Tell your Male Doc: Anxiety & Insomnia are Hormones!
Natural healing from anxiety and insomnia without sleeping pills or antidepressants
I was 43 years old when my amazing life, just fell apart. I was a devout Tibetan Buddhist, Tantric meditation and yoga practitioner, world traveler, owner of a pretty successful small company, mom, and married to a gorgeous and kind professional man. All was blessed and beautiful, until, one day, I almost lost everything. I’d like to reveal my personal story about how I overcame anxiety which turned into chronic, debilitating insomnia. I found out later that in Oriental Medicine, they commonly refer to the anxiety & insomnia I experienced as a “wind” imbalance. This wind disorder can indeed come from stress, hormone changes, aging, grief, loss, or even the change of seasons. The good news is that I now sleep really well and soundly, and am sleeping pill free. I recovered 100% and now I’m better than ever, and I’ll share with you how I did it.
I had a series of issues at once, with aging, hormones, stress with friends that turned into a semi-legal conflict, resulting in a “perfect storm” of inconsolable heartbreak. All of this happened all at one time, a week right before our annual family trip to Europe. Once I had gotten to Europe, the jet lag caused me to stay awake and think about all of my unresolved problems and sadness over and over again and it caused a disturbance in my circadian rhythm.
Out of Control
Once I got back to my home, my body was permanently out of whack and I just couldn’t get to sleep and regulate. The combination of the pressure to get to sleep, the fear and the stress of these unresolved things was just too much for my aging nervous system to deal with. I could not drive. I could not care for myself or my child nor work. I was close to the end and was reduced at times to being bedridden and wanting to give up, as to not burden my family further. This went on for eight months and it came to a point where I started to have constant panic attacks I was sleeping only about five hours a week, a week! And I mean it, this was really really serious. Reality became like a waking bad dream, like some spiritual purgatory described in Dante’s inferno and I was not… ok.
I actually couldn’t really do my beloved meditation, mantra and yoga practice while this was all happening. I was so dissociated and overtired and anxious. I became agoraphobic, not even really able to go out of the house…at all! I basically was just shy of being hospitalized~ that’s how bad it got. I thought I was about to lose everything: my husband, my child, my job I couldn’t drive I couldn’t even drive to my Reiki healing appointment in the neighborhood. Friends had to jump in and help me I was just like a disabled person and it was so shocking to be so in need since I had been a caregiver for disabled people and mentally ill people. I had a degree in psychology, I was authorized meditation instructor this is not the kind of person I was or ever saw myself being. To be reduced to dust by insomnia and anxiety was dumbfounding and no one was really prepared for it.
Drugs to the Rescue! (?)
I went to my male doctors, and they stabbed at few inaccurate diagnostic things like: General Anxiety Disorder, depression, PTSD. They tried to prescribe all different types of concoctions of sleeping pills and and antidepressants, even changing every few days, and nothing really worked. I went to someone who reported to be a “natural” and traditional doctor and be put me on a very, very strong benzodiazepine called Klonopin. That was a godsend~ while it worked.
“Let’s Up Your Dose”
I felt somewhat disassociated and semi-normal, could sleep and it worked for about three months and then… stopped working. I went back to that “natural” doctor and he said “why don’t you just up your dose” and I know that these drugs can create dependency and after time you can be on very high doses of the sleeping pills. I did not want to be one of those aging women, a 43-year-old, addicted to sleeping pills. That wasn’t how I saw myself. He also suggested “why don’t you do this trifecta that seems to work, we’re going to put you on sleeping pills and antidepressants and anti-psychotics. I gave that to another client, whose husband came in with his wife with very similar issues and age and he said ‘fix my wife’ and she’s fine now.”
I had no previous history of mental illness or any type of serious depression or really any problem at all. I had some loss, trauma from the past and a painful childhood, but nothing of any gravity that would cause this. As I said, I was a businesswoman, manager, had a beautiful home, was healthy there was nothing really wrong with me before, so I couldn’t believe that that was the proper diagnosis and treatment. So thankfully I said to my doctor firmly “no way I think you’ve started me down a wrong course” and I began to seek alternative types of therapy. I tenaciously called and saw everyone: healers, psychics, naturopaths, spiritual teachers, diet consultants and even had a Native American and Tibetan soul retrieval and…exorcism (yes I was desperate!).
Anxiety Rehab Retreat
I found a holistic treatment center that I went to nearby. It was focused on addiction, they did not have an anxiety center like the famous ones in Arizona, and they refused to take me, since I had no history with addiction. Nonetheless, I was on 1 pill per night and needed help so after begging, they accepted me. It was very expensive but not relatively, if I had ended up in the hospital I would’ve been charged a lot more and then prescribed more of these strange and dangerous allopathic addictive medications that have very disconcerting side effects. Side effects like: like physical addiction suicidal and homicidal idealization, increased depression and anxiety and blood sugar disorders, no so nice, and for me, never again.
DIET AND EXERCISE…AGAIN
This Holistic center that I went to gave me a complete makeover and I was so fortunate that it had an expert Functional Medicine doctor at the helm. He and his brother ran a natural medicine clinic nearby, and my Doc’s brother used to be the chief medical officer at NASA. They decided to give back and include natural medicine and well sourced supplements, including Kinesiology. They had me slowly wean off of that one strong sleeping pill, by cutting it into teeny micro pieces to mitigate the withdrawal. It was only one pill. We were able to do this by supplementing with vitamins, Pharma Gaba, Rescue Remedy, 5HTP, and inositol and healthy greens probiotics. You can get these at any health food store. I was on about 30 different natural supplements and nutrients throughout the day!
I also ate really well, a low-carb diet with no sugar and a lot of actual well sourced natural meats and tons of organic vegetables. We were allowed to have fruit and dairy and some of those Mary’s flax crackers and Norwegian crisp bread, Wasa cracker bread, that’s made out of unsweetened rye. Other than that it was that organic, Atkins/ Paleo diet with no sugar and it regulated our blood sugar so we didn’t have that to contend with. It was also very low salt. This diet, it was a huge part of the healing process for me.
The Whole Person Treatment
Since it was a holistic center it was amazing, we did: daily therapy, hypnosis, trauma work, meditation, yoga, Reiki and acupuncture. The whole month cost me about $30,000 but it was worth every penny because it basically saved my life and got me off of that toxic sleeping pill. I’m offering this blog in hopes that if someone else is going through this, I can pass on what I learned there. No human being should really be on these big pharma meds for any length of time.
As I noted, the one that I was on which was a benzodiapine, the name of it was Klonopin. It is a particularly tenacious and difficult sleeping/ anxiety pill to stop once you’ve gotten on it. One pill was equivalent to 4- 1/2 times one pill of Ativan, these are Valium class drugs. These are the infamous, insidious and exceedingly dangerous, “mothers little helpers.” Woman, moms about 43-years-old +/-, with a lot of stress, should know that there’s a huge tendency for a nervous systems become weak. Life simply hurts when things like- parents die, relationships end, teens have trouble, we read about constant political turmoil, there’s conflict or stress, and we are all experiencing the global results of financial stress on families from income inequality, that’s a lot to bear as we age! The male physicians, who profit from drug company incentives, are all too easy to offer these types of drugs and diagnose we vulnerable, hormonal, aging women with unfair diagnoses, and I say to them… #timesup.
Drugs work in the short term but almost all of them are addictive or have strange side effects, after even three days, even if you don’t have an addictive personality! It is not like a psychological addiction based on some broken personality, your body actually starts having side effects like anxiety, insomnia and shaking and that’s just on one pill after three months if you go off of benzodiazepines. If you have been taking them for even a short period of time regularly, you can have a seizure.
Out of all of the addictive substances that are out there there’s only two that you can die from from the withdrawal -one is alcohol and the other from these sleeping pills, benzodiazepines. They are exceedingly dangerous and I write this to dissuade anyone from believing their doctors and believing that that’s the only way if they are having anxiety or insomnia.
However, it wouldn’t have worked with just diet or exercise or yoga or meditation or the supplements. I feel like the stress, combined with the aging process, I really needed this holistic 100% makeover of every facet. I came out of there completely off of that one sleeping pill able to sleep. It wasn’t perfect I was still shaken up for some time. The whole system was like having had battle fatigue or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I sometimes would only sleep about 4-5 hours a night.
However if you had chronic debilitating anxiety & insomnia you are grateful for even for five hours of sleep, that feels great to you. Another thing that I’d like to say that helped me to overcome this anxiety and insomnia was this book called the Effortless Sleep Method and you can download that from Amazon Kindle for under ten dollars. That was a cognitive behavioral book that talked about re-framing your relationship with sleep. Especially if your insomnia has become a sleep phobia and it has become chronic and it is ruining your whole entire life, this is a must-have. This book, my husband said it was pivotal, and one of the biggest contributors to the turning point of my recovery, so I highly recommend that book if you have any insomnia as well.
After I recovered, I wrote to those male doctors, who tried to diagnose a 43-year-old Peri-menopausal woman, with no history of mental illness, with a newfound disorder. I expressed concern about the poor ethics and misjudgement of prescribing a gamut of addictive, toxic and ineffective drugs. I discussed what had happened with the anxiety and insomnia with a group of nurses at Kaiser, and they revealed that *each of them,* at one point from 40-55, had experienced this too, around the same time. It was NORMAL and COMMON, kind of like a second hormonal puberty for women, that all too often gets misdiagnosed as mental illness. Women sadly and consequently don’t get the proper support, treatment and most of all, love and reassurance that what they are going through is temporary.
Recovery is Self Love
So now I have become much more attuned to myself and I do practice my meditation and yoga quite regularly. If I ever feel that I’m starting to get a little bit high strung or anxious or not sleeping well, I listen. Occasionally that tendency will come back because I tend to be a TYPE A person sort of a worry wart. I suspect that lot of moms have that problem but I take that as a friendly sign that my nervous system has reached its maximum capacity to tolerate and process. It usually has to do with emotional stuff like the pain of heartbreak, conflicts with friends or difficulty at work or loss of a loved one, problems with the child having trouble in school etc. Any type of thing that just weighs heavy on a women’s aging nervous system I take that as a sign now to slow down and take a self-care day or two.
I also have found that Tibetan medicine helps. There are ones that you can buy over the counter like Agar 35 which is just basically things like cinnamon and camphor and a few benign herbs that are configured in a nutritive way that calms the nervous system. There aren’t any bad drug side effects so I’ll take some Tibetan medicine with some warm water along with a protein powder called “Alive” which you can get at every grocery store or online. Alive has tons of greens and amino acids and proteins, mushrooms and probiotics all in one. The only problem is that it does use fructose so I’d prefer for it to not have any sugar. I’ve been lobbying the Nature’s Way company to remove the sugar and replace it with Stevia, we will see! Anyway so I’ll create a little care program of slowing down, being in nature, yoga and meditation my life. Tibetan medicine helps and just having a lot of healing, calm conversations with friends and family and then my nervous system will usually recover and go back to its normal state of radiant well-being!
The Takeaway- How to Heal
Anyway, so if you are having trouble with Anxiety & Insomnia, I would first see it is a message that your system is overloaded, usually by stress and unprocessed grief. It is your body’s warning signal to take easy, your friend that actually is there to *prevent* illness from chronic stress.
- Immediately read the book the Effortless Sleep Method.
- Secondly, start a sugar free, high protein and organic vegetable diet
- Get some exercise, anything, gently walking is the best
- Do some very very gentle meditation, light, abdominal breathing breathe very very deep into the below your belly because that grounds the body. When you breathe through the nose you tell the nervous system that everything is right as rain and you can feel a sense of connection with yourself and self-love.
- Run to an alternate Doc, like a DOM/ Acupuncturist, ND, Tibetan Medicine, practitioner~ anyone who understands what a “wind” imbalance is.
Ultimately healing myself came from reconnecting to my own goodness and self-love, and exceeding patience with a woman’s “second puberty.” This couldn’t really have happened from the outside. It was a sense of learning how to self soothe ground myself and live from a solid and wholesome place. The trauma that I experienced from all of this was actually my god-send, and now I have more of an attunement with myself than ever before. Please women friends, we are medieval with our seeming lack of understanding about the process of Peri-menopause. So many sisters are sadly misdiagnosed by these male dominated, money making systems. Be strong, please say no to drugs!
I believe that this experience *prevented* me from having any type of long-term chronic illness. When your body sends you the strong message, it is actually your friend and saying something to you. It is amazing now to have a relationship with my body, mind, spirit and heart and access to a sense of inner warmth that does comes primarily from meditation and yoga practice. No one can take that away from me now, no matter what’s happening in this life. In these trying times with relationships and politics and money and our environment, to have a sense of inner warmth and well-being is the greatest gift that I’ve been given. For that I’m grateful and I feel like life is fresh and every moment is a true gem even if it is poignant and painful, it is great to be a part of it all.