A few months ago I read an article over at Psychology Today called: Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill that purported that Magnesium Citrate could help some people with their anxiety. I’m all for trying natural means, so I bought some Magnesium and gave it a try.
People, IT WORKS!! Holy shit, it actually works!
It works almost as well as a regular anti-depressants (although maybe I’ll find over time that it works better than traditional drugs and even better it lacks all the nasty side effects of anti-depressants) and it certainly has taken a whole hell of a lot of edge off my anxiety and I can finally sleep again which has been heaven and so essential to my daily functioning.
What’s strange is that perhaps I’ve spent my entire life deficient in this nutrient and that’s what caused a lot of my physical anxiety symptoms! Surprisingly magnesium is also helping with my racing/obsessive/worry thoughts as well. It’s really quite amazing. I’m further from my anxiety. Granted I still have my big trigger situations which can cause me to panic, however I’m starting off from this amazingly better place where I don’t “feel” physically or mentally panicked!
It used to be that I could feel really panicked and on edge for days. There were days I would be so panicked, I couldn’t even walk into the grocery store and would sit in my car thoughts racing, feeling physically horrible and sick. There were days I didn’t want to leave the house and every moment was filled with a quivering terrified fear that lived deep within my body. A feeling I couldn’t eradicate! And thoughts I could not turn off that would race until I couldn’t think anything else. But that hasn’t happened AT ALL since I’ve been taking magnesium. It’s like suddenly my body is better, physically and mentally.
I even went to dinner the other night with my friends. I didn’t panic. I had a few thoughts of “what-if?” and a few moments where I wondered if I’d be okay, which seemed to be remnants of anticipatory anxiety, but for the most part I was great. And by great I mean that my body didn’t panic! My mind didn’t panic! I rationally thought, oh hmmm…I guess I could panic? But there were no racing thoughts or physical symptoms to go along with it. I found myself getting involved in the conversation even while we had to wait for a table for more than 20 minutes. It was crazy.
The most amazing thing about this is that it changes, permanently, how I feel about how we treat mental illness today. I’ve been told, time and again, that the only way to truly solve my anxiety is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A therapy that tackles your thoughts and your avoidance patterns and one that I never really found effective. I was told that if I could just control my thinking and stop avoiding the things that give me anxiety that I’d be cured. All you need to do is face your fears!
But for some reason, when I faced my fears (which I have done countless times over my lifetime) I still have panic attacks and anxiety. There was never an instance where I did something so many times that the fear suddenly evaporated and I was no longer afraid. And this is what they tell you! They say…you’ll find that the “bad” thing doesn’t happen and over time you’ll learn to not be afraid of the situation.
Nope!! In my racing thoughts and quivering body, I was still afraid EVERY SINGLE TIME because my body was predisposed to feel that way on that particular day. In fact it seems silly to think that by forcing yourself to do the thing you fear, that eventually your fears will go away when your anxiety is rooted in your biological makeup. To me, as someone with anxiety, that is not logical. Every time I am faced with something I fear, I am afraid! And yes, many times the feared outcome doesn’t happen, but that doesn’t change anything. I am still afraid!! I’m right there, on the precipice of full blown panic, all the physical and mental symptoms.
Take for example, driving in the car. Over my life time I’ve had some days where driving in the car, even by myself, was a terrifying experience. Some days the thought of the 45 minute commute would have me quivering in terrified fear, gripping the wheel and desperately trying to calm my racing thoughts and very sick stomach. Every second was a fight to control my symptoms, both physical and mental through self-talk and relaxation techniques. However, the weird thing? I don’t feel this way every day! And I’ve been driving to work every day for more than 10 years.
So one would think, according to CBT that over time my anxiety would go away because the “feared” things I built up in my mind didn’t happen. BUT the most feared thing that happened on those car rides? THE ANXIETY ITSELF THAT LIVES WITHIN MY BODY! THAT I COULDN’T SEEM TO CONTROL NO MATTER WHAT I DID! I was terrified of feeling that way! And you know what? It was intermittent, probably because of this nutrient deficiency! Some days I felt okay, physically, other days I didn’t and I panicked. It had nothing to do with my thoughts or avoidance patterns and everything to do with my biology. It makes so much sense!
Another thing about CBT is that the fact that this therapy didn’t work became something that made me feel bad about myself. I believed I was not dedicated enough, not strong enough, not willing enough and so I would never be cured. So not only do I suffer from my anxiety and its effects, but I was also made to feel guilty that this “proven” therapy didn’t work for me because of ME. I was made to feel like less of a person.
Now I’m slowly coming to realize that this “gold standard” of mental health wellness might not work for my anxiety or any anxiety. I recently learned about some new research on anxiety through Joseph LeDoux which started me in the right direction by showing that we may not cognitively have control over our anxiety. Our anxiety may start without our awareness, behind the scenes. I.E. our brains, subconsciously, have already started the panic sequence and we cannot THINK our way out of it because it started BEFORE the thinking. Additionally, the fact that Magnesium Citrate helps me creates a huge question mark in my mind. Why does taking magnesium make my brain quiet? Why do I ruminate less? Why are my obsessive worry thoughts suddenly gone? Why does my body feel better and less anxious? Why am I so much further from panicking on a regular basis?
The only therapy method I’ve found even remotely useful in panic situations has been the acceptance method, which has taken me out of the fight for control of my body and into an acceptance mode where I no longer try to stop the anxiety. I try to realize that everyone experiences anxiety at one time or another. Otherwise, nothing has worked. Facing my fears has not worked. My anxiety is still there in a mind that obsesses and races. How can I make that stop? It’s there in my body’s reaction. How can I stop that?
What all of this leads me to believe is that something is wrong with my body and my subconscious mind. Something that has been made better with Magnesium Citrate. Why? I don’t know. All I know is that my predisposition to panic has been reduced. I don’t want to panic because my mind/body connection has been rewired somehow and now I am easily distracted from the obsessive thoughts that typically pull me into a panic attack and the bodily sensations that would typically push me over the edge are no longer there. I am a calm sea, where once I was a turbulent storm filled ocean.
I don’t know how it works or why, all I know is that my anxiety is NOT NECESSARILY MY FAULT and I am not a lesser person because CBT didn’t work. Facing my fears and changing my thinking WOULD NOT WORK without Magnesium! Think about it…all the thought changing and pushing myself to confront my fears would just feed into the bodily feelings and obsessive thoughts that are already there causing everything to get worse! It’s really amazing the difference I feel now in my thinking patterns. I don’t obsess!!! And I didn’t have to do a thing…I took a vitamin and it mitigated a wiring issue in my head. Now the only thing left of my anxiety is the vestiges of years of trying to appear normal.
These vestiges are my learned coping methods that I’ve held on to for years and years. They are part of who I am and these fears I hold are not necessarily illogical, so I’m not sure how successful I’ll be at changing them. They say that by 30 you are set in your ways of thinking and that changing yourself, say your personality, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses is not going to happen. Well, I’ve spent my entire life (more than 20 years) coping with an anxious mind and racing obsessive thoughts. I’ve learned a few coping methods and some legitimate social anxieties along the way and just because my thoughts no longer race and my body no longer feels jittery and on edge doesn’t mean that all the years of training go away. It’s still there.
But that’s okay and I think I can deal with it because at least I know that I’m not a failure for not being able to tackle my anxiety! How can you tackle something that’s not caused by your thinking alone! You can’t!! You can’t “think” yourself out of your anxiety. You can’t “confront your fears” and escape your anxiety. Because your anxiety isn’t all those external things, not really. It’s inside YOU. It’s the way your mind functions and the way your body feels. Things that you CANNOT CONTROL. So no matter how hard you try to tackle it, you’ll only get so far. You are slapping a band aid on an infected wound and calling it good. It’s not good.
And hey, we might not have all the answers for every mental illness out there, but I’ll bet we’ll find that each one has a similar issue at its core. It’s easy for someone outside the mental illness to say, you can do XYZ to retrain your thoughts, but as the person living inside them, it’s not easy! It may not even be possible! So stop adding insult to injury! I can tell you right now that no amount of retraining my thoughts was going to stop the trainwreck that my thoughts were before I started taking Magnesium. My thought frequency and train of thought were out of control. They were so out of hand that it would have taken a super human effort to get them under control. Effort that no normal human could sustain long term.
Don’t get me wrong, therapy has its place and has been helpful to me in the past. It can help you work through irrational thoughts, emotional upheavals or long held beliefs that may not be right about yourself or others. However, I’m rethinking CBT and why mental illnesses like anxiety happen. I’m really starting to think its biological. It’s the hardware, NOT the software. My programs work just fine, however the PC (or Mac, man you people are cranky) has a few faulty wires. Put in a patch and boom…we’re cooking with gas!
Wait…guess you Mac people are probably cranky now that I indicated that you might have faulty wires on your Apple product. Fine…my mind is like a dodgy PC and not your pristine beautiful Apple machine. Happy now?! Sheesh.