About five years ago, I took Yaz birth control for about five months. It caused several health issues, including debilitating anxiety. I still get lots of comments on the blog posts that I wrote about how I dealt with my “Yaz withdrawal.” The majority of the questions I get are about anxiety. This blog post started out as an email response to two readers who were asking those questions.
My anxiety was how I really measured whether I felt “recovered” or not, as the anxious feelings, tight chest, and shortness of breath was really the thing that disrupted my life the most. And yes, anxiety caused related things, including loss of appetite, IBS, and insomnia. I also struggled for a long time with feelings similar to morning sickness – If I woke up too early or too fast, I would feel nauseous until the afternoon.
It took nearly four years to feel like my body is completely back to normal, but I felt 80% better after the first year. I had been on various types of birth control for about 15 years, so my hormones really had no idea how to regulate themselves. Everyone is different in how they handle things, but for me, a big part of battling the anxiety was positive self talk. I gave myself a lot of private pep talks – “You’re not going to be like this forever. You will learn to overcome these feelings. Stay calm and focused and move through the day one step at a time. Go to sleep, rest, tomorrow is a new day that will be one step closer to better.” Things like that that helped me to not feel powerless against what was happening to me.
Other things that helped me with anxiety:
- Keeping a schedule – I typically live a crazy hectic life, but in the early parts of Yaz recovery, I set a very basic, bare bones schedule for my day and I stuck to it as often as possible. I also made sure I had at least one weekend day of “nothing” to let my mind rest. Anxiety makes everyday things feel exhausting, but once your brain gets trained to know what to expect, hopefully your anxiety will go down.
- Meditation – I had never done anything related to meditation up until a couple years ago. I read a book called 10% Happier. It is written by a national news anchor who had a panic attack while live on the air and then started meditating as a way to manage his anxiety. It piqued my interest, and I started using an app called Headspace to try meditating. I really like it – it has helped me learn how to quiet my mind when things get crazy, take deep breaths when my chest gets tight, and just generally take a step back and relax. Headspace is free to try – you get a 10 day set of 10 minute meditations that introduce you to the practice if you’re interested.
- Colon Cleanse? – I think I mentioned in one of my yaz-related blog posts that I did one of those over the counter, herb based colon cleanse (in pill form). I think it really did help with the IBS issues and also seemed to help with anxiety. I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so maybe it was psychosomatic, but it really seemed to help.
- Practice Thankfulness – One way I stayed positive was to try to keep focused on all the great things in my life. For me, that meant making different themed lists. I have friends who do a Blessings or Give Thanks journal each night before bed. This also gave me fodder for those positive self talk sessions I mentioned above.
- Vitamin C – I did some research on cortisol, the stress hormone, and found that there are higher levels of it in the body in the morning, which I felt explained my difficulty in functioning in the AM. Vitamin C apparently eats cortisol, so I started eating a grapefruit every night before bed. It definitely helped me feel better in the morning.
- Exercise – I mention this last because if you are like me, it probably sounds like the last thing in the world you want to do in your current state. Everyone tried to get me to exercise when my anxiety was bad, and there was just no way that I could find the energy to do it. However, as my anxiety started to improve on its own, I was able to add exercise to my schedule, and I feel that it definitely sped up the recovery process. I saw a t-shirt once that said, “I run to burn off the crazy.” I still kick myself for not buying it. So, even if it’s just streaming a short yoga routine off of YouTube (Check out Yoga with Adrienne) or walking around the block at lunch every day, try to do something, and build on it as your energy allows. I still have to work at this – I did a different workout every day in January as a way to push myself to try new things and stay motivated to exercise. Again, just try to find something that works for you and build off of it.
If you are struggling with anxiety, I hope at least one of these things will help. Know that you are not alone. Unfortunately there are thousands of people out there going through what you are going through. Today I can say that I have normal levels of anxiety – I feel anxious in situations that should make me feel anxious, and not otherwise. I think that is another important part of dealing with anxiety – recognizing that anxiety is a valid emotion and that you just need to have the power to control it.