How I Found Freedom From Anxiety (and Stopped Yelling at my Kids)

Posted by on Nov 7, 2015 in Wellness | 17 Comments

I have, a few times in my life, dealt with periods of terrible anxiety. For a while when I was a teenager, and then again in 2009. Both of those periods were triggered by the media and the church being hyped up about the end of the world (Y2K and the economic crash, respectively).

I don’t remember what pulled me out of it in 1999 (possibly it helped that 2000 came without incident), but I clearly remember my struggles in 2009. I assumed that it was a spiritual attack, and dealt with it accordingly. After all, God doesn’t want us to have a spirit of fear, or to be anxious about anything, so clearly this was from the enemy.
I want to be clear, that I don’t think I was wrong, I think that the enemy likes to kick us while we’re down. And I was down. 
Being an INTJ, I realized that my anxiety was useless, and tried to logic myself out of it. I spent a lot of time inside my head trying to fix myself. It didn’t have much effect and inside my head wasn’t a very fun place to be. I read Waking the Dead by John Eldredge and it really helped. I recommend it to anyone dealing with issues of spiritual warfare. 
I also went to one of my pastors and discussed it. She didn’t understand that what I was feeling went beyond being worried (probably because I was so outwardly calm), so she also, tried to reassure me with facts and scripture. She wasn’t very successful but she prayed over me before I left and God knew what I needed even if no one else did. Let’s say that Waking the Dead knocked my anxiety down by 50%, this meeting probably killed off another 40%. And that last lingering panic was shoved down as I decided to get pregnant with Ria. After all, bringing a child into the world is best done with a more positive outlook on things.

But then after I had Sunny, my second child, the anxiety was back. I was so frustrated.

When she was a baby she didn’t sleep. She was 14 months old before she slept more than 4 hours in a row. Ever. I was a zombie. A wreck. My silver streak in my hair turned pure white. And I was anxious again.

Once we started to get some sleep, my mental health improved dramatically (apparently sleep is good for you?). Problem solved.

It didn’t at any point occur to me that I might be battling depression. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t know that anxiety was a thing other people dealt with.

Because no one talked about it.

Fast forward to a year later. I was doing the THM eating plan and in a couple facebook groups for it and also on facebook group for herbal remedies. This book kept being suggested to people battling depression and anxiety. It was The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. I thought it sounded fascinating and ordered it (along with a stack of other books, I’m a book addict) from my library through the interlibrary loan program. I thought that I might pick up some tricks to help me out if the dreaded anxiety made a comeback.

There are four mood disorders covered in the book, and you start with a questionnaire to figure out which one you are dealing with (and it can easily be more than one). Each of the four false moods are caused by a dietary deficiency which can be made worse by lack of sleep, genetic tendencies, and lack of sunlight.

Here are the four false mood types (straight from the website)

The Dark Cloud of Depression

If you’re high in serotonin – you’re positive, confident, flexible, and easy-going.

If you’re sinking in serotonin – you’ll tend to become negative, obsessive, worried, irritable, and sleepless.

The Blahs

If you’re high in catecholamines – you’re energized, upbeat, and alert.

If your catecholamines have crashed – you’ll sink into a flat apathetic funk.

Anxiety and Stress

If you’re high in GABA – you’re relaxed and stress-free.

If there’s a gap in your GABA – you’ll be wired, stressed, and overwhelmed.

Oversensitive Feelings

If you’re high in endorphins – you’re full of cozy feelings of comfort, pleasure, and euphoria.

If you’re near the end of your endorphins – you’ll be crying during commercials and overly sensitive to hurt.

Taking the questionnaire showed me that I was low in serotonin and possibly endorphins. Still. I was just reading this book for fun! I didn’t think I currently had a problem. But…

I was yelling at my kids.

Nearly every day. I dreaded their bedtime when we’d have to clean up and they would draaag around or completely ignore me and it would take an hour to get everything cleaned up. There were other stressful times of day, but for some reason 4-7 was killing me. The kids clinging to my ankles while I was cooking dinner. I was so cranky.

I had no idea, that this had any connection to my anxiety. They felt nothing alike. Now, my kids get a little hangry before supper and they really were terrible at cleaning their room, but still. There was no excuse for my short temper. I knew this. I was praying daily for patience. And I still yelled at my kids.

It should be noted that this was a year ago, during the shortest days of the year. And I’m in Canada, so they feel pretty short (dark before dinner short).

So, low serotonin causes you to be “negative, obsessive, worried” which showed up for me as an obsessive, paranoid fear of the world ending. “Irritable” = yelling at my kids. Annnd…

“Sleepless” the insomnia I’ve battled my entire adult life.

I had already made great strides by sleeping more (thanks to Sunny getting older/sleep trained), and eating a diet that was very close to the recommendations in the book (thanks to THM). Now I started on the amino acid that she recommends in the book: 5-HTP. The change was instantaneous. For real, I stopped yelling at my kids that day.

Now, it occurred to me that it could just be a placebo thing. But the change was permanent. I took 5-HTP for a few months until my serotonin levels were back to normal and then stopped when I no longer needed it.

I think about all the times I prayed for help. I prayed in the middle of the night to sleep better. I prayed for my anxiety to be taken away. I prayed for more patience. God didn’t answer my prayers in the moment like I wanted him to. But it wasn’t because he didn’t care.

He wanted to heal me properly. Not just in the bits and pieces I was asking for. Not just for a day or a night like I was pleading for. He wanted me to understand what was happening in my body so that I could find real healing and understand how to keep it from happening again.

Sometimes he says “wait”, because he knows there is something better for us.

So, it’s been a year now. I’ve found that I have to be careful of eating too much sugar or not enough protien, which leads to a grouchy, sleepless Hanna. I need to move a lot and feel the sun on my face every day. And as the days grow shorter and my temper has started fraying, I’ve started supplementing with 5-HTP again to get me through this period where my body has trouble creating enough serotonin on it’s own. I’ve learned a lot.

It’s not easy for me to write about this, it drudges up a lot of bad memories and moments that I’m not proud of. But I know how many people, especially women, especially moms, struggle with these issues. And they don’t even know it.

Because no one talks about it.

If you feel by 4 o’clock like you have run out of patience and you have nothing left to give your family, you may have literally used up all of your serotonin for the day. You’re not broken, you’re not a bad mom. You just have a nutritional deficiency. And you can be fixed.

My issue was serotonin (and that deficiency runs strongly in my family from what I can tell) but the dark cloud is only one of the four false moods, so if you suspect that something is off with your emotions, if you feel too much or hardly feel at all, if you are negative, anxious, or stressed and wired, please check out The Mood Cure.

It changed my life. And I want that for you. 


  1. Am
    November 7, 2015

    Well said, my friend. You are so brave in your pursuit of answers. I'm going to check out the book…hopefully it will have the last piece of the puzzle for me too.

  2. Sylvia Caldwell
    November 7, 2015

    I have always loved your silver streak Hanna. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hanna
    November 7, 2015

    I really hope it helps you, I couldn't believe the difference that a daily supplement made in my life, it was crazy. I know you've been doing some THM stuff, so I'm sure that the dietary stuff in it won't be far off from what you've been trying there.

  4. Hanna
    November 7, 2015

    Aw thanks, when my kids ask why I have a white streak I tell them that they did it. They seem more proud about it than apologetic…

  5. Sonya
    November 7, 2015

    Thanks for sharing Hanna. I agree, we mom's don't talk about this stuff enough. Ugh, I remember when I thought the world was going to end in 2012, then added baby anxiety/lack of sleep made me a freaken mess. I need that book, I think.
    Also, I love your streak! I've been meaning to ask if it was real, but I kinda assumed you were an X-Men/Woman.

  6. Hanna
    November 7, 2015

    I do have a superpower but it's a secret. It doesn't help that the media enjoys doom and hype. Makes me crazy (literally)

  7. Holly Dressel
    November 8, 2015

    Aw Hanna , your so special . Thanks for your honesty and sharing . I truly believe that some of struggles we are given are so we can overcome them to eventually help others overcome them. People that otherwise would not have gotten thru on there own . Love you

  8. Unknown
    November 8, 2015

    I was going through a similar experience but with very low energy and also a short fuse and very emotional quite often.
    I ended up going to the naturopath, and he told me many of the same things that you have written here. I am taking the vitamins and supplements he suggested and I feel 100% better.
    I am also reading a book called Fit For Life which my physiotherapist recommended to me.
    God bless and thanks for sharing! Us moms need to know that we're not alone in our struggles.

  9. Hanna
    November 9, 2015

    Thank you, hun, that's a great way of looking at things

  10. Hanna
    November 9, 2015

    That's so great! I'll have to check that book out.

  11. Maeven
    November 9, 2015

    Thank you for this post. The sleeplessness. The anxiety. The irritability. The need for movement and sunshine. So me! And I have felt for a long time that this was a false mood somehow. Thank you for this wonderful post. Where do you purchase 5-HTP?

  12. Hanna
    November 9, 2015

    I got it at my local health food store, they actually had a couple brands so I'm guessing it's pretty common. I don't remember how to get the dosage figured out though, so I'd check out the book for that.

  13. Nicole
    November 16, 2015

    Thanks for this post Hanna! I had heard of the book but never read it. Got it from the library a couple of days ago. It's been so helpful. I just need to check with my midwife about the supplements recommended in the book but it gives me so much hope!!

  14. Hanna
    November 18, 2015

    You're pregnant?! I hope it helps you, I know that the dietary and lifestyle things are perfectly safe and healthy, but yeah, probably best to check with your midewife about the supplements.

  15. Nicole
    November 18, 2015

    Yes, almost 6 months along now! My midwife said the 5-HTP is safe to use so I'm starting with that and the increased protein etc… Sugar cravings were getting much worse, especially with the days getting shorter. Feeling better just cutting that and the caffeine out. Wish I could get out to walk more but it is raining cats and dogs…

  16. Hanna
    November 18, 2015

    One of my warning signs is when I reach for chocolate right when I put the kids to bed. I have (tragically) stopped keeping chocolate in the house and my sugar cravings are way down. I have a half written blog post about how I've been tweaking the way I eat again lately.

    I've learned so much about diet since I was last pregnant, that I like to think that if I ever got pregnant again I would do much better with nausea and energy levels. Not planning to test that though 😉

  17. Colin M
    August 25, 2016

    Have you read her newer book ' the diet cure'-interested to know if it is similar with updated info or completely different..?


Leave a Reply