*Note: This post is very long and detailed.*
It’s currently 5 AM. I’m awake not because I chose to wake up early, no no…because I haven’t yet fallen asleep, and not for lack of trying. You see, I started having night-based anxiety and panic attacks about 9 months ago. They started at a time when my entire existence was laser focused on one issue, without breaks, and without variation. Brian and I had chosen to move to France, a choice we made after choosing to move to Spain after choosing to move to Hawaii after choosing to move to California (a series of choices all made and changed over a span of about a year). We hated Arizona with such a fiery passion that I think our sanity was compromised. We craved green, we craved relaxation and adventure, we craved it with such fervor that we made extreme choices without thinking them through.
We initially decided to move to California for 3 reasons. Brian had always wanted to live there, I loved the ocean and greenery, and because of it’s proximity to Arizona (making family visits accessible through a breezy 5 hour drive). After deciding to move, we went on a short road-trip to check out a few areas. We went to Santa Barbara, and the Malibu hills. Both were dry at the time (drought) but felt like paradise. We decided on Santa Barbara and went home to make plans. We started looking at apartments online, and felt like the move was expensive but doable and realistic. At this exact time (winter), we were also craving the company of a dog and made the choice to adopt our sweet and loving puppy Cashew.
Cashew wasn’t an older rescue dog, we got her as a baby from a ranch in Utah (where my family is located) while visiting family. I’m so glad we have her. However, she is and was a lot of work. Raising a puppy isn’t easy, especially in a concrete jungle apartment. She kept us up at night, had accidents, bit, etc, as all puppies do. But she came to exist in an environment already laden with stress about our potential move. Brian was working 12+ hours a day, and we were doing non-stop home research in California. We didn’t take mental breaks and when we were “relaxing” we watched House Hunters and home purchase shows based in California. After fully planning our move, we sat down together one night and questioned why California? If we were moving for greenery and beach access Hawaii would be a much better choice (Brian had lived in Maui before). We both agreed and started a whole new process of endless research.
We chose to move to the island of Kauai (garden island) and watched every House Hunters we could find, every episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter, Hawaii Life, and even Hawaii 5 0 (horrible) to get a feel for the place. We got Cashew her required vaccines, spayed her, and had a rabies blood test sent to Hawaii (required) to prove to the state of Hawaii she was free from the wretched disease. The process of preparing Cashew took 4ish months, and a ton of research. We had to figure out how to fly her, what documents we needed, what time of year she would be able to fly out of Phoenix (planes have temperature requirements for flights with pets and Phoenix is hot), and how much it would all cost. Then we had to find a rental home with a yard (very hard to find an affordable one) and either rent it without having ever seen it, or figure out a pet-friendly temporary home rental for a month while we looked around the island.
One day while watching House Hunters we saw an episode on Spain. A couple bought a beautiful old estate and restored it to it’s former glory. That looked like a heavenly lifestyle so we changed our minds again. We decided the island life would feel too secluded (we’re obsessed with road-trips and going on long drives.) and we’d rather be in Europe and able to explore amazing places. We looked into getting a Visa, reading endless blogs and forums. We looked at rental homes online, and explored the landscape on Google Earth. After doing our insane-person online research, we decided it wasn’t worth leaving Phoenix to end up being in a nearly identical landscape. We thought about where we’d both really want to be. I’d always been in love with the idea of France. We watched more episodes of House Hunters and researched the Visa application process and decided that was it. We had to go to France. It was green, it had the ocean, it had culture like nothing we’d ever experienced, and we would be able to explore all of Europe by train.
We started the Visa application process and started preparing to go. We got Cashew more vaccines and a health certificate. We researched international flights with pets. We looked endlessly at every possible rental home online. Then we looked at them again and again to be sure which one would work for us. Then it was our 7 year anniversary. We had planned a trip to Disney World somewhere amid all the chaos of life. We hadn’t received our Visas or officially applied at the consulate yet (appointments are scheduled 30 days in advance after tons of requirements are met and paperwork filled out) but we were constantly prepping and worrying we’d be denied. We’d also already booked tickets to France, so we were definitely going. The night before we were to leave for Florida, I had my first panic attack. It was fairly mild compared to what would come but it scared me to my core. I had no idea what was happening. Every time I’d try to fall asleep I’d wake with a start that felt like a mini blast of adrenaline. Then I’d start to drift again and the same thing would happen, over and over again. I felt like my neck was going to explode (an insane fear based off an episode of Grey’s I’d just watched and the fact that I could feel my pulse in my neck because of my racing heartbeat). I was horrified I was dying. I was fine. I was just clearly having a panic attack. Early the next morning we headed out for 12 days of our happiest place on Earth.
When we got on the plane, I was terrified. Not only was I always afraid of flying, but I was also now afraid of sleeping. Would I be able to? Would this be my new life? Thankfully I was able to get a little sleep on the plane, and for the next few nights in Disney World. The vacation started out perfectly, I was having the best time (finally after all our stress) and so thankful for our little getaway. On the second night of our vacation Brian proposed, it was the most perfect day of my life. Happiness can’t even come close to describing what I was feeling. Elation isn’t even a strong enough word. We were both thrilled and for a few more nights, all was well. I started thinking about our wedding, and we both decided we wanted to do it in France. On the 6th night of the vacation, I had another panic attack, much stronger than the last. I cried hysterically. I didn’t sleep at all, therefore neither did Brian because I needed him to help me feel ok. This time my panic lasted all through the next day, and intensified at night. At some point I called a doctor, they came to the room and gave me medication to help me relax. He assured me I was ok (that’s really all I needed to hear). I told the doctor I am against medication (I hate in-taking chemicals) and he told me that cognitive behavioral therapy was better anyway but the pills should help me sleep. I took 1/2 a pill, before bed on 2 nights. I didn’t like it and it really didn’t help. The panic continued for the rest of the vacation (I had a bad one in the Hall of Presidents for some reason and felt trapped). I started meditating. When we got home I looked into alternative therapies.
Meditation definitely wasn’t enough for me by itself. I needed something more substantial to help the self-perpetuating cycle of fear of panic (which is fear). My fear of panic was causing panic, I felt like everything was perfect…I was engaged and moving to France, and I didn’t understand the true cause and origin of my original panic (clearly home stresses catching up to me). You can’t give yourself a mental pounding day after day with hypothetical scenarios and planning and just be fine (at least not me, I’m a more spontaneous person than a planner so it takes a lot out of me). hindsight is 20/20. I read a lot online, while the panic continued to consume me. I found a few natural remedies l-theanine (suntheanine version) and inositol powder, lavender essential oil, magnesium malate, cutting out caffeine and sugary drinks, and EFT. Inositol, when my anxiety was at it’s peak, helped me get through my days without imploding. I’d take it in the morning with OJ, and then go do an hour EFT session (aka tapping read more here). I’d feel much better after my EFT session, then I’d take more OJ and Inositol. Later I added in the l-theanine which I liked more than the inositol, and took that 3-4 times a day, while continuing to do EFT. During this time we got rid of or stored everything we owned, and we moved to France, all while planning a crazy wedding at a chateau (we even booked the venue).
We got to France (cancelled all wedding plans because omg we did not need to be thinking about that) and headed to our rental home. It ended up not being what we expected (that’s what happens when you book a place without seeing it in person). The area felt dangerous and needless to say we again were homeless without a plan by choice. We hopped from hotel to hotel with our dog exploring and trying to figure out what to do. During this time I was strangely doing much better (I think because Brian was having a hard time and I needed to be better for him so we weren’t both falling apart). We started having a little wine before bed and it was a Godsend. We slept like babies. We headed back to the US to recoup and figure things out, the night before our flight the attacks on Paris occurred, we were reaffirmed in our decision to leave and come back more prepared and without a dog.
We arrived in the US and stayed in New York for a couple nights, Cashew had diarrhea which was great in a hotel. Then we headed out to Phoenix (after making a stop at a vet for a new health certificate). We then lived with Brian’s dad for a few days before we decided to head out on a road-trip across California to see if we again would want to live there. That trip morphed from a trip across California to a trip across the US. We went everywhere from California to Seattle, then all the way to Texas. Throughout the trip I’d have intermittent flashes of anxiety (less than panic but still not great). l-theanine, EFT, and night-wine got me through. We decided none of the places we visited were for us and headed back to live with Brian’s dad. We stayed there for a few weeks and my anxiety was lowered to only occurring at night. I felt much much better with the light use of l-theanine and magnesium during the day and EFT at night. After staying with Brian’s dad we moved in with Brian’s sister. There my anxiety became nearly non-existent or like a shadow of it’s former glory. I was happy, we started looking into buying in the hellscape of AZ and even made an offer on a home. We quickly realized that just because France and our road-trip didn’t work out, didn’t mean we should settle somewhere we hated. We took a trip to North Carolina and fell in love.
North Carolina was everything we’d been looking for the whole time. Green and lush with rural and city life both available. It felt like home the instant we stepped off the plane. We planned a move and packed up our stuff. When we arrived after a grueling 30 hour road-trip across the South (beautiful btw) we were pleasantly surprised by the home we’d chosen. We started going on walks, exploring, and going on dates like movies (we hadn’t really done that in years) and life felt magical again. No panic attacks. Then we read about the area where we live and found that a Nuclear power plant is less than 10 miles away and is dumping toxic radiation and ash into Lake Norman (which we love and is our water source). We felt like we couldn’t buy a home in the area we love (and we’re ready to buy). The area we’d moved to be in. We were devastated. Are devastated. We began researching new areas in North Carolina, just the way we had in France or any other place we moved to. Relentless home research, and driving. Fun stopped. Cue tonight’s panic attack. Classic style, just as I fall asleep I get adrenaline bursts.
Through everything I’m glad that I now know what’s happening now, when I have panic attacks and why. I can see the cause and I can see the solution. I can’t let research (Brian’s a major researcher) overtake my life because for me it’s not healthy or something I’m capable of doing. I can’t let fear of panic rule my world again. I can take control. Writing this for me was very therapeutic (though I’m sure it’s boring as hell for you haha). I did an EFT session and calmed down. I am letting my body decide when it’s ready to sleep sans night-wine and I’m not letting my anxiety overwhelm me. I’m also planning on starting a fitness regime that should help cut back on stress. If you are currently suffering from anxiety, know that it can and will get better. Find the things that work for you, and if it’s medication that’s totally cool. Don’t overwhelm yourself with known stressors and take time to sit and evaluate the cause of your anxiety. EFT for me was the perfect way to do that. When I’d start, things would pop into my head that I’d need to tap away and I didn’t realize were bothering me.
I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend! If you have anything that helps you with your anxiety, please let me know! I love to hear new suggestions.