Anxiety and Antidepressants



Anxiety isn't a topic I've delved into yet on this blog and that's for a few reasons. The main reason being I wanted this blog to focus mainly on vegan related topics. It wasn't hard to write about vegan exclusive topics either, not at all. My everyday life is a vegan topic so I could go on and on and on. But what's the point of writing a healthy vegan blog if my mind isn't equally healthy? I haven't posted in a few months because I was going through an anxiety-filled period in my life and I lost all interest in writing about the very topic just a few months before I could go on and on about. I'm started to regain interest in these little things again and I felt like I couldn't just write up a new post on a vegan candle without explaining what's been going on in my head for the past few months. So for this post, I'm taking the plunge and diving into the heavily stigmatized, and sometimes glorified, discussion of anxiety and antidepressants.

I've had anxiety for as long as I could remember. Whether it was balling my eyes out on the bus on my way to kindergarten or a surprise panic attack at a truck stop while traveling as a teenager - I've had anxiety my whole life and I've always been fine with that. It was part of me. I knew that I didn't want to be away from my mom when I was having a meltdown on the bus and I knew there were waaaay too many people for my liking in that truck stop. My anxiety has always been, for the most part, what I like to call "situational anxiety" (this may be an actual term, don't sue me if it is). If I was ever feeling panicked, I would take a second, assess the situation, and take myself out of whatever setting was making me feel anxious. When it comes to fight or flight, 99.9% of the time, I am always flight. But, again, I was totally fine with that. I knew what to avoid (big crowds) and I knew where I felt safe (at home surrounded by my family).

I always knew antidepressants were an option to help combat anxious thoughts but I also always knew I would never take them. I like being in my normal state of mind, even if that normal state is filled with taunting thoughts, I never wanted to feel cloudy. I never wanted to feel like my choices weren't mine. I stay away from drugs, alcohol, and most medications, so why would I be willing take a pill that wouldn't just temporarily change my state of mind, but actually change the chemicals in my brain? No thanks.

That was until a few months ago.

Back in March, I started to experience major health anxiety. After having a pretty bad sinus infection, I developed swollen lymph nodes, which are lumps that develop in your lymph nodes throughout your body when you're fighting off an infection. I don't know about you, but when I feel a lump anywhere on my body, I instantly freak. I googled "lumps on neck", which gave the most terrifying search results. I was stuck in a labyrinth of google search after google search which only made me feel worse when I didn't get the answer that I wanted (which was "you're totally fine! Now go to sleep!"). When I finally talked to my doctor, he told me the lump was normal and I shouldn't worry about it. So I was fine after that, right? Nope.

Like what I mentioned earlier, I've always had situational anxiety. I knew exactly what caused my panicky brain and I knew how to make myself feel better almost instantly. But my panicky brain was caused by the fear of something being wrong with my body and how was I supposed to take myself out of that situation? I would see a doctor, but that would only make me feel better until I found something different that could've potentially been wrong with me. It was a daunting cycle and I knew I needed help. In August my doctor prescribed me antidepressants and, though I had such a strong opinion on antidepressants just a few months before, I was desperate for the cycle to stop. So I was finally fine after that, right? Wrong again.

A few days later I woke up having a panic attack. I've never had a panic attack out of blue so I was instantly even more panicked. After half an hour and the panic attack still didn't subside, I knew something was seriously wrong which just made the anxiety grow. That panic attack lasted a grand total of 5 hours, and it only stopped after I got a rushed prescription of xanax. Of course, I blamed the antidepressants since panic attacks were one of it's adverse side effects. The panic attacks didn't stop there, no, that would've been way too simple. I had panic attacks constantly for the week that followed. I would start crying out of no where and I was constantly terrified that I would have another spontaneous panic attack again. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid to take a shower... let me repeat... I WAS AFRAID TO TAKE A SHOWER.

So I talked to my doctor once more and he put me back on antidepressants. He reassured me that the panic attack wasn't from my medicine and, though I didn't have any tests done, he was fairly certain I had a serotonin imbalance which was causing my panic attacks and that I would feel 80% better after taking the antidepressants. That's when I realized no amount of deep breathing or yoga could've ever fully helped me if the chemicals in my brain were out of whack. All negative stereotypes of antidepressants went out the window at that moment.

It's been a little over 7 weeks now since I've started taking the antidepressants, and the fact that I've even typed up this blog post is a testament to how well I'm feeling. I'm now starting to feel interested in little things like writing, getting properly dressed, and frivolous things like shopping online (which my bank account isn't too happy about). I still need to visit a therapist, but as a major introvert with social anxiety (are you surprised?), talking to a therapist isn't on the top of my to-do list.

I'm definitely not on the other side of my anxiety and I honestly don't think I ever will be, but for me, antidepressants have helped so far. I never took antidepressants in the past because I thought, in some weird way, it would be like giving up on myself. Like I took the easy way out. But that can't be further from the truth. I was also always afraid it would change my normal state of mind and make me feel foggy, but again, that couldn't be further from the truth (at least for me). In hindsight, I feel like my constant anxious thoughts were causing a major brain haze that I was too scared to clear because I let my anxiety define me. I didn't know who I'd be without anxiety and that was terrifying. I've always known anxiety was a huge part of me, but I now realize that I don't have to settle and I can get better.

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Purifying Lava Mask



Purify your skin with volcanic ash!

Face masks are definitely my favorite out of all the skin care options out there. Whenever I find a new face mask I always think "this mask will definitely make my skin brighter", and even though few face masks ever actually make a noticeable difference, I think I mostly enjoy the calming and relaxing feeling that comes along with wearing a face mask.

While browsing Pacifica products exclusive to Ulta on Ulta's website, I came across Pacifica's Cherry Lava Purify Mask. We already know I'm a sucker for a good face mask, but combine that with cool ingredients like volcanic ash and I'm 100% sold. 



This mask is super moisturizing and, like all Pacifica products, it smells incredible. I don't think I've tried any product from Pacifica that didn't smell absolutely amazing. No pores with clogged while using this mask, which is always im-pore-tant (sorry). My only complaint would have to be that I expected this mask to harden like a clay mask, but it didn't. It never really dried which was kind of a bummer because my favorite masks are the masks that dry and harden so you can't move your face muscles. With that being said, it's still a really good mask with super good results. 


Pacifica is 100% Vegan and Cruelty-free

What's your favorite face mask?
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Hail Merry Desserts



Your new favorite vegan desserts...

I'm a huge fan of a good dessert. If it's vegan and it's categorized as a dessert food, I'll most likely eat it. I'm not too picky... but unless you're super into Oreos, there aren't many ready-to-buy vegan dessert options out there. That is until I stumbled upon Hail Merry desserts at my local grocery store. 

Hail Merry is a snack company that offers vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and non-gmo desserts/snacks. They recently had a packaging makeover and I'm totally into it. 





Hail Merry's bite sized snacks are super delicious. I'd probably obsess over anything chocolatey, if I'm being honest, so it was no surprise when I fell head over heals for the chocolate bites. I'm not the biggest fan of vanilla flavored snacks if I have a chocolate option in front me too, so I was pleasantly surprised when I kept reaching for the vanilla bites. They're both just extremely tasty.  



The first tart I tried from Hail Merry was the Dark Chocolate Tart, and let me tell you, it's a good tart. If you've read my Healthy Vegan Chocolate Snacks post, then you'd know I've loved this tart for a while now. I love dark chocolate so I knew I'd love it before I even took the first bite. It's super rich and creamy. I'm just obsessed. 

After obsessing over the chocolate tart for a while, I decided to give the Meyer Lemon Tart a try, and again, I wasn't at all disappointed. The tart surprisingly tasted a lot like what I remember lemon meringue pie tasting like, but don't quote me on that, it's been a while since I've had lemon meringue pie. It's still amazing either way.





What's your favorite Hail Merry dessert?


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Hippeas Chickpea Puffs



Healthy vegan puffs!

I'm a big fan of chips. Whether it's plain potato chips, barbecue chips, or the accidentally vegan Sweet Chili Doritos, I'm obsessed. I've been known to eat an entire family sized bag by myself on occasion, which is horrible but I can't help myself. I don't eat fast food and I don't drink soda so I gave myself chips... or at least that's how I justify my chip obsession to myself. But what if potato chips weren't made out of potatoes but instead something super healthy like chickpeas???? Those would be the chips of my guilt-free dreams and those dreams just so happened to come true when I stumbled upon Hippeas at my local grocery store.


Hippeas are organic chickpea puffs that come in a pretty large variety of flavors. I was originally drawn to Hippeas after finding the Vegan Cheddar Puffs. If anything has vegan and cheese in the name, I have to try it... and then I had to try all the other flavors, obviously.


Vegan Cheddar Puffs

The vegan cheddar puffs are incredible. It's been a while since I've had anything remotely close to Cheetos and I'm pretty sure these babies are the closest I'm going to get. They don't necessarily taste like Cheetos, but they do taste incredible. I just love them.


Sriracha Sunrise Puffs

I might sound like a wimp, but Sriracha is too spicy for me. So naturally, I was a little apprehensive to try these Sriracha Sunrise Puffs but I womaned up and took a few bites and I was in love. These puffs are kind of spicy and sweet at the same time. Again, I just love them so much.


Pepper Power Puffs

Lastly, I tried the Pepper Power Puffs. These are super basic but super tasty. I'd definitely get these again to have on the side with a veggie burger or I'd probably even eat them alone because, again, I have a chip problem. But it's okay if it's a chickpea puff problem, right? It's a healthy-ish obsession.




What are your favorite vegan chips?
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Pacifica Hair Products



Vegan and cruelty-free hair products!!


In the five years that I've made the concious effort to only purchase vegan and cruelty-free products, I've found it extremely difficult to find hair styling products. With that being said, I think it's safe to say my hair has seen more bad days than good in those five years. Lucky for me though, Pacifica changed the vegan and cruelty-free hair care game by releasing a whole bunch of new hair products at Ulta.

Invisible Powers Dry Shampoo

This dry shampoo isn't like any other dry shampoo I've ever used. Firstly, it has a pump. Usually when I've used all natural dry shampoo, I'd have to dump it on my hand and apply it myself. The Invisible Powers Dry Shampoo has a pump that is applied directly to the roots. Secondly, it has shimmery bits in it. I'm not sure what they do, because I don't notice them in my roots, but they work their magic somehow to mask my oily hair. Though this product is super strange, it works and I'm into it.



This balm is honestly the best ever. It's a heat protectant, texturizer, curl definer, and finishing cream, all in one. The product itself doesn't leave my hair feeling heavy or oily, which is something that happened all the time whenever I would use any type of product on my hair. The passionfruit scent lasts all day, which is incredible.



My hair gets lots of height from frizz, but it never has intentional volume, so I thought I'd give the Ginger Root spray a try. I definitely see a good difference in my hair when I use this product. It kind of tames my frizz, but still gives my hair volume, at the same time. And the scent, again, is incredible.



Before we even get into the magical powers of this hair mask, I need to talk about the scent. This mask smells like a banana dream and even if this mask wasn't amazing, I'd buy it again and again just for the banana scent alone. But the mask is incredible, too. I left the mask all over my hair for 20 minutes right before I took a shower and something magical happened. My hair was super soft, but not frizzy, on day one hair. DAY ONE. I'm amazed and in love.


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Toast 3 Ways



Toast appreciation post

Toast is probably the most underrated breakfast food out there. Some mornings I'm in the mood for cereal, others maybe a chocolate chip muffin, but everyday, without fail, I'm always in the mood for toast. Even if it's just toasted bread with a bit of vegan butter spread across it, toast for breakfast can never fail in my eyes, and stomach.


Before you can start your toast endeavors, you have to start with a sturdy foundation. I'm talking about the bread. The bread you choose to make into toast and eat first thing in the morning is important. You need the right amount of protein, fiber, and other important things to start your day right. White bread will not do (for the record, it will never do, in my opinion). My favorite bread is the Oat Nut bread from Arnold. Trust me when I say you have never experienced the magic that is bread until you've tried Arnold's Oat Nut bread. Trust.

Now that we have a good and strong foundation, we can start with the different variation of spreads for your toast. I'm more into savory breakfasts, so these are not only tasty ideas, but filling and substantial breakfast meals.

Hummus

I can eat hummus all day, everyday. The different variations of hummus you can buy is practically endless but I'm always a fan of plain and simple hummus with as little garlic as possible. If you want to try making some for yourself, in a food processor combine chick peas with olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste (and garlic, but I smell like garlic for days after I eat it, so I try to eat as little as I can). It's seriously that easy. If you're feeling fancy, you can even add sesame seeds or, my favorite, sunflower seeds.


Spinach and Tomato

Spinach is one of my all time favorite veggies so I always like to incorporate it in as many meals as I can. Make sure you drain your spinach as much as you can after cooking it, as it might make your toast soggy and no one likes soggy toast. I sometimes eat toast just with spinach and that's it, but if I'm feeling fancy and I have some tomatoes, I throw those on there too.


Avocado

Avocados are always a nice addition to any sandwich, but what if the avocados were the starring role?? I like eating avocados on toast for breakfast or any other time of the day when I have avocados, to be honest. You can mash up the avocado or you can slice it. It's delicious either way.


If you're feeling super ambitious, you can add all 3 together to make one super toast. 
What's your favorite way to eat toast?
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New Vegan Ben & Jerry's Flavors



New additions to Ben & Jerry's non-dairy line!

About a year ago, Ben & Jerry's started offering a small selection of vegan ice cream flavors made from almond milk. If you read my Vegan Ben & Jerry's post, then you'd know how excited I was about it. Ever since then, almost every time I'd go to the grocery store, I'd pick up a pint of P.B. & Cookies (because that ice cream is a dream, and it's vegan). So, just imagine my surprise when I went to the vegan ice cream section and found THREE BRAND NEW non-dairy Ben & Jerry's flavors!!! I went a little crazy and bought all three because I had to try them so I could write about them and share my excitement with the world, all for the blog post, totally.


Caramel Almond Brittle is the ice cream flavor of my dreams. It has all the ingredients to win my heart, so I thought it was a done deal the moment I saw the pint still in the freezer section at the grocery store. And I was right. P.B. & Cookies will forever be my ice cream of choice, but I think this one may tie for that number one spot.




Cleverly named after Jerry Garcia, Cherry Garcia is one of Ben & Jerry's most popular flavors. I never got to try this iconic flavor before going vegan, so I just assumed I never would, until recently when B&Js made my dreams come true by adding this legendary ice cream to their non-dairy line. If you're into cherries, then you'll love this flavor. Iconic.
You can read about how Cherry Garcia came about here.




Seven layers of caramel, fudge, walnuts, graham cracker, coconut, and 2 other things that I'm not sure of - goodness. I'm usually not coconut's #1 fan, but this ice cream made me rethink that. Maybe I do like coconut? This ice cream will for sure be the perfect hot-summer-day treat.



Apparently, all my dreams involve ice cream... what's your favorite non-dairy ice cream?

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Sheet Masks



Vegan and cruelty-free sheet masks!

If you've read my post about Facial Serums, then you'd know I've been stepping out of my beauty/skincare comfort zone by trying products that aren't necessarily out there, but more like products I've been too afraid to try. Sheet masks never appealed to me mainly because 1. they seem fussy and 2. they're a one time use product. I like getting the most value out of products, so a one time use product just doesn't seem economically savvy or environmentally friendly. Disregarding all that, I decided to go against all my instincts and try out a few sheet masks. 


The Instant Brighten & Tighten Hydro Serum mask was the first product I ever tried from Andalou Naturals and it was a great first impression. This mask wasn't overly harsh but I could definitely feel a little tingle, which I like because that means it's doing something, right??? I'm definitely stocking up on this mask and all the other sheet masks Analou Naturals has available.

Andalou Naturals is 100% cruelty-free with vegan options marked with a V





Yes To Cucumbers Soothing Calming Paper Mask

I have a weird relationship with Yes To products. In the past I've tried Yes To Cucumbers facial wipes and my skin was not happy about it. I have sensitive skin, so I'm used to it. I stayed away from Yes To after that until recently when I tried their Yes To Charcoal Wipes. Those wipes were, and still are, the best wipes I've ever used on my face, so I thought maybe my skin changed and I should give Yes To another chance. First, I tried the Yes To Cucumbers Sheet Mask. Maybe it's just the Cucumber products, but after trying this mask my skin was extremely irritated. Cucumbers... smell incredible but sets fire to my skin... noted.

Yes To Tomatoes Acne Fighting Paper Mask

I already purchased another Yes To mask, so even after my experience with the cucumber mask, I decided to give it a try, since, ya know, I already spent 3 bucks on it. I reluctantly tried the Acne Fighting Mask and the weirdest thing happened... my skin didn't completely freak out. My skin felt refreshed and hydrated afterwards. I'd definitely buy this mask again if my skin decides to breakout any time soon.

Yes To is 100% cruelty-free with a large selection of vegan products
Non-vegan ingredient list available via Yes To's email


Alba Botanica Fast Fix Coconut Water Hydrate Sheet Mask

The Alba Botanica Coconut Water Hydrate mask is a sheet mask game changer. My skin has never felt as hydrated as it felt after using this specific paper mask. I honestly can't get over how refreshed my skin felt immediately after taking it off. The hydrating feeling stuck around a few days after too, which is incredible.

Alba Botanica Fast Fix Camu Camu Anti-Wrinkle Sheet Mask

I'm not yet at the age when I should start worrying about wrinkles, according to some people, but there's nothing wrong with being proactive, right? With that mindset, I like to buy anti-wrinkle products once in a while and that's exactly how the Alba Botanica Camu Camu Anti-Wrinkle Sheet Mask found it's way into my Target shopping basket. Like the coconut water mask, this mask was super refreshing. Alba Botanica knows what they're doing in the sheet mask department.

Alba Botanica is 100% cruelty-free with a few non-vegan products
Non vegan products are listed on their FAQ page



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Goats of Anarchy



"A woman's quest to save the world one goat at a time"



If you aren't familiar with the Goats of Anarchy Instagram account, then allow me to introduce you to your latest (and greatest) Instagram obsession. Goats of Anarchy is a non profit goat sanctuary founded by Leanne Lauricella located in Northern New Jersey. Jax, Opie, Nero, Tig, and Otto are GOA's founding members, and if you're a fan of Sons of Anarchy, then you'd get the reference (it should be noted that I didn't get the reference until my sister pointed it out to me... believe it or not, there are a few tv shows out there that I haven't binge watched... yet).




I have been completely invested in Polly and Pocket and all their other goat friends ever since I found the Goats of Anarchy Instagram a few months ago. I would find myself bringing up the goats in everyday conversations and telling everyone I knew to follow GOA on Instagram because everyone needs to see videos of baby goats learning how to walk with casts on... everyone. If you're as invested in these goats as I am, then the new Goats of Anarchy book should definitely be your next Amazon purchase.


The Goats of Anarchy book gives incredible insight on Leanne's story as well as each individual goat's rescue story. I teared up a few times reading about the horrible conditions some of these goats were rescued from, but felt completely reassured after knowing how incredibly loved and cared for they all are now. I commend Leanne on everything she's done in starting a sanctuary. My end goal has always been to have my own sanctuary, but my heart breaks every time I imagine seeing any animal in any type of pain. It takes an extraordinary person to be able to quit their day job and dedicate all their time and resources to giving animals a loving home and to endure all the heartbreak that comes with caring for neglected animals, but I'm sure the outcome out ways any and all of the negatives.

With Easter coming up, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone that, though baby goats, bunnies, chicks, and ducklings are all extremely adorable, they should never be a last minute Easter present. Like all babies, these incredibly cute baby animals will grow up to be full sized chickens, ducks, goats, and rabbits and they are a huge responsibility that needs serious time and research before even thinking about purchasing or adopting. Every animal deserves a loving home, and if you do find yourself in a situation where you don't feel like a suitable pet parent, always look for a sanctuary for your pet to ensure a happy and full life.
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