{This post was originally written August 2014, but has been updated as of March 2018}

Sorry to get a little heavy on ya for a sec, but I promise there is a happy message at the end.  As some of you may know from some of my cryptic updates on social media, I’ve been going through some stuff lately – major anxiety, panic attacks, low appetite, fatigue and grogginess have been weighing me down for the past few months, and I’ve been determined to get to the bottom of it. While it may not be the kind of thing you hope to see on a blog that is normally filled with tons of pretty colors and fun confetti, I feel I need to write this for a couple of reasons:

1. This little business of mine is so much a part of me, that it’s near impossible to separate us. While I mostly try to keep my “personal” stuff outta the way of all the magical confetti goodness if I can, sometimes it’s necessary to address some things so ya’ll can understand where I’m coming from and what The Confetti Bar really means to me.

2. If I have the platform and opportunity to possibly help one other person in some way, I think it’s worth sharing my story. It may be taboo or TMI or nothing you confetti loving kittens really care about, which is why I’ve debated writing this for a while, but I want to be open and honest and let people know that life is real, even here in Confetti Land.

Every-Little-Thing-is-Gonna-Be-AlrightI won’t go into too much detail about my past, but I haven’t exactly been a stranger to mild anxiety for the past 6 or 7 years due to some hard & sad things my family and I had to go through. (We all have our own issues and battles, and in my case  – amongst other things – losing both maternal grandparents to cancer six months apart and then losing my dad in a motorcycle accident a year later was quite a big bite of bad to swallow.) Life knocks us down, and we get back up. The things I’ve been through have certainly helped to shape who I am, but I never let them define me.  Always acknowledging & reflecting on how my life experiences affected how I could see the world, I chose to cling to hope and see the good. I graduated college, got a job, got married, and most recently started this little business and was lucky enough to make it my full time gig.

So, as my doctor ironically pointed out, “You’re a self-employed confetti maker – shouldn’t you be the happiest person in the world?”

Sure, no matter who we are or what we do there is always going to be stress and we’ll all have our down days, but about 3 months ago something seemed to shift for me. I started having what seemed like completely random, extreme panic attacks and felt tired no matter how much I slept and some days could barely muster the motivation to get out of bed.  I seemed to be consumed by a constant wave of anxiety that would sometimes elevate into full blown panic that I couldn’t control. Never before had my anxiety interfered with my day to day routine, and it became scary and depressing. Doctor’s visits and blood work and even an emergency room trip seemed to show no answers. I started seeing a psychologist and considered any possibility as to why I felt so helpless in trying to make myself better. I’m a problem solver by nature, and it was driving me insane not having any answers.  All I knew was something was not right – it was like my mind & my body couldn’t get in sync. Logically I wanted to be happy and felt grateful for everything I have in my life, but physically I was spiraling out of control.

And for some reason – perhaps my somewhat stubborn and self-determined nature – I didn’t want to immediately go the traditional route of chemical medication (anti-depressants/SSRIs or things of the sort). Sure I’ve been prescribed a benzodiazepine that I only take on an “as needed” basis, but I feared the long term effects of anything that I would come to depend on indefinitely. (Perhaps at this point I should note that this doesn’t necessarily mean medications are bad. Some people need them and find they work really well. My brother, for one, has had a positive experience with such things, which you can read about here to see another perspective. I am not a doctor, nor do I want anybody to take what I’m saying as medical advice.  I just personally wanted to explore a more holistic approach to my problems, and I have no other explanation than it was a gut feeling to do so.)Trust-YourselfMy mom first brought up the idea of seeing a naturopathic doctor to me, and if I’m being honest I had no idea what that was. She showed me the website of a local practice, and I was sold on giving it a try right from the homepage:

“We treat people, not illnesses. Whether it’s a minor problem or a severe chronic disease, our physicians will take the time to get to know you as a person. We will listen to your story. We will explain medical information in words that you can understand. Your health questions and concerns will be addressed with an approach that is comprehensive, personalized, caring, safe, and effective. We offer a wide range of health care and wellness services that will help you to naturally recover and maximize your health and vitality.”

From my first visit — after going through my entire medical history & symptoms — I felt like I was really being heard. Rather than view my anxiety as one symptom and trying to cover that up, the doctor explained to me some of his thoughts on hormones/neurotransmitters/food sensitivities that he thought could be at the root of everything. He explained how it would be a journey and take some time to figure out what is wrong and treat it, but it was his job to narrow down the possibilities so he could offer the most appropriate & natural solution. He was able to offer me an herbal remedy to help keep me relatively calm until we found a longer-term solution.

After what felt like forever, a few weeks later he had the results, and we put a plan in place. My food sensitivity results suggested that my body doesn’t exactly react kindly to dairy, eggs, and yeast, so for now I am trying to eliminate those from my diet. While my cortisol levels were fine, we did find that my body is quite low on some essential neurotransmitters – things like seratonin and GABA (basically all my natural feel-good/calm down mechanisms have been slacking on the job, which would explain why I always seem to be in flight mode). I recently started on a supplement (basically a mixture of vitamins and herbal stuff) that is supposed to help my body naturally produce what it needs, rather than trick it into thinking it has them (which is what many SSRIs do). I have also personally found therapy, meditation, light exercise, surrounding myself with positive affirmations, and facing/coming to terms with some of my fears have been beneficial. I think it’s necessary to balance my mind & body and get them back in sync.

While we are still in the early stages of my new plan, I can say that for the first time in a while I’ve felt genuine hope and happiness again. To say I am 100% better would be a lie, but I have faith and confidence that each day will bring a little more peace and be a step in the right direction.  Both my mind & my body have been put through the ringer lately, and despite still working through everything, I am here to tell you that there is hope on the other side. Will I have setbacks? I’m sure of it. Will life always be sunshine and rainbows? Absolutely not.

And I will acknowledge these things while also recognizing all the good there is in life. {And how appropriate that yesterday I found a link to this article on Santosha by Jess Lively in my inbox! It really hit home for me, and I think it is an amazing perspective to have}

UPDATE {9.22.14} After some more testing, turns out I have a little (or big) thing that is a Candida overgrowth, which is basically an unhealthy amount of yeast in your body, where the little snots take over, release toxins, and wreak all sorts of havoc on everything from your mental state to your digestive system and just about everything in between. I’m working with my naturopath on a strict diet plan and course of various supplements/probiotics, but it will basically be quite a journey to bring it back under control. It’s unfortunately one of those things where it can most often get worse before it gets better (candida likes to fight back), but I’m confident if I stick to doing the right thing for my body, I will come out the other end feeling so much better!

UPDATE {2015-present} I was put on a very strict diet and a rotation of various probiotics and supplements, and while for a while things got a bit worse (as they often do), after months of strict and consistent commitment, I finally started to feel better – in a myriad of different ways. I guess I never really realized how true the cliche “you are what you eat” is, and I have become so much more interested and aware of what goes on in and around my body. I’ve become particularly conscious of the ill-effects of sugar (since eliminating sugars – in all forms – is basically the key to fighting Candida), and have made it my choice to pursue a healthier lifestyle beyond my short Candida detox and recovery. Don’t get me wrong – I still crave a slice of pizza and a big ol’ ice cream sundae as much as the next guy (and will even occasionally indulge), but I’ve come to discover that there are plenty of alternatives to my favorite foods that can be simple to make and free of that pesky evil sugar.

I’ve learned that when you eat the right types of foods, your body knows how to get itself together. In the past I had to fight and struggle to try and lose a few pounds even though I was exercising and counting calories or points, and I would gain it right back as soon as I fell off the wagon. Once I eliminated eating dairy, wheat/gluten/most starches, processed foods, and sugar, more than 60 pounds came right off in only a couple of months, without even trying to lose weight. (Not that this was my main goal, mind you — just a pleasant side affect of feeling all sorts of better!)

Through all of this it all just seemed to click for me: Health and happiness doesn’t have to be a never-ending struggle. If you can commit to putting yourself and your wellbeing at the top of your priority list, everything will eventually fall into place.What's-Stopping-You-While I’ve been particularly vague with a lot of my specific details here (and have pared my entire experience down for the sake of your poor eyeballs), that is because I want  you to know that each person is different. What worked for me may not work for everybody, but I want you to know that there are always options.

Even when it seems hopeless and like nothing will ever help — no matter what situation you may find yourself in — there is always someone or something to turn to for support or inspiration. It may take you a while to find them, but if you’re determined to, you will. The trick is to learn that both good and bad coexist, and it’s neither fun nor productive to let fear and negativity shift our focus to dwell only on the bad. It is so vital to surround yourself with good thoughts and positive people while still recognizing sh*t happens. It’s how you choose to respond to everything life throws your way that truly defines you. Don’t run away from the bad, but also remember to run toward the good.

I am so incredibly grateful for a supportive & understanding family, the most caring husband, and the freedom to have a job where I can be flexible to take care of myself when I need to. If not for confetti, my days could have been much, much darker. Even in some of my worst moments I have been so humbled and empowered by the kind words and support I receive from all you confetti lovers out there. To know I am doing something I love that makes other people happy means the world to me. And everyday I am grateful that confetti saves me, both literally and figuratively. It gives me purpose, inspiration, and motivation to be and do the best I can. And I’d say that is a pretty sweet deal.

So tell me, what’s stopping you from living a loving, fulfilling, joyful life? It may just be time to slow down and breathe and find what makes you truly happy — because it might just save your life.

*Medical Disclaimer: While I don’t mind sharing my story, remember that I am not a medical professional, and the content above is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.