Although I hid it for many, many years, it’s no longer a secret that I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. As a kid, I remember nights where I would lay on the sofa with my head on my dad’s lap when I couldn’t sleep because my head was swimming in a way I couldn’t describe. As a teen, I spent as many as two nights a week vomiting before bed because of nerves. In my twenties, fear of going places for dread of an attack started to set in and take a regular hold.
By my thirties, there were weeks on end where I couldn’t bring my self to go to Wal-mart and going to church meant sitting near the back. Public seating in any location always required an aisle seat where I could have more ‘space and air’. Conversations with others in crowded foyers or at parties often resulted in my ‘smiling and nodding’, pretending things were normal while inside my mind was sinking, struggling to stay afloat.
It was only when I was about thirty that I learned what I struggled with was anxiety. Giving it a name seemed to help, but I still lived in shame and didn’t start sharing with my closest friends about it for another couple of years.
Now, a lot of people know. And I’ve found out I’m not alone.
The healing journey has been a long process for me. For a long time, I struggled with guilt. As a Christian, should God not heal me? Is my faith not strong enough? Maybe I need more exercise… maybe I need less sugar… maybe I need more prayer… maybe I need to attend prayer healing retreats.
All these things helped, but I still wrestled regularly as I tried to control anxiety on my own.
Interestingly enough, anxiety is one of the things that lead to my minimalist transformation. Minimalizing my physical surroundings equals minimalizing anxiety. Simplifying my schedule equals less anxiety.
But anxiety still remains nonetheless.
Finally, I admitted that maybe there was something wrong in my brain and I spoke to my doctor (or rather, listened to her for the first time). I went on medication to try and curb the anxiety.
Now I lived in total shame. I was a failure – I couldn’t do it on my own. Something was ‘wrong’ with me – for real.
That’s what I truly believed.
A few trusted conversations later, I again found that I wasn’t alone.
I can’t believe how many people are on anti-anxiety or depression medication. An abundance of people are living the same way I am – taking one day at a time and using medication to help them get through life. In fact, I recently read that as many as one in five people are on these medications in the US.
Frankly, this saddens me.
Is this living in basic abundance?
I can’t deny that the medication has helped. But it also isn’t a ‘cure’. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed while on anxiety medication (my drug of choice is Cipralex).
- Less Anxiety – My levels have definitely improved. Before, I felt like I was hovering near the edge of a cliff. The slightest thing could set me off and push me over (anxiety-wise or temper-wise). Now, I’ve backed off from the edge. I can tolerate more and I have more patience. In the end, I have less anxiety.
- Less Energy – Ironically, sleep has never been a struggle for me. I never felt tired. Perhaps this was a cause of living with such a high-strung mind, but in the end, I had more energy. Medication may have slowed my brain, but it’s also slowed my body. I’m tired all the time and my sleep is often interrupted by strange dreams.
- More Weight – While I wouldn’t consider myself overweight, I would say I’m on the ‘high end’ of what is normal for my height. In fact, I have gained more than twenty pounds since on my medication. Some of it is because I started eating more sugar again (because now it doesn’t affect me as much) but some of it is because of a lower metabolism. My doctor recently warned me that being on medication like this can cause a consistent weight gain if diet and exercise aren’t closely monitored (oh, goody).
So as you can see, although my life has improved, it’s still not the ‘abundant life’ I know exists.
But I thought this was it. I thought I exhausted all possibilities and this was as good as it would get for me.
Then I had a conversation with a close friend.
She shared how various mental and physical disorders plagued her family and how doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists all failed to solve the problem.
Then a naturopathic doctor suggested, as a last ditch effort, she should remove wheat and gluten from the family’s diet.
One-by-one they are all being healed. Some had symptoms significantly lessen within weeks. All of them are now off medication and working toward rebuilding their lives.
I knew gluten was a problem for those with celiac disease, but anxiety? Could it be true?
She recommended reading two books. The first, Wheat Belly, I’d heard of but kind of shrugged it off as another fad. I wasn’t totally convinced after reading it, but knew I wanted to read the second book, Grain Brain. It is more recent, and more scientific.
Part of me refuses to be convinced, for having tried so many things to get rid of anxiety and watching them fail has caused a lack of hope.
However, after reading story upon story of people who have been cured of ALL KINDS of diseases and problems by cutting wheat out of their diet, I’ve decided to try it.
What have I got to lose?
Could wheat really be the culprit behind my anxiety?
I’m about to find out.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- The wheat we eat today is very different than the wheat our ancestors ate. Although I’m not sure I understand why modifying wheat has made it unbearable for our bodies unlike any other modified food, the books cite evidence that this is true.
- Wheat and gluten are in just about everything I eat. It’s found in way more foods than I ever imagined. Particularly the foods I eat, which leads me to:
- Wheat and gluten have addictive properties. Those whose bodies are sensitive to it also tend to crave it more. Uh oh.
- Going wheat-free scares me. The whole change of food scares me – it’s not just wheat, it’s also other foods that raise your blood sugar levels. And replacing them with good stuff like vegetables and nuts (yuck). Yet:
- Part of me longs to eat more natural. I often think of how people eat in Asia or the Mediterranean and long to have their ‘simple’ diet.
Although I haven’t yet started my ‘wheat-free’ menu, grocery shopping yesterday looked very different.
I was more aware of what I was putting in the cart and picked up a few new things to try. An avocado (yes, I admit – I’ve never bought one before), almond cashew butter, different kinds of lettuce and mushrooms, ground flax seed, and new kinds of cheese to try.
I thought I’d slowly introduce some new foods rather than doing a complete 180 right away. That gives us time to finish off what’s in the cupboards and maybe the kids won’t notice.
The kids were all over me – how come you bought more healthy stuff? What is this new stuff? Why is this in here?
Oops! Oh well – they all loved the salad I made for supper.
I think I’ll plan ahead a bit quicker and switch over sooner. Again, what have I got to lose?
I hope you’ll join me as I post my progress (and failures) over the next few months.