By now we’re all well used to the vast divide that exists between the approach towards, understanding of and treatment of mental and physical health.
In physical medicine (whilst I acknowledge it obviously has its own set of challenges) we have constant research, fundraising and the development of pioneering surgeries. But it seems, to me at least, that in mental medicine, we have cuts in vital services, inappropriate application criteria to ‘qualify’ for help, massive waiting lists and – despite the hard work of advocates – continued stigma and increased suicide rates.*
Treatment obviously varies from case to case but is largely based around talking therapies and medication. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these things, and they have proved to be vital resources for many. However I can’t help but notice that they are treatment plans, not attempts to ‘cure’. For most, for example, if you come off your meds your illness will still be there.
Modern medicines’ attempts to cure mental illness seem to have ended when the industry realised shock therapies and lobotomies were despicably inhumane and not actually helping anyone.
So why is that? Well obviously we have a much greater understanding of the complexity of mental illness. There are many different kinds – both genetic and triggered – and they occur in the organ that we arguably know the least about: the brain.
And I hate to be cynical, but whilst people with mental illness are still arguably considered second class citizens, is there enough drive, opportunity, support, budget – enough glory – in innovating meaningfully in this area…?
Maybe medicine isn’t interested in finding a cure, maybe a cure simply doesn’t exist. Or maybe it’s a case of redefining how we see the word cure.
Maybe striving for some kind of procedure that will magically “fix” us is just an additional anxiety-inducing stressor, as we put ourselves in another battle we can never win. And just maybe, we need to find another way.
Below is Savannah’s story of how, after many years of suffering, she found the courage to take control and find a sustainable and healthy way to manage her mental health.
(And don’t forget to look out for Part II, featuring more inspirational true stories).
I didn’t speak for 23 years. There are people who I knew my entire life, who came to my house and went to school with me, who had never heard me say a single word. I was frozen in fear, unable to do much more than nod or shake my head. Living life on the side lines, in the shadows, watching everyone else participate and wishing I could but feeling faint every time I had any attention on me.
When I was 17, I added to my social anxiety by totaling 2 vehicles in a single weekend. And thus, didn’t drive for 6 years.
I’m convinced that the excess stress of my anxiety is what caused me to miscarry my first son at 15 weeks and with his death, hypochondria joined the gang. Then, to put the icing on the cake, when my now oldest was born, I suffered severely from postpartum anxiety. Something most people, including myself at the time, don’t realize is even a thing.
I was so riddled with various forms of anxiety, I barely left my house. I was terrified that if I did, surely someone would shoot me, I would have another wreck or of course, I would perish in a fiery explosion of a bomb, because that happens to everyone who leaves their house, right?
I knew my fears were unfounded but I would still have to pull over to allow my panic attack to pass when I drove. I would lie in bed unable to sleep because the world would surely end. I couldn’t make a phone call, I couldn’t speak to a server at a restaurant or the cashier at the store. It was exhausting and I was sick of it, but this was who I was.
I didn’t take it lying down though. I’ve never been one to accept anything less than what I wanted and I wanted my anxiety to go on and leave me alone (to put matters politely). So I began researching and experimenting with myself.
I started healing my diet, cutting out sodas and excess sugar and aligning my chakras. I doused myself in all of the essential oils, herbs and fasted. Began practicing yoga, tai chi and meditation. I tapped on meridian points, pressure points, received reiki and was hypnotized. Tried CBD and medication. I explored past lives and healed karmic trauma. Recited my affirmations and pushed my boundaries.
I had mottos I lived by.
- It’s ok to be afraid. Do it anyway.
- It’s just a feeling and it can’t hurt you.
- Just do it.
I learned about archetypes and began calling upon their power to embody me and help me through it. Learned to work with my anxiety instead of fighting against it. Learned to ebb and flow with it and live in spite of it.
Little by little, my anxiety lessened enough that it rarely interferes with my life anymore, but it was still always present. I accepted this. The progress I had made to get to this point was astounding and it was enough to satisfy me. I began to accept that it would always be present. That I would never be completely rid of it and that was okay. As long as it wasn’t controlling me anymore, we could coexist semi peacefully.
Then, I developed severe eczema out of nowhere. And thus, a new journey was embarked on. After months of dealing with this, it was discovered that I have a soy allergy. Something I had always known but never reacted to until now. I cut out soy from my diet and low and behold, much to my surprise, my anxiety went away COMPLETELY.
I’ve been anxiety free for only a couple of months now but it’s been the most refreshing a freeing feeling I’ve experienced in my entire life. I’m grateful for my journey, as it has helped me in my life coaching to support and empathize with others who are in similar battles but I am so glad that chapter has closed for me.
I want to encourage you that there is hope! As long as there are still stones to overturn and try out, there is still the possibility that you may one day be anxiety free. Until then, there are many things you can do to learn to live in spite of your attacks and coexist with them so that they don’t control you and your life.
Savannah Shea Blake is a Birth Doula, Confidence Coach and Writer at Earth and Water who helps moms unleash their inner warrior goddesses so that they can conquer the battles of life and feel more supported in their ventures.