A dirty word. It conjures up pictures of “emotionally weak” individuals who just need to “toughen up” and “stop thinking so much”. If only it were that simple.
My journey with anxiety started as a young child. Life always seemed scary. The hugs and kisses and sweet whispers were rare and the void was filled with harsh words and icy silence. Despite the difficulties, I had a deep knowing that my life had a significant purpose. The turbulence in my home life escalated when I was 17, causing me to move in with my grandparents. I then moved from family to family, renting out rooms. I grew up sooner than any child should have to, and I learned to keep myself safe.
It’s hard to write about the most intimate details of your pain. But don’t worry, the story doesn’t end there.
I began to heal. The Lord took me under his fatherly wing and showed me what love felt like. I began to trust him with myself, my pain, and my future. I met an amazing man who made me his bride an started to create the home life I always dreamed of having as a little girl.
But the anxiety persisted.
Regardless of what I did, there was always an underlying sense of despair. The buzz of anxiety kept me hyper-alert and utterly exhausted. I was always dizzy and felt on the verge of passing out at any moment. I constantly struggled with heart palpitations and would constantly feel my heart skipping beats. I began to get cystic acne all over my chin and neck as well as not being able to gain weight. I would get compliments on my gaunt frame, all the while wondering why I could eat half the kitchen and still feel malnourished. I was always exhausted and felt like a shell of myself.
My search for healing became physical, as I had exhausted all spiritual avenues. I went to my doctor, listing off my symptoms and receiving blank stares and birth control prescriptions. My health wasn’t improving, and I felt more hopeless (and anxious) every day.
I started searching for alternative solutions. I wanted answers but was afraid to admit how low and helpless I had become. I stumbled on Revolutions Naturopathic, a clinic in the next city over. I didn’t know what to expect and had never experimented with natural medicine. The initial appointment cost of $300 seemed completely absurd when we were planning and paying for an upcoming wedding. But desperation won me over.
My first appointment was terrible. I remember trying not to pass out sitting in the chair across from my new doctor, feeling exhausted and anxiously wired all at once. She ordered smattering of in depth blood tests and we waited for results. Little did I know that this appointment would drastically change the course of my life.
The results were in. My doctor called me back into her office, looking shocked. “I don’t know how no one caught this…or why your regular doctor didn’t ask for blood tests. But you are dangerously anemic and have a double MTHFR gene mutation.” The words started to blend together and all I felt welling up within me was an overwhelming sense of hope. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t dying. There was something wrong with me and it had a name.
What was MTHFR? What did it mean?
MTHFR is an enzyme necessary for an important metabolic process called methylation. It is this process that converts folate and folic acid from food and supplements into an active form the body can use. A genetic mutation can inhibit its function. We have two genes that work to convert folate into it’s usable form in the body. Both of mine were broken, causing little to no folate absorption within my body.
No big, right? Unfortunately, folate is used for multiple important functions within the body and without it, the individual will suffer greatly…
- Weight Loss
- Hormone Imbalance (seen with the hormonal acne)
- Fertility problems
- Mood changes
- Heart palpitations
- Eventually leading to symptoms of bipolar and schizophrenia
The scariest part about MTHFR and my folate deficiency was it’s effect on mental illness. When your MTHFR genes are working properly, folate is turned into methionine. The body then uses methionine to make proteins and other important compounds, including neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine). These brain chemicals are essential for a number of aspects of mental health; thus, when this process is impaired, it can increase the likelihood of serious mental health issues.
It was all so much to take in. I remember Googling “MTHFR” like crazy as I walked out of that appointment, holding my new life changing vitamins in the other hand.
The wildest part is that for some people, vitamins can completely reverse most or all of the symptoms listed above. If you go around the broken MTHFR genes and instead supplement with methylated folate (the already active form), it’s as if you have no mutation at all.
All my life suffering from severe physical and mental ailments, and all I really needed was a little vitamin.
As I began to nourish my body with the folate that it needed, the symptoms above began to fade. The dizziness left first, followed by the heart palpitations and fatigue. These vitamins gave me another chance at life.
I still take them daily and it has been three years. There have been a few times where I forgot them on a trip, and I could immediately feel a decline in my mood and mental health within 48 hours. I’m still so in awe that such a small mutation can wreak such havoc in your brain and body.
I still struggle with anxiety from time to time, but I feel like I’ve found a huge piece of the puzzle.
I’ve realized that I am easily overstimulated and a true HSP. I feel things deeply, and that’s okay. I get overwhelmed and have to run back into the arms of love (like a lot) and that’s okay too.
The MTHFR mutation makes your body more prone to stress and anxiety and less efficient at detoxing, therefore your body can become easily overwhelmed by stress, toxins, alcohol, and processed foods. I try to include lots of detox remedies to gently help my body – such as massage, exercise, essential oils, magnesium powder, herbal teas, and eating lots of vegetables. I try to keep my stress under control as it can affect my body negatively, causing anxiety and brain fog from the lack of extra, free flowing folate.
But I will take that over the old me any day. I am finally free and living a full life.
Just me and my vitamins, taking on the world.
// Now let me clarify that I am not a doctor and I am not trying to treat or diagnose anyone. I also realize there are many causes and types of depression and anxiety. Whether it is a vitamin, a pharmaceutical, a prayer, or a yoga retreat that helps you…I wholeheartedly support it! This is my personal journey and I hope sharing it will help someone else. //
Be on the lookout for an upcoming, “Best Supplements for Anxiety” article!)