A year ago, I wrote about how anxiety was affecting my daughter and my family. I received wonderful and touching messages about how it resonated with so many people. I would love to be able to say that my daughter, now 17, is back at school full time and is leading a ‘normal teenage’ life but the opposite is true. For most of the last year, we have focused on improving the anxiety (not her anxiety) and she has taken a break from school. Her second attempt at school this year didn’t work out. She desperately wanted it to work because she wanted to learn and make new friends. As a mother, it is heartbreaking to see your child suffer like this but it was taking a toll on my health. This year, I am focusing on myself. If I’m not well, how can I look after my family? As mothers, we need to put ourselves first and sadly, I don’t see this very often in my clinic.
The anxiety rollercoaster at home has forced me to think about my own childhood and adolescence. People have asked me did I have anxiety when I was younger and the answer was always no. Now that I’m familiar to this type of behaviour, I now realize that I did have anxiety in one form or another. The words ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ were never discussed when I was growing up. We were just told to get on with it and not talk about our feelings and emotions. From my 20’s, I noticed something was wrong when, in group situations, I would freeze, go red and have palpitations. Never, ever, did I think it was anxiety. This affected my working life in that I couldn’t speak in meetings. Frustrating and embarrassing. It is only now that I am older, hopefully wiser and run my business that I can’t hide anymore. The thought of public speaking filled me with dread and I would get palpitations just thinking about it. The passion for sharing my knowledge and educating people about health and nutrition far outweighed the negative aspects of public speaking. Getting out of my comfort zone was the best thing that happened and I now absolutely love it. Sure, I still get nervous and there is still room for improvement but to get up in front of a group of strangers and speak is an achievement in itself.
Initially, I didn’t want to share this update. My thoughts included, ‘people are going to think we’re weird’ or ‘how can her daughter not go to school!’ and masses of judgement but you know what, she’s not the only one. Each week, I hear of another adolescent suffering with anxiety, depression and even suicide. Many of them are not going to school either. How did it get to this? Maybe that’s for another blog! In one word – pressure. Masses of extra-curricular activities, homework, exams, tests. Social media, gaming, social isolation, bullying, body image, world events and many other factors make up the big picture. There is huge pressure on our children and teenagers to be ‘perfect’ in every way. These words are based on my opinion but you only have to look at the statistics to see that anxiety and depression are on the rise, particularly in young adults.
As a Nutritionist, I focus on diet, lifestyle, biochemical and genetic imbalances and nutrient deficiencies. For someone who suffers from a mental illness, it can be hard for them to eat healthily. When we feel good and aren’t stressed, we tend to eat healthy foods. If we’ve had a bad day, we tend to reach for the unhealthy food and/or alcohol. For someone with anxiety, this stress is switched on constantly and all they want to do is either not eat at all or eat unhealthy foods. I see this with my daughter and this is why it is so important to assess the person’s lifestyle and environment. It’s not all about diet! My daughter is now trying to find a part time job (stressful in itself). Getting out of the house and being in a different environment will help her immensely. We keep our fingers crossed.
Whole Food Nutrition has changed direction this year and I am proud to say that I now specialize in gut health, mental health and preventative health. The focus is on diet, lifestyle, biochemical and genetic imbalances, toxicity and nutrient deficiencies. My daughter and so many people like her have inspired me to follow the mental health and well-being path.
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