Leading a Less Anxious Life

Sarah Petruno

Between the ages of 17 and 27, I was diagnosed and treated for the symptoms that are classified as belonging to 4 different mental illnesses:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

The Anxiety was my biggest issue. It was debilitating, and all consuming. For years, medication after combinations of medications barely touched it and therapy both did little to take the edge off.

I was volatile. I was angry. I would be set off into an irritable rage with no clear trigger. I couldn’t leave the house, and if I did, I experienced near constant panic and anxiety over if and how I was being judged, perceived, and examined by others. I felt paranoid, like every action I took was being scrutinized by someone. I didn’t feel good enough to do anything – I constantly felt inadequate as a romantic partner, as a friend, as an employee, and as a student.

On top of that, my dad was dying from a torturously slow, yet rapid, spiral into alcoholism. I knew he would die, I just didn’t know when.

I worked 2-3 jobs to keep myself in college while my dad slowly died, and I was constantly angry and resentful at my friends who I thought didn’t have it as hard as I did.

As I got older, the anxiety symptoms got worse and largely untreatable. I’d get myself into hiccuping and burping fits, from the anxiety, that would last DAYS and no doctor knew what to do to treat it. No doctor in the area would prescribe Xanax at the time, due to the high addiction rate where we lived, so that was out of the question. Which meant I had to live with it. The hiccuping and burping, and fear of being judged by it and not being able to stop it made the anxiety WORSE, and on it went. Days upon days of non-stop anxiety.

I experienced panic attacks on a regular basis, and when asked by a psychiatrist, I’d rate my baseline, medicated level of anxiety as an 8 out of 10. EIGHT OUT OF TEN. While medicated. I couldn’t handle changes, surprises, or anytime something altered from the plan I’d created in my head – it led to a meltdown.

I was unpleasant to be around, hard to love, and an all around grumpy, unpredictable, judgmental bitch – that’s how I’d classify myself back then.

As a coping mechanism, to cover my own pain and take the edge off, I judged and laughed at other people for my own amusement. Exactly what I feared was happening to me. {cringe}

I’d seen so many therapists, with no help, that I’d long given up on the idea that I could be helped.

I gave up. Stopped seeking treatment beyond the medication that was barely working.

Then, one day on my way home from work in Southern California bumper-to-bumper rush hour, I rear ended someone.

It was a minor accident, with no damage to their car and only damage to mine, but the psychological damage created a situation so that I could no longer drive without experiencing a full-blown panic attack.

I could no longer take myself to work.

I tried, for a while, to live a normal life.

But it became unbearable and I’d reached my breaking point.

I spoke to my general physician at the time and agreed to be an anxiety case study for the teaching hospital.

Being a guinea pig meant that 2-month wait would be bumped up to a week wait to see a therapist.

My initial session came, I was observed while I spilled my heart and soul out to the therapist, and from that moment, I began a year-long process of healing.

Healing from the emotional pains of my childhood, the pressure to be the perfect child, and the traumatic death of my father at age 21.

At the end of the year, my anxious symptoms were mostly gone, and I was ready to wean off medication.

That was about 10 years ago.

Leading a less anxious life. Me, before, while I struggled with anxiety. 
Leading a less anxious life. Me, now, after anxiety. 

Today, my life is completely different.

I am no longer treated, medicated, or diagnosed with any of those disorders. I don’t see a therapist or a psychiatrist, and my daily anxiety level is near 0.

I get worried and anxious over stressful life events, just like every person, but it’s not unmanageable and I can easily shift myself out of that state – which is nowhere near level 8/10 to begin with.

I can leave the house without becoming obsessed about being scrutinized, judged, or examined.

I’m far more compassionate, non-judgemental, and understanding of others.

I don’t make fun of others for fun, in fact, when I hear it happening, I talk people out of it and explain why and how we can be more understanding and compassionate.

I left a career in academia that made me miserable, and launched a now thriving business in helping other people do what I did – heal themselves by releasing pain.

Complete chaos can be happening around me, plans can unravel, and messes can be everywhere – and it rarely makes me anxious. I can shrug things off with ease most of the time. I am chill AF compared to old me.

My moods are level, even, and stable. I rarely get angry or irritable, compared to old me.

The difference is night and day.

This is me before.

And this is me now.

To achieve it, I had to heal long stored away pain, traumas, feelings of pressure and the need to succeed, and most importantly, I FORGAVE. I had to forgive my dad for his rage as a parent, his death from alcoholism, and I had to forgive, and release, myself for not living up to what other people wanted of me.

When I healed that, the anxiety healed itself.



Want to learn how I did it? Join us for The Spirit of Anxiety Seminar

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Top Photo Credit: Amanda Linette Meder
Hamsa Tunic: Sivana Spirit (affiliate link)

Last Updated: October 13, 2016