Updated: Dec 11, 2019
When I started school at Orange Coast College, I noticed strange emotional and physical reactions were happening to me while sitting in class. I would be fine one moment, but the second the door to the room shut, noise settled, or I was called upon in class, I would feel complete panic. Why though? It wasn't an emergency and nothing bad was happening, so why was I freaking out? I didn't know where it was coming from, let alone how to control it. More than that, I didn't identify it as mental or emotional because all of the symptoms felt physical. And once it started, I knew that there was a possibility that the feelings could come back and just that thought alone would send me into a spiral.
I now know that these were symptoms of anxiety.
My hands would start sweating, I couldn't focus on what was going on around me, my legs became cemented to the ground, my stomach would start growling, the room began to spin, my breath became short and gasping. I felt the tears coming. I thought to myself - 'Something is terribly wrong with my body and I'm about to cause a huge scene and it is going to be so embarrassing'. Without a second thought, I would grab my stuff (probably left behind a pen or two) and would sprint the hell out of there.
Wow - fresh air never felt so good on my face. As I ran from the bad place that made me feel so terrible, I felt better and better.
I would feel okay after talking to my Mom who would calm me down and tell me it was alright. We would later laugh about how awkward I must look. My mom would tease me as the 'runaway student' to lighten the situation. I would later email professors and make up an excuse that there was some sort of 'emergency'. I never felt comfortable sharing what really happened and I didn't have a way to even label what was going on. If I didn't understand it, how could they? I decided to put myself into therapy and did weekly sessions for a few months, but wasn't noticing a difference. I also was never validated with an anxiety diagnosis, which made the issue remain confusing and unpredictable.
After my time at Orange Coast College, I transferred to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Unfortunately during this time, my parents announced their divorce during the college application process, finances were up in the air and so was my living situation. Luckily, when I received my acceptance to LMU I found out that I had a full-ride scholarship. I knew it was the Universe pushing me to go for it. I felt so much gratitude and happiness, and I was lucky enough to have family, friends and my boyfriend rallying behind me to support me along the way. However, I also felt an enormous amount of pressure. Unbelievable pressure. Obviously - my anxiety exploded.
When I started at Loyola Marymount University, I was so proud. But within the first class, I felt the panic starting. I thought, 'Nooo. Not now. Please no.' But anxiety doesn't care. In fact, it tends to sneak in when you don't want it to the most! Needless to say, my first year at LMU was very difficult. There were plenty of classes I ran out of and presentations I ditched. I would cry to my boyfriend that I didn't deserve to be there, that they were definitely going to kick me out. I felt like I was the only one in my classes feeling this way.
Even with everything going on, I started a part-time internship. College always stresses the importance of internships and there is some voice telling college students that if you have less than three internships on your résumé, you will never get a job. With so much going on in my family and with my struggles in class, I felt I needed to get started in my career to support myself if everything crumbles. I wanted to feel a sense of control. So I started an internship at a Television Production Company and sure enough, my anxiety symptoms continued there. Looking back, I feel sad that I couldn't enjoy that experience more because it was such an amazing opportunity. My boss was a caring friend and my colleagues were kind and helpful. I just had anxiety and anxiety never makes sense.
Meanwhile, I was also trying to gain a semblance of control with my family. After school I was reconfiguring our family phone plan, setting up our new family health insurance and nurturing my own feelings about the divorce. Between school, my internship and my family - my anxiety was at an all time high. I knew it was time to reach out for help.
Luckily, I had already found my current doctor. He had been helping me for a few years now with homeopathic remedies. He was the only doctor that believed me when I shared my symptoms and had always found a way to relieve them. I trusted him completely and still do. While he began troubleshooting ways to support my body, I also found a new therapist. In the past, I never had luck with therapists (actually I've had bizarre therapists, but more on that another time). However, the therapist I found ended up being amazing. I felt safe telling her what was going on with me symptomatically and sharing the complexities of my life that were upping my stress levels. Finally I received diagnoses - Social Anxiety, General Anxiety, and PTSD. It felt amazing to be able to go home and research all the ways other people were dealing with these diagnoses and start trying some remedies.
I started my second year at LMU, but this time wanting to get ahead of the anxiety. I didn't want my professors to be annoyed with my need to leave class so often and I hoped that in telling them what was going on, they would understand without judgement. I was very skeptical. For the first time, I was open about my anxiety to someone other than a doctor, family, my best friend and my boyfriend. It was terrifying and I'm pretty sure I cried in their offices just trying to get the words out (because, of course, I was having anxiety). Shockingly to me, my professors were all very understanding. Specifically, I had one professor who I felt truly took me under their wing. They took time to go over what I was feeling, recommended ways to overcome my anxiety and challenged me every day in class to move past my fears. On the days I couldn't do it, they understood. I cannot even describe the positive impact these support systems had on me.
With my doctor and therapist on hand, my loved ones around me, and my professors supporting me- I should be good now, right? Nope. Anxiety is illogical that way.
It wasn't until my doctor suggested Lavender that everything changed.
My doctor had overnighted me Lavela, a lavender essential oil in pill form. He told me to start taking 2 at night to help me sleep and told me to take 2 when I felt the panic coming on. He stated that there was no limit, "if you feel the anxiety 5 times a day, take the Lavela 5 times a day". The results were IMMEDIATE. I went to class the next day (where I always sat next to the door in the back, in case I had to bolt) and when I felt the anxiety coming on, I took 2 Lavela. Sure enough- it felt like a warm wave hit me, poured over my head, through my fingers and toes, relaxing my eye lids, calming my breath, my foot stopped twitching erratically. It was amazing to feel my nervous system calm down. I felt myself really feel okay. I didn't have to run out, I could see this through, I would be okay. The best part, Lavela is non-addicting and all-natural!
I found that the Lavender built in my system. If I went a few days without, I would feel the anxiety creeping back up. Now, I take it habitually every night and have a pack in every purse I own. I suggest it to absolutely everyone! Have an eye twitch? Lavender. Having stress at work? Lavender. Having stomach problems? Lavender. It helps everything!
The lavender was a game-changer. I found myself sitting through entire 3-hour classes! I was volunteering to speak in class, socializing with peers, and just generally feeling my self-esteem rise. With my anxiety more at ease, I found myself agreeing to apply for a presentation slot at the Midwest Undergraduate Research Conference in Gender Studies. I was a new person. My professor had seen my growth with my anxiety and felt confident that I could do it. So I applied. The conference was at the University of Notre Dame, which meant planes, unfamiliar hotels, an unfamiliar school, people I didn't know... I was petrified when they accepted my research.
But, I DID IT! Doing that presentation was by far one of the proudest moments of my life. Anxiety is something I had struggled with since birth (I still do!) and I had faced my biggest fears. I had to leave the room multiple times leading up to my presentation and I probably took 6 Lavenders, but it's okay, because I did it.
A Week later, I graduated from LMU. It was surreal that I had made it through. I took a few Lavenders in preparation to sit confined in the ceremony and walk on stage in front of people. I was silently panicking and popping the Lavela when the Valedictorian started his speech: "We live in an age of anxiety ... On a personal note, I've battled with anxiety in the most literal sense but I found one little remedy ... its lavender." My family started texting me like crazy, 'No way! Lavender!!!' The Valedictorian ended their speech saying, "Go forth and spread hope, spread love, spread positivity because our world could use a little more lavender." It was full circle. After starting college with so much fear of failure and feelings of inadequacy, I had never felt so sure of myself in that moment. I had worked unbelievably hard to overcome my anxiety in the last few years and it was as if the Universe was giving me a pat on the back. I felt worthy, deserving and excited for the future.
Since graduating from LMU, I have come to find that there will always be a fear to overcome that antagonizes my anxiety. Life will throw crazy circumstances at you that will up your stress levels and all of a sudden you have a panic attack coming on. Having Lavender in my pocket makes me feel more in control of my life and my body. No matter if it's divorce, finances, or simply having to do public speaking- I know that as long as I am taking the Lavender daily and have it on hand for the more severe moments, I will be okay. Telling yourself that you will be okay in the middle of a panic attack is near impossible, so when I take the Lavender, I feel complete ease just knowing that in a few moments my physical symptoms will subside and I can calm down.
Since discovering the healing properties of Lavender, I have been able to use it to help friends with debilitating anxiety, acquaintances struggling to get through the pressures of everyday life, and even patients in my Mom's recovery business weaning off drugs. Lavender has changed my life and the lives around me. I hope it can change yours too.