Real Life: Anxiety and Hormone Imbalance

Over the past 18 months I have taken a deep dive into hormone imbalance, gut health, and all of the fun stuff that comes along with it. I have formed a whole new understanding and compassion for others dealing with anxiety, overwhelm, skin/gut issues, and hormone imbalance.

It all started in October of 2018… overnight I began to notice red, painful, bumps on my cheeks. I really didn’t think too far into this reaction immediately and instead I went to war using strong acne-cleansing methods to my skin. This only made matters worse. More painful. More inflamed. The issue only grew worse.

At this point I turned to my dermatologist who suggested what most western medical professionals might offer – a stronger prescription acne medication and a daily antibiotic.

Two months went by and it only seemed to get worse (or remain the same – at best). Not only was my skin issue not getting any better; I became aware of this underlying feeling of anxiousness, general overwhelm, becoming easily upset and realized that daily antibiotics were doing nothing but reeking havoc on my gut.

Hormone Imbalance Symptoms:

The very first sign that something was off was unexplainable and painful cystic acne around my jaw and cheeks. At 27-years old, I could not understand why in the world my skin was going completely out of whack NOW and not when I was a teenager.

However, hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I can see all sorts of warning signs that led me to my body’s breaking point. It was not one day or one weekend of stress but an ongoing constant overwhelm, both good and bad, over a timeframe of a few years.

From graduating college to moving to Atlanta, starting my first ”real world” job, getting engaged, planning a wedding, adjusting to married life…… Phew…. that list alone gives me anxiety just looking at it but the list goes on…… I decided to start this travel blog along with a side-gig as a Beautycounter representative alongside my full time job, marketing trips, friends and relatives weddings, bachelorette destination weekends and personal travels.

On top of all of that; I was over-committing myself nearly every night of the week, traveling on the weekends, and trying to squeeze in workouts 4-5x a week.

Given all of the above, my stress was at an all-time high and I was not aware of the havoc it was reeking on my health. My cortisol levels were consistently elevated and here came the symptoms.

  • Constant feelings of ‘overwhelm’ and anxiousness
  • Cystic, painful acne along the jawline and cheeks (come to find out this area on the face is connected to hormones) 
  • Extreme PMS (I’m not talking about your typical slight moodiness a few days before your cycle but feelings of depression, overall sadness, crying for no reason, etc.)
  • Low desire to socialize, go out with friends, dinners, happy hours, etc. 
  • Exhaustion and fatigue 

My Journey to Find (Possible) Hormone Imbalance Solutions:

Although I have made it to a point where things are on the up-and-up; I can’t say that it has been an easy journey.

I wish it was as simple as a quick trip to the dermatologist or primary care physician that solved the issue. In reality, I spent the entire year of 2019 researching articles (shout out to some of my go-to resources: Well&Good, The Chalkboard Mag, Women’s Health Magazine, and Self) , reading blog posts, and visiting doctor after doctor.

After seeking out insight from the following medical professionals; here are the results:

  • Dermatologist: This was my first stop of many. Before I connected the slew of symptoms together, I was really focused on my sudden skin breakouts so my first thought was to head straight to my dermatologist.  After a quick look, the doctor decided to put me on a strong medicated topical skincare routine and had me taking antibiotics daily with no end in sight. Thirty days later and I still wasn’t seeing any sort of real progress. I started reading how awful long-term antibiotics are for your gut…. and of coarse, your gut is connected to your brain, skin, emotions, and so much more.
  • Facials:  My next stop (while still taking my antibiotics and torturing my skin by completely over-drying it) was to a more ‘holistic’ facial spot in Grant Park, Atlanta. I stumbled across Kindred Studio thanks to a friends’ recommendation and am still SO thankful for that connection. My aesthetician, Kelly Painter, was one of the first professionals to actually try to understand the root cause of this newfound skin issue. Her questions sparked a whole new understanding for me on the connection between gut health, inflammation, diet, hormones and more. She also taught me to be GENTLE with my skin and with a little love, my skin started to ‘cool down’.
  • Attend a Local Wellness conference: Shortly after my skin outbreak and down spiral, I attended the very first Wellscene event in Atlanta. It was here where I heard all different strong, amazingly confident women speak about their past struggles (both emotional and physical), and solutions that got them to where they are today. I could relate to so many of these women! It was amazing hearing their stories, many of which touched on anxiety, depression, diet, gut health, doctors not listening to their story, hormones, and other obstacles.
  • Take a visit to a holistic, integrative health doctor: I have been going to Centrespring MD in Brookhaven since I learned about their practice at WellScene 2018. It is an integrative health practice focusesd on getting to the root of the health problem using a well-rounded approach to target your entire lifestyle. These were some of the first doctors who let me sit in their office for over an hour talking about EVERYTHING going on; my mood swings, skin breakouts, anxiety and so forth. Not only did they listen; but they did a number of tests, blood work and put me on a ‘treatment plan’ inclusive of natural supplements and exercise /  lifestyle recommendations.
  • Supplements: Supplements may not be for everyone but they are something to be open to and to consult your doctor about. Natural supplements are not the way of the “world” in the western medicine space so you’ll likely have to find a holistic/integrative health center as mentioned above. As a result of my visits to CentreSpring, I began taking supplements such as magnesium (sleep helper), ashwaganda (stress reliever and energy boost), Vitamin D (aka sunshine in a capsule), turmeric (anti-inflammatory), Vitex (PMS/hormones), and EstroDIM (helps balance Estrogen).
  • Learn to de-stress and let go of control: Of coarse this is way easier said than done. This is an everyday struggle of mine but I have been trying to let go of everything I do not control (which is really everything when it gets down to it). Whether that means implementing more low-intensity workouts like yoga, morning meditation, hot epsom salt bubble baths, taking breaks from social media or turning my phone off several hours before bed; every small step makes a difference in my overall stress levels.
  • Dietary changes: As tough as it has been, I have really had to make some decisions regarding my overall diet. I have had to take a break (or find a dairy-free substitute) from things I love like queso and pizza. This experience has forced me to focus on my digestion, an anti-inflammatory and hormone balancing diet and reducing processed foods.
an assortment of my skincare products from Revision Skincare and Obagi
An assortment of my skincare products thanks to AYA Medical in Buckhead

Now what? {My ongoing journey to beat hormone imbalance & anxiety}

I wish that I could say this journey was 100% in the past. Unfortunately, it looks like it is going to be an ongoing, lifelong journey of finding the right ‘balance’.

The past year has taught me to truly listen to my body and watch for the symptoms. It has also taught me that I need to advocate for myself and not necessarily go with the first opinion that I get from the first doctor that I see. Whether it is over consumption of sugar, lack of adequate sleep, Overcommitting my schedule or other unhealthy habits, I have learned to notice, not judge, and take action to make sure things don’t go as far.

My hope is that my experience and my learning lessons can help even just one person out there.  So please feel free to reach out with any questions you might have!