Hello! Who are you?
Hi, my name is Krystal Alexander. I currently reside in Frisco, TX. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with a specialty in grief and loss. I also work as an Assessment Specialist helping individuals in crisis or with severe persistent mental illnesses into acute psychiatric care.
I am a single woman who enjoys singing, spending time near bodies of water, spending time with friends and family, and following the teachings of Jesus Christ. I consider myself to be more than happy. I have fullness of joy!
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What is your struggle and when did it start?
In 2018 I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. However, since the age of 10 yrs old, I struggle with symptoms of anxiety and feelings of persistent fears.
I would experience rapid heart rate, persistent feelings of fear, migraines, dissociation, difficulty sleeping, irritability, what felt like a constant trembling within my nervous system, and panic attacks. After that first panic attack, I knew how bad this issue had gotten and I was determined not to have another one again.
I now know that past traumas, feelings of abandonment, rejection, and a lack of identity contributed to increased symptoms of anxiety and fear. Years later after EMDR therapy and growing my relationship with Christ, I learned that it actually started for me as early as the age of 3 years old.
It developed over time through a constant need of me always wanting to be accepted or liked by others. I had thoughts and beliefs about myself that I was never good enough and that I was a failure.
No matter how much I’d accomplished, because my life wasn't excelling at the rate that I desired it to, I believed something was wrong with me. I would compare myself to others, and participate in things I had no interest in, only to be accepted by others. In doing so, I lost my identity and ability to be my true authentic self.
However, this struggle no longer impacts me, because I’ve been set free. My first time meeting with a school counselor was in the 5th grade. And no, I was not consistent with therapy between the age of ten up to my thirties. It wasn't until my 30s that I made the decision to be completely consistent in therapy and really get to the root of the anxiety and fears I was experiencing.
How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?
At my worst moments, I would feel disconnected, and embarrassed. Earlier I mentioned dissociating as a symptom I experienced with anxiety. Dissociating means that you feel detached/disconnected from your body, environment, or the people around you. I like to call it “checking out”.
Having many moments of “checking out” brought on those feelings of embarrassment, simply because it would happen during important meetings while teaching, or even sometimes in sessions with clients. I would often need to ask others to repeat themselves or act like I heard them and kept moving forward. Although sometimes it wasn't as easy to hide.
There were moments when I would weep and feel helpless. I can remember one night my heart rate and body temp increased rapidly while I was resting, I was having a silent panic attack. At that moment I began to cry and had passive suicidal thoughts.
Saying things like “God I wouldn't be mad if you take me now. God, I’m so tired of feeling this way and dealing with this anxiety. I just want it all to end.” I knew at that moment, I was at my worst, the lowest I had ever experienced.
No one close to me knew the severity of how I was feeling. I wore a mask for many years. Pretending to be happy, when deep down inside I felt shame and helplessness because I couldn't control these bouts of anxious feelings and fearful moments.
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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?
The most defining moment of change for me, was when I attended a women’s conference, and within that conference the Prophet speaking prayed for many of us that had fear of the future.
I remember the next morning waking up to no rapid heartbeat, or trembling from the inside out. It was as if my nervous system had been restored. I thought to myself oh my goodness, I’m free! I felt calm, safe, and free. I knew then, Jesus had met me there and I was set free.
I also believe the change was both a result of my circumstances and my own actions. Prior to attending the conference I had just started a new job, started EMDR therapy, and had begun implementing changes in my daily routine, as well as reframing negative thinking patterns. I believe the conference was just the icing on the cake!
What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?
There was one thing that my therapist asked me to create and she called it the “perfect cocktail”. This indicated that she wanted me to create a list of things that I could do routinely that made me feel safe, relaxed, and reminded me of my identity. It needed to be something that would be the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I saw when I went to bed at night.
At that time, the “cocktail” I created was daily body movement, prayer, and aligning my life with my Christian beliefs. I purchased a chalkboard to place on the wall in my bedroom and wrote affirmations from the Bible about my identity in Christ.
I also recorded myself reciting scriptures from the Bible and would play them over and over again until I fell asleep. That was my meditation for the day; meditating on the word of God.
I later started taking vitamins daily and surrounded myself with a community of people in my faith, that could help keep me accountable in shifting my mindset. I knew how important it was for my life to align with the principles of my Christian faith. And to be honest I wasn't living a life that was completely aligned with my faith.
I was already an advocate for self-care, but it became essential in my life. The ability to be aware of what my body needed and give myself what I needed became my priority. I needed to show up for myself in the same way I was showing up for others.
I had to replace the negative thoughts I had about myself with my faith and what I believed. The thoughts that I wasn’t really liked or accepted by others, were replaced with Romans 8:15 NKJV - For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father”.
I was loved and accepted by God and I had an identity through Christ. Holding on to this scripture and many others helped to rewire my belief system and thinking patterns.
So if you want to know how to overcome this, here are a few helpful tips.
- Seek professional help from a therapist or coach: There are many therapists and mental health/life coaches out there who are equipped with helping you navigate through distressing symptoms. You are never too old to seek help when needed.
- Schedule regular wellness visits with your doctor/PCP: It's important when struggling with any type of mental health symptoms to rule out any medical issues first. Sometimes it may be a physical health issue that is presenting distressing symptoms than mental health.
- Change negative thought patterns and negative belief systems: Negative thoughts and beliefs can come from a number of things such as things we were taught in our family dynamics, past traumas, or things you may have heard people say to or about you. Modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) are extremely impactful when getting unstuck from negative thought patterns, and creating new belief systems.
- Daily Exercise: Research has shown how daily body movement significantly reduces symptoms of stress/anxiety/depression.
- Surround yourself with a community of like-minded people for support: This could be within your church or social groups. A safe place with safe people where you can be vulnerable and your true authentic self.
- And lastly practicing more than enough self-care.
Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?
My immediate family knew that anxiety was a struggle for me, but I don't think they knew the severity of my symptoms. My mother was the only person I felt comfortable enough to know the depths of the struggle I had with anxiety. I hid it from friends and other family members and within the church due to an immense amount of shame I felt.
I thought to myself how can I, a therapist, whose work is to help navigate others through their fears and anxiety, attempt to help other people through something that I had not conquered yet myself.
But I remembered something someone once said to me which was “You don't have to have it all together in order to help someone else. You can be in the process of overcoming something and still help someone else.” That was enough for me to keep going.
Before overcoming fear and anxiety, it was difficult for me to share. But now it doesn’t feel as daunting of a task to do openly, because I’m free and I know that other people’s thoughts or opinions of me do not define my identity.
If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?
You can never go wrong with seeking professional help. A therapist or coach that specializes in your specific struggle will be essential to your mental and overall health.
When we experience trauma, it changes the way we view the world. When you dont have a solid identity, people’s words will have a powerful impact on your life that can cause hurt and trauma.
I think oftentimes we brush off hurtful words someone may have spoken to or about us, and yet we don't deal with the impact of the emotional wound that their words may have created. Dont brush it off when it hurts, address the pain, heal the wound.
Don’t be afraid of your emotions. Our emotions provide information about what we need. Processing through your emotions can be a game changer in your ability to have a healthy and stable life.
In doing this we allow ourselves to let the process of healing take place, get an understanding of what we need, and make sure that those needs are being met. This, amongst other things, can lead to living a happier life.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?
- The Amanda Ferguson Show: This podcast helped me because she does an amazing job of providing practical tips to overcome fear, depression, and anxiety as well as spiritual practices with a touch of femininity to reinforce your identity in Christ.
- Therapy as a Christian Podcast: This podcast helped me realize the importance of normalizing therapy in the Christian community as well as mental health challenges within the church. This podcast helped me feel seen, heard, and let go of the shame of mental health diagnoses.
- Boundaries: This book helped me realize how much I lacked healthy boundaries. I had to understand that a lack of boundaries also contributed to increased symptoms of anxiety for me. Learning the importance of implementing boundaries in my life also helped to resolve my struggle with anxiety.
- The Battlefield of the Mind: This book gives a deep dive into biblical principles and the importance of guarding how you think as a believer in Christ. It helped me to understand how I can take authority over my thoughts and reminded me to think more positively in order to have a better life.
- And lastly, the Bible was my greatest resource for learning about my identity in Christ and realizing how much I was accepted and loved by God.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇
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