a knowledge that even things that “never happen” could indeed happen. Fear became a security blanket to me, a reverse comfort that if I thought through every possible catastrophe, at least I’d never be caught off guard again.
Then, when I was 20 years old, I was traveling in Brazil. I was doing a lot of drugs at the time, and I was anorexic, although I didn’t see it that way—I weighed 82 pounds and just thought my bobble head was hot, like the Olsen twins whose style I emulated. I bought some weed and was smoking it alone on a beach when, out of nowhere, I felt super hungry, in a pressing, immediate way. I walked to Bob’s Burgers and was ordering a burger—and then I woke up on the floor. According to the strangers now gathered around me, I’d had a seizure.
I was disoriented. Because I was too confused to really communicate (I kept trying to give a random woman my wallet, which thankfully she didn’t take), they took me to a public hospital, where people who can’t afford other options end up. There were no beds, just metal rolling tables, all in one open room. A man was bleeding from his stomach next to me. I sat against a wall and waited for a few hours, picking at the yellowed linoleum flooring and trying to ignore the sounds of pain echoing around me. Finally, a kind doctor, who couldn’t have been more than 22, tested my blood sugar, told me it was low, and bought me a bag of potato chips before sending me home.
For years, I didn’t know my panic attacks were PTSD. Before things would get better, they’d get much, much worse.
I kept doing drugs. I kept partying. I kept using sex as a form of self-validation, and idolizing my skinny form as a sign of success. I smoked cigarettes while I walked home from the gym. When my heart was racing, and I felt disassociated or light headed, I convinced myself that it was because I was about to have a seizure again, because I’d had the first seizure out of nowhere—not because I was treating my body like garbage in so many ways that tracing a single, specific cause would prove almost impossible.
You wouldn’t have known I was anxious during that time. You would’ve thought I was quick to laugh, last to leave a bar. I met Zack, and, after a few years of dating, we moved to NYC. A few years after that, he got into a grad school in London. I’d come so far from the small town I grew up in—I was cosmopolitan now, living abroad, casually taking cheap flights to Paris or Barcelona.
Zack’s program was extremely demanding, and he’d often be out of the house from 7 in the morning until midnight. I’d quit my full time job to write a novel while we lived on Zack’s student loans; slowly, my contact with the outside world faded. There were days when the only voice I heard was the one in my head. Outside of the jumpstart of a job or college, I didn’t know how to make friends. And then my panic attacks began to get worse.
I still remember the day when I realized something was really wrong. It was a weekend; it was sunny for the first time in months. Zack invited me to a pub to watch a rugby game and I realized I couldn’t physically go. I couldn’t explain to him why; I felt so much shame in losing the part of myself that I thought made him love me—the hot girl, the party girl, the cool girl.
I barely left the house, and then I barely left my room, and then I barely left my bed. I bought a finger prick test and started obsessively monitoring my blood sugar, with the doctor’s words from Brazil echoing in my head—surely, if I could keep my blood sugar stable, I could avoid having another seizure, I could control my body, and then all of these terrible feelings would go away.
When I was spending all that time in bed, I began researching anxiety remedies—and, because I’d been a journalist for years, I knew how to tell the reputable studies from the less so. I emailed best-in-class doctors and asked their opinions.
Then, one day, I decided to put my knowledge to use in the kitchen. There wasn’t one thing that made my anxiety go away. I meditate. I work out. I make sure there’s structure in my days (this is HUGE). I eat food that balances my blood sugar, but I don’t check it obsessively. I see a therapist.
But most importantly, as I got better, little by little, I got to the point where I could surround myself again with people. I learned so devastatingly the impact of isolation, and the extreme mental health consequences of loneliness, that fighting against it—in my life, in my work—became my life’s mission.
Loneliness is the epidemic of the modern age but we’re all too busy with our work and preserving our self image to admit it, and to start fixing it.
I spent SO long getting over the shame I had that was at the root of my anxiety. Shame that I hadn’t taken care of my body well enough. Shame I hadn’t been a better daughter or girlfriend or friend. Shame that the sex I’d had or the drugs I did or even my anxiety itself made me a bad person.
None of it did. It made me me.
I’m not healed. There was no moment of miracles. But my life now is a far cry from that sad, lonely girl, curled up in bed with her computer, facing a desperation so deep (“what if I feel like this forever?”) that, in the worst moments, made taking her own life seem like a welcome respite.
Now, I travel. I work a job that I adore. I love other people, and I let myself be truly loved—by others, and by myself. In my moments of feeling lonely, I don’t let shame stand in the way of telling people.
Healthier Together isn’t a concept to me; it’s something I believe from my core. None of us are alone. I love you and I see you and we are together.
Here Are Some Resources To Help You Manage Your Anxiety
The One Week Anti-Anxiety Meal Plan
Quite simply, this anti-anxiety meal plan is the book that I wish someone had given me at the peak of my anxiety. I’ve been a journalist for more than a decade, writing for places like goop, Vogue, Marie Claire, and even serving as the Food Director at mindbodygreen. Now, I host the Healthier Together podcast. All of this gives me incredible access to the country’s best doctors. For years, I’ve gotten to reach out to them to discuss breakthrough studies, intriguing supplements, methods that work with their own patients, and more.
Beyond that, in my years as a journalist, I’ve been lucky enough to learn about flavor and technique from some of the world’s best chefs. I’ve always viewed myself as the bridge between the world of health and the world of flavor, and this book will be exactly that: the best methodology for alleviating anxiety, delivered to you in recipes that will make your tastebuds salivate. The anti-anxiety meal plan will:
- Make information from doctors and scientists into actionable easy changes you can incorporate into your every day life
- Provide you with everything you need to eat and live an anxiety-relieving life for 7 days, including a comprehensive shopping list and recipes for all of your meals
- Give you recipes for DELICIOUS food that you’ll look forward to eating—and that will actually FILL YOU UP
- Give you tips, tricks, and advice based on science, years of interviews, and my own personal experience!You’ll get:
Explore the 50 pages of recipes, supplement guidance, and lifestyle advice HERE.
Healthier Together Podcast — Ask The Doctor: Anxiety Edition: Everything You Need To Know About Treating Anxiety Naturally with Ellen Vora, MD
This is the second edition of Ask the Doctor, where I ask functional medicine doctors a ton of questions in a single episode so you can reap the benefits of all of their knowledge. This episode is all about anxiety, and features one of my favorite people in the wellness world, Dr. Ellen Vora.
This is THE go-to episode for anyone suffering from anxiety, whether it’s chronic or more situational, or even if you want to help with someone you love who’s dealing with anxiety. This episode is SO comprehensive—I tried to ask Ellen literally any question I’ve ever had about anxiety, and I asked all of you on Insta for your questions too.
We talk about:
- The top 3 low-hanging fruits for anxiety
- The one supplement Ellen recommends to everyone
- How to tell if hormone imbalances are at the root of your anxiety — and exactly what to o if they are
- How to treat anxiety or reduce stress when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck
- How to actually find and build community and friendships
- How blood sugar massively impacts your anxiety—and the hack and definitive solution to fix it
- The ideal diet for someone with anxiety, including what a day on a plate actually looks like
- How caffeine impacts anxiety, and whether coffee can fit into an anti anxiety lifestyle
- How to taper off medication (and how to tell if you should)
- How alcohol impacts anxiety
- What to do about social anxiety
- Why you get anxiety the morning after drinking
- How to improve sleep but not let the idea of not sleeping making your anxiety worse
- How to stop spiraling when you feel like you’re hitting that point of no return with anxiety
- The one neurotransmitter that’s the key to alleviating anxiety
- How exercise impacts anxiety, and what types of exercise are best for anxiety
- How to help your partner when they have anxiety and how to tell your partner how to help you when you have anxiety
- Coronavirus, climate change and how to deal with REAL external things that cause anxiety
Listen to this podcast episode HERE.