By: Erika Betenbough
Several years ago, in 2015, I was the main character in a life-changing battle. An inward battle fought between two forces, my mental health, and the rest of me. Let me give you a short autobiography of myself back then. I was 32, married, and a mother of two. Overall healthy, except for some female reproductive issues and aches and pains. Throughout my life, up to this point, I had endured some emotional trauma and hardships, but always seemed to be put together and strong enough to overcome them. I always remembered being cool under pressure and in charge of my emotions and wandering mind. I was patient with my children, as so many moms today are tested. I didn’t know that one day, I would battle with an unseen and very powerful villain. Anxiety. Why me? Could I defeat this mental disease? It was the longest six months of my life. I honestly didn’t know who I was at times. The woman staring back at me was unrecognizable and weak. Little did I know that I wasn’t alone. It took time and many lifestyle changes, natural health remedies, prayer, and trust in God to find my way out of the trenches of this mental battle. But I did. That is why I am writing this story. I want to tell you, sufferers of anxiety and panic attacks, you are not alone. This battle can be beat! I will give you my best advice for natural ways to overcome the symptoms of anxiety, panic, stress, or depression. What I did for stress relief, and still do. The best herbs and essential oils to take on the go for anxiety outside of your home. Finally, how important it is for you to know that anxiety is a disease. You are feeling real symptoms and emotions. It is not all in your head. I hope I can inspire others who are not personally dealing with this disease, to be patient and loving to those you know that are. They are not making this up, or looking for attention. They may not have outward signs of this quiet disease, but trust me, inside is the most intense and destructive battle you have ever imagined. Just be there, support and encourage. Pray with them. Talk to them on the phone. It’s these moments that make the difference in the way the body heals itself.
My battle with anxiety was exceptionally hard. I was a stay at home mom, homeschooling my two children, plus a homemaker and a wife. I was trying to juggle all these things while being isolated to the walls of my home, barely getting outside adult time with other moms. I didn’t know the importance of this “me time” but I know now. I cleaned, cooked, did laundry, taught school and took care of our small homestead. I thought I was invincible and could do it all. I tried to be ‘that mom.’ The one you see carrying two kids on her hips, while vacuuming and looking like someone out of a beauty magazine. I was doing a lot. I know so many moms out there, trying to fit this exact image in our society. We are not in a race or a competition with other moms. This goes out to men too. You are just as overwhelmed with life as women are. Life today is fast, it’s crazy and sometimes we forget to slow down. It’s with that full speed ahead attitude that anxiety comes to derail your life. It did mine.
This is how I spent an average day coping with anxiety. I would wake up, completely exhausted from the lack of sleep I got throughout the night. All night long every nerve ending in my body was firing. My legs wouldn’t stop twitching and I could hear my heartbeat so loud in my head that it kept me up all night. Sleep was hard. In the morning, I would try so hard to find some way to block out the loud and thunderous sound of my rapid heartbeat. Even if I did the smallest thing, a load of dishes, or walk to the bathroom, I felt like I had run a marathon. That was probably the hardest part for me. Hearing and feeling my fast heartbeat. It was scary. Then the rest of the day was filled with me trying to motivate my mind and actions. I couldn’t do anything I used to do. I found it unsatisfying to teach my children, so we eventually stopped homeschooling for several months. I didn’t want to clean or keep up on our home. Laundry was piling up, dirty dishes on the counters, and the worst part is, I didn’t care. I couldn’t find happiness in anything that I loved to do before. Not even in being a wife or mother. Sadly, I would just find myself sitting outside on the back porch for hours, either crying or trying to block out the rhythm of my heart that wanted to jump out of my chest. I think I was battling both anxiety and depression at one point. It got so bad that some days, I couldn’t be left alone. I couldn’t even drive without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack. I would grip the steering wheel with sweaty palms, traffic signs would blind my newly light sensitive eyes, and I would become flooded with vertigo. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt so out of control and unable to do anything about it. I decided to pray. It’s at these times in our lives, that we truly become closer to God.
Fast forward several weeks and I finally managed to build up enough strength and saw a naturopath, who started my road to recovery. She listened to my symptoms and feelings. As a result, I was put on two supplements that jump started my healing. The one that attributed greatly to my healing is called Ashwagandha. It is used to treat insomnia, anxiety, menstrual problems, arthritis, tumors and contains chemicals that may calm the brain and reduce inflammation. It was a lifesaver when treating my anxiety. As soon as I took the supplement I would feel an overall calmness in my mind and body. The supplement however was expensive and because it is a natural medicine, it took several a day for dosage. The cost was not affordable. I did manage to stay on this for a few months and those made a great difference in how I felt. I now needed to research and find other natural remedies and stress management for my anxiety and moods. These are my recommendations, so as always, consult your doctor or naturopath when starting new herbal supplements.
The next biggest impact in overcoming my anxiety was my introduction to yoga. I had tried yoga before a few times in college but never pursued it. This time was different. I was introduced to a whole new kind of yoga that was perfect for me. Holy Yoga. The societal image of yoga today is earthy, chakras, third eyes and religious accents that I wasn’t too comfortable participating in. I was invited to try holy yoga by a friend who was overwhelmed with all the stuff in her life too. The first time I went I fell in love. It was gentle yoga based upon scripture and Christianity. The music playing was inspiring, uplifting and calming. I spent the next forty-five minutes stretching, bending and balancing. Stuff I hadn’t done in a long time. I learned proper deep breathing techniques, which are the next step to healing from anxiety. The session finished with a brief head and shoulder massage with aromatherapy, physical touch, and affirmation. I was a new person when I left. Calm and rejuvenated. Something I hadn’t been in a long time. I started going to yoga once a week for several months. Over this time, I started becoming less anxious, depressed, and able to manage my anxiety and stress. I learned go-to poses and deep breathing techniques to use at home. It is important to learn how to breathe the right way. So many people, once including myself, do not breathe correctly. The breath is to come deep from within the diaphragm not shallow and with the shoulders. The body needs oxygen to function correctly, including the brain, which is key to all mental processes. I started doing yoga at home and haven’t stopped since. I am proud to be called a yogi.
The next thing that helped with managing my anxiety and stress is aromatherapy and essential oils. This is a big one. There are five senses in the body. Our sense of smell is one of the greatest. It is said that we have memories linked to certain smells. When you smell an apple pie and you find yourself daydreaming about the summers you spent cooking with your grandmother, this is how vital smell is to us. As babies, we are drawn to the scent of our mother. It’s an instinct. God created us with this wonderful ability and by it we can also be healed. I researched essential oils and aromatherapy constantly. I still do. There is so much to learn. One of the blends that really grounded me and kept me present and not daydreaming or thinking upon my situation was an essential oil blend made by Doterra called Balance. I purchase this off Amazon.com. It is well worth the cost and lasts a long time. After a few drops of this oil applied to the bottoms of the feet, on the pulse points on your wrists, behind the ears and inhaled within the palms, you will be feeling less anxious. I always have this in my purse wherever I go. Another go-to oil for calming is lavender. Applied to the bottoms of the feet and behind the ears will greatly help you drift off to sleep or calm your nerves in any situation. Research essential oils for anxiety and stress, they work wonders. I also have a diffuser that disperses the oil and aroma into the air. This is great for in your home and will fill up a room with the smell of calmness and clarity.
Lastly, I want to express how important it is to get out and be amongst others. For me, it was going to our homeschool meetings and talking with other moms who were going through similar issues as me. I wasn’t alone. Humans are social creatures and being isolated in your home all the time is not healthy for anybody. Conversation and physical touch, hugs, smiles and laughter are aspects of life that all people should enjoy every day. Getting out to do yoga and meeting new friends is something that continues to fight my battle with anxiety and depression. I try to find outlets that will enable me to be stress free. Listening to music, reading, sewing, and doing DIY projects work for me. Do a little soul searching for yourself and find one thing every day that makes you happy. Anxiety will never defeat you if you can find one thing to be grateful for and smile about. If you have a strong faith, as I do, sit down, and pray. God will get you through this, just trust in him, follow his direction, and lean on others who are strong in the faith too. Strength in numbers, right?
I hope that by sharing my story, you may find some strength and comfort of your own. Think outside of the box, try natural remedies if they are a good fit for you, and don’t give up. Today in the U.S., approximately 3.3 million people suffer with anxiety disorder according to Wikipedia. That’s 1.5% of the population ages 18 and over. It’s important that awareness of mental disorders like anxiety and depression not be silenced. The war against mental disorders is real and is becoming more common. However, increasingly more are being quickly put on prescription medications and sent home. There needs to be a revival in mental illness awareness. This battle will be won!
I am happy and blessed to say I have a full arsenal of things I have learned since my battle two years ago with anxiety and depression. I still get anxious from time to time. I still have stress. The only difference now is knowing the beat of my heart means I am alive and well. Don’t forget to breathe life in deeply, and slow down enough to smell more memories. I beat my battle and continue to everyday. So can you!
May is National Mental Health month! Comment below with ways that you have beat your battle with anxiety and natural remedies. Don’t forget to share this post to raise awareness for this silent battle.
I give a big thanks to thehalfassedhousewife.com for granting me the opportunity to guest post about this important topic on their blog.
I hope you will also visit my blog: mypatchworkhomestead.com for more posts like this.
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