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Getting Back on Track

by Ashley
Published: Last Updated on 2 comments 131 views 8 minutes read

It’s been a while, huh? When I started this blog last year, my intent was to write weekly, but after our European home exchange, I dropped the ball and only wrote a few times between October 1 and the end of 2016.

No, we didn’t go anywhere during those months (except a few short stays at my folks’ house while we AirBNB’d our place), but I have a cache of stories to write. I just wasn’t writing them. The truth is that life was kind of overwhelming during the last eight weeks of 2016. Between our family business being bought, my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis and our unplanned decision to buy a house, a lot happened that gave me excuses to do anything but write — and to not take very good care of myself.

There were way more important things to worry about than writing on my silly blog. My mom, and our family, prepped to battle the C-word; Justin and I battled with banks and loan underwriters to buy our dream house; and, as always, I felt like I was battling my mind and body to give me some peace.

I’ve always been an anxious person. A worry wart. The kid who didn’t want to get in trouble, the one who fretted over following the rules and anything less than an A. My whole life, I’ve worried about people liking me and not disappointing my parents and living up to my own expectations, even the ridiculously high ones that I would never expect my friends to reach.

Excited worry.
Uncertain worry.
Uh oh worry.

I used to worry about insignificant things like clothes matching or dyeing my hair — the reason I never took any style risks or jumped on fashion trends was because I worried I couldn’t pull them off. 16-year-old me would not believe what 32-year-old me leaves the house wearing most days — and that hair! So short, so dark… I could never do that, I used to think.

Yep, left the house wearing this.
My mom, post-chemo.

I’ve learned to let some things go, the surface things, like what people will think of my crazy leggings or if people are offended by my feminist tank top. I don’t worry so much about rule-following (mostly because I don’t like being told what to do) and encourage my friends to be bolder, take more risks, voice their opinions. YOLO, right? So why care too much?

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 2.03.26 PM

That’s not sweat from the heat that messed up my hair…. this is moments after an anxiety attack in Old San Juan. We cut our visit to the old town short, went back to our apartment, and I felt like crap the rest of the day.

But deep down I still fret over everything, especially things that I shouldn’t, things that are way out of my control. And the mild anxiety I started to experience in college, a sense of dread that I never could put my finger on, has only gotten worse over the last decade. And now, 32 years of stress and control issues have taken a toll on my brain and body, manifesting in gastrointestinal distress, fitful sleeping, frequent nightmares, anxiety attacks, drinking too much, feeling tired, lacking motivation and generally just not taking care of myself.

When 2017 began I made a decision: I am tired of feeling like shit all the time. I am tired of letting my body control my day and ruin my plans. I am tired of not being healthy.

2017 is the year I take care of me.

First, I started counseling again, using the ever-convenient and affordable TalkSpace. Second, I found a new GP, one who actually listens to me — and did not rush me as I cried in her exam room for 45 minutes — and changed up my drugs. Third, as my GP and counselor recommended, I found a nutritionist and signed up for a six-month health coaching program with a nutritionist named Ana. We meet every two weeks on Skype and are tackling, together, my health issues – mental and physical, since they are so intrinsically related.

So far, I’ve met with Ana 3 times, plus the initial consult, and already the positive changes I’m seeing are dramatic. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect such positive results so quickly. I told her if things are already this good, that I am ready to follow her on any journey and do whatever she tells me.

I’ve been off of caffeine and coffee for a full month, having switched entirely to a coffee alternative called Dandy blend, that I actually really love. She got me on a better brand of probiotics and had me start taking Vitamin D, fish oil, glutamine and a digestive enzyme that I take with every meal. She’s got me drinking kombucha daily, since fermented foods are so good for gut health, and a daily anti-inflammatory shake. I’m journaling every day in my HealthMinder, tracking my medications and supplements, my physical symptoms and pains, all food & water intake, my mood, weight and sleep. And most dramatically, today I begin a 30-day Whole30/paleo-esque elimination diet: No added sugars, no grains, no booze, no legume, no dairy, no processed foods, no potatoes, and no eggs.

Dandy Blend is definitely better than Teecino.
It only took a week or so to get into the HealthMinder habit
My cabinet of pills and supplements lol
Many of the tools I'm using on this health journey - TalkSpace, Whole30-compliant foods; gut health supplements; books about food; travel memoirs.

Such a dramatic change in eating habits is a challenge I’ve never been motivated enough to undertake, but I’m ready…. of course, there’s the added challenge of traveling for 10 straight days right after beginning this diet. But thank goodness for the internet and blogs and all the people who have done this already; armed with their knowledge and advice, my cabinet of supplements, and the unwavering support of my husband, I’m ready to do this!

I’m ready to get back on track, to be healthier, to no longer let anxiety or my stomach make decisions for me. Anxiety and gut health affect one another so much that you can’t really address one without addressing the other, so I’m glad to have someone helping me tackle the two together, holistically, instead of trying to isolate the issues and treat them individually with drugs. I’m hoping that I’ll eventually nix most of the pharmaceuticals I’ve been prescribed.


Our family travel wall. From top left: honeymoon pix in Hawaii and San Francisco; cat painting bought in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; photo of Justin in Rotterdam on the Euromast tower; a shadowbox with Hawaiian souvenirs; more photos from our honeymoon; photo from the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; photo from St. Tropez, France; window art from Barcelona; cat painting from New Orleans; photos from the Vallarta Zoo; shadow box that Justin’s mom made us with photos from our 6-week Eurotrip.

In our last Skype meeting, Ana asked me what motivates me, what is my driving force? I thought for a few seconds and then told her this: Family and travel. I want my family to be taken care of, financially and health-wise, and I always want us to be able to travel — frequently and widely. I want to go to places that scare me, places that take me far outside my comfort zone. I want to explore the world with my husband, and possible offspring, and not be limited by my mind or body.

There are so many other places we might call home for a month or a day, and I don’t want to be the reason we don’t visit them. Whether it’s hanging with Justin’s family in South Dakota, holding baby jaguars in Mexico, or living in someone else’s house in Holland, home is anywhere that we’re together and I’m going to make sure that I’m always ready to go.

Home is wherever I am with people I love.

How do you handle your anxiety while traveling? What are your best tips for getting through anxiety attacks on the road? Have you done the Whole30 or a similar paleo diet? What tips do you have for following the plan while traveling? 


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