How I Got Over My Anxiety, Part 1: Deciding to Change.

People often ask me, “Cameron, how did you get over your anxiety?” And I laugh and say, “Who’s Cameron?” then float away on a beam of light. But that doesn’t seem to help. So now I’ll answer the question. In several parts. This is Part One.

I grew up in an anxious family. I probably didn’t notice then, because I was so focused on me that I never noticed anything. I was alone with my brain, and we weren’t getting along.

My Dad was numb and detached, my Mom was high strung and banged pots and pans, and my brother lashed out at everything; all just ways of coping.

I was shy and quiet and didn’t play sports until I’d watched the other kids long enough to figure out how to do it. Afraid to fail and look foolish.

One day on the way to school, I threw up in the park. I went home, assuming I was sick. When I got there my Dad said, “What’re you doing?” “I’m home sick because I threw up.” He replied, “Go to school. Throwing up is a part of life.”

Oh man, was he right. As I got older I got more anxious, and it started to affect me physically. I was always very skinny and very pale. But now I started to throw up a lot. It got to the point where even the thought of leaving the house would cause me to throw up.

If my friends actually did manage to get me to go to a party, one of them would graciously walk with me down the street while I threw up in a field or back alley before entering the house party. Only to get drunk to the point of blackout to not have to deal with anything. Yeah, I was pretty cool. (pops up collar)

I tell you all this because being sick became something I got used to. It was my new normal. I would cough all the time, the cough being a set-up to the vomits. I felt sick to my stomach pretty much all the time. But to me, my friends and family, it was just who I was. “That’s what Cameron’s like.” End of story.

STEP 1A: Realizing there’s a problem.

When I met Sally I was very sick. I spent most of our first date in the bathroom. She didn’t know why. I didn’t bring it up. Until the second date, when I threw up in front of her. She must’ve known right away that this one’s a keeper. (Puking’s so hawt right now.)

What she said to me next, though probably obvious to everyone else, blew my mind: “You don’t have to be like this.” You mean being sick all the time isn’t normal? Why didn’t anyone say anything?! I probably have an ulcer or something. Let’s fix this shit.

Shout out to the old Canadian Heritage Moments.

Step 1B: Deciding to change.

We spent the next year or so visiting doctors to find out what was wrong with my stomach. X-rays, ultrasound, camera down my throat, prescription for Propulsid (later taken off the market for causing internal hemorrhaging – not sure I would’ve noticed) and so forth. Eventually they gave up and said nothing’s wrong with me. Oh cool. I’ll just go home and vomit in celebration.

We also changed my diet (became vegan), cut out the “toxic” people in my life (wasn’t overly loving my ex-girlfriend or Mom at the time), tried naturopathy (drops in water, I called “placebos”), homeopathy (little pellets, “Placebo 2: The Placebinating), acupuncture (I don’t wanna bash alternative medicine, but for me it was um… Placebo 3: Needle’s Revenge), and any other thing we could think of.

This may all seem stupid now, but at the time I knew nothing about the mind/body connection. I had no idea that the mind could actually make the body sick, just by… making it sick. Much like the doctors, I was looking for the physical problem.

I thought vomiting had to be caused by something wrong with my stomach. Coughing had to be a physical problem with my throat and/or chest. My constant need to pee, running nose, stomach cramps, night sweats, facial eczema, and all my other physical symptoms were strictly physical…right?

Eventually, one of my doctors had the gall to say, “Maybe it’s psychological.” What? Oh, so I’m the problem? Why, because you guys can’t seem to find the real problem? Fuck you. Also, why didn’t you bring this up sooner?

It was a tough hit. Knowing all this time I’d been doing this to myself.

So say for a second that how I think is the problem. Now what? Does knowing I’m the problem make the problem go away? It didn’t for me. In fact, this was really just the start of the journey. Which I’ll tell you more about in Part 2.

But to summarize Part 1: 75-90% of all doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, gastrointestinal problems (IBS, heartburn, ulcers), psoriasis, and more have all been scientifically linked to stress and anxiety. So if you have a chronic sickness, be open to the benefits of addressing it from the psychological side.

To quote the love of my life, “You don’t have to be like this.”

And now on to Part 2.

Click to see the TED Talk.

Click to see the TED Talk.

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13 Comments on “How I Got Over My Anxiety, Part 1: Deciding to Change.

  1. Great to finally read the whole dirty saga, Cam. Your story is so interesting because of it’s extremity and the distance you’ve traveled to get to where you are now is incredible. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I just wrote an article about how amazing your brain is and what you can overcome with mind over matter. It is amazing how much you can overcome and be for the better with the right state of mind…even if you aren’t in one in the first place. Great article!

    • Hey Sarah! Just noticed I never replied to your comment. Vomit buddies!

  3. I am super excited about this sort of thing right now. Like, from what I imagine to be an academic perspective, and also from a human perspective. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how humour fits in with the stories that you tell yourself that either make you flip the fuck out or not. Maybe a thing to talk about sometime!
    Anyway, looking forward to Part 2: the Changenating.

    • Yeah, I think humour helps us from making everything so serious and important and needs to be perfect and all that crap.

  4. I also anxiety-vomited on my “significant other.” I think it brought us closer together, tbh. The only true test of love.

  5. Pingback: How Cameron Got Over His Anxiety (And So Can You!) | People and Chairs

    • Hey Madison! Yeah, I’d say the face redness I used to get only shows up now when I’m stressed. Same with colds. I pretty much assume everything’s psychological these days, but there’s probably a happy medium.

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