When I was 23, I had the hardest year of my life. I left a grad program that wasn’t right for me and started experiencing but what seemed to be anxiety. Every day around lunchtime and until the early evening, I felt truly weird. I had no energy, was always starving, and would get super overheated wherever I went. It was only around my 24th birthday that I learned the truth: this wasn’t anxiety at all, but a low-blood sugar problem that had probably plagued me for several years up until that point. Unfortunately, the symptoms of low blood sugar and anxiety are scarily similar. Here are some of the lessons I learned during this time and the ones I’m still learning now.
- There’s no shame in therapy. Since I was pretty depressed and felt anxious all the time, my doctor suggested I talk to someone who was part of her office. It was hard at first – you want to think you’re a together, confident person — but you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeing a therapist. I think it’s an amazing idea for everyone, no matter what they’re going through. We all have stuff to work through and I learned some coping mechanisms for whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. My personal fave: if you’re worried about something, just remember that you’ve gone through it before and nothing bad happened.
- You can’t go it alone. I saw an amazing nutritionist who taught me what to eat so I didn’t experience low blood sugar anymore. It was an interesting process and I learned so much about healthy eating. My family was super supportive and my friends just accepted it and moved on. It’s super important to have a good support system when you’re going through something, no matter how big or small.
- It takes a few years to learn to be truly happy and healthy. It turned out that low blood sugar was the least of my worries when after my 25th birthday I figured out that I had some pretty serious food allergies. I went on an elimination diet and cut out gluten, eggs and dairy from my diet, along with processed foods and most sugar. I fell in love with barre classes and now, about a year later, I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. If you’re experiencing a health problem, know that it’ll definitely be a long road and there will be some hard times, but you’ll survive. And when you come out on the other side, you’ll be so much better off.
- Everyone has their “thing.” We all experience some kind of rough point in our lives, especially in our 20s when we’re figuring life out and learning how to be the people we want to be. When you face a problem, you might be slightly ashamed or feel bad about yourself, and that will make you want to retreat. But you absolutely need to share your story with your friends. Chances are they’ll tell you they’ve faced something themselves.
- You’re not weird. Learning that I had low blood sugar meant I couldn’t eat white bread at breakfast or lunch anymore or I would get super light-headed and sweaty. I couldn’t randomly eat a cupcake or cookie at 3 p.m. Although I’ve never been a super “normal” person (and wouldn’t want to be because that’s super boring) I still worried that people would think I was weird. But no one cared. It’s kind of freeing to realize that you have to look after yourself and not worry about what others think. So whatever you’re going through, you’re still cool, as long as you don’t let it define you.
- What matters so much will soon mean nothing. I almost laugh at the fact that a few years ago I thought it was a big deal to bring my own lunch to my grad school classes or have to eat a healthy snack at 3 p.m. Now that’s just a routine part of my life and it seems like no big deal at all. If you think something is literally the end of the world, just give it time. Soon you’ll be laughing, too.
- Getting healthy is part of growing up. Not everyone suffers from low blood sugar, but here’s one thing everyone has in common: the fact that they can’t live on pizza, grilled cheese or donuts as they get older. It’s just not possible… or good for you. Thankfully, now it’s pretty trendy to be healthy with our gluten-free food and green juice obsessions. I’m grateful for what I went through, because it taught me a lot about what you should be putting into your body in order to live your best life.
- Your body tells you what’s wrong. Tuning into your body and listening to what it needs isn’t only limited to yoga classes. If you live this way, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. If you’re tired all the time, for instance, that means you’re upset about something and it might be time for a change. If you feel unwell before you see the guy you’re dating, that’s a sure sign it’s time to call it quits. Just listen and you’ll know what to do.
- Congrats, you’re an adult now. Nothing makes you grow up faster than a health problem. Seriously, it’s like a crash course in how to actually be an adult. You can’t whine or complain, you have to fix things and take care of yourself. And for that, I’m actually glad that I have low blood sugar (although sometimes I do still wish I could just cave in and eat cake at 3 PM).