In my own journey for health and happiness, I have been diagnosed with an array of conditions. Some physical. Some mental. Anxiety, Hoshimotos, digestive failure, OCD, bulimia, insomnia, you name it, I’ve had it. I have been given all of the labels and all of the medications. My whole life I’ve been blessed but health and happiness hasn’t been easy.

High school was hard, and college was a blacked-out blur. I pulled it together for grad school then started a career in travel.

When I was 25, I fell hard. It was first quarter-life crisis. I was working in resort property management. I traveled more than 50 percent of the time, visiting golf resorts and going to conferences across the country. I had flexibility. I had upward mobility. I had security. It was awesome.

Aside from my professional position, I was in a relationship with someone I had known my whole life; family friends who had eyes for each other since vacation bible school. We were finally together and talking about the future. Adorable, right? Not so much.

One night I was driving back from Destin, Florida after visiting resorts along the Gulf Coast. I was living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My parents lived in the middle, so I left my Great Dane at their house while I was on business. On my way back to Baton Rouge, I scooped up my 125-pound dog to be my roadie for the rest of the ride, an easy 3 hours.

It was dark, but I was wide awake, chain smoking cigarettes as I danced to rap music blaring from my Mach 1 mustang. My yellow Mach 1 mustang. I was classy and trashy.

An hour in, I started to feel funny. My vision was getting blurry and I felt discombobulated. I pulled over to check myself, shook it off and got going again on I-10. A few minutes later it was back again. I pulled over at a rest-stop, splashing cool water on my face. If the rest-stop bathroom would’ve had photo filter, it would be named ‘horror movie.’ The lights flickered, reflecting in a freaky way against the rotted bathroom mirrors. My chest was pounding and my heart hurting. I put my dog on her leash and paced the parking lot, hoping to override the funk. I only had another hour until I was home. I had to keep going.

I got in the car for the third time, confused but somewhat collected. After just a few minutes behind the wheel, the fear set in and I couldn’t keep going. I called my mom. After reviewing my symptoms, she diagnosed me with a panic attack. She was no stranger to this frightening feeling. That night I found a hotel that would take me and a dog well over the weight limit, just an hour away from home.

In the next few days, two more panic attacks followed, so severe that I would sit in the emergency room parking lot. I had to do something about it. I called a doctor and a counselor; someone to check on my body and someone to check on my mind. With an antidepressant from the doctor and bible verse from the Christian counselor, I rebuilt.

The trigger for this shake up? My life was unfolding just as I had planned it…and I wasn’t into it. My boyfriend and I broke up, I gained 30 pounds and moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

Once I got to Atlanta, I started taking my health back. I began cooking, experimenting with southern staples redone in a healthier fashion. I took yoga and Zumba classes, eventually became a gym rat and after a decade of a pack a day, I stopped smoking! Things were good. I was partying it up in a new city, looking better each day and gaining more attention each night. My confidence was soaring.

At 29, I met my soon-to-be husband at my best-friend’s bachelorette party, poolside in Vegas. Like I said, classy and trashy. We were in-love right away. For two years, we dated long distance, traveling back and forth. It was so. much. FUN!

With my new California lover, I had to keep up the hot bod. I was a diet fanatic, viciously counting calories, doing 90-minute yoga classes in 105-degree heated rooms before spending hours at the gym. I was 30 pounds lighter, much blonder and traveling East Coast to West Coast. I was amazed at what my life had become, and therefore terrified to lose it. I busted my ass to be perfect.

In addition to all the new health practices I was incorporating, I knew taking prescription medications daily was not ideal. I decided to stop taking my Wellbutrin for anxiety and smoking cessation as well as my Prilosec for heart burn. Coming off the Wellbutrin made me crazy and without the Prilosec, I couldn’t digest anything. This was possibly a good decision but not at a good time. Days after I stopped taking the meds, my west coast lover moved in with me in Atlanta and proposed.

I was ecstatic, but I was even more terrified than before. I had to be perfect and bridal. I had been hiding my insecurities in the time and distance my fiancé and I spent apart. Now he was within 800 square feet. I couldn’t hide. My world crumbled.

My panic attacks became so intense they were debilitating. Some days, I could not get out of bed. I would lay wide awake in the fetal position, shaking. My heart was racing before my eyes had a chance to open each morning. Right out of bed, I would retreat to my office where I would journal, meditate, pray, or lay on the floor in child’s pose just to get my heart rate down. I started smoking again and working out less, medicating myself with food and booze.

Old fears crept back in. I garnered a new fear of heights which made living in a 3rd floor apartment frightening. I knew I didn’t want to die but I became convinced that I could not control my body and would throw myself off a ledge. I had been in several car wrecks, two of which put me in the hospital and suddenly I was petrified to be in a car.

Then I developed insomnia. There was no amount of alcohol, weed, Xanax or Nyquil that could keep me down. I would drink and smoke to the point of passing out only to wake up around 1 am when I would lay restless until sunrise.

I went back to a therapist where I was diagnosed with OCD. In addition to the diagnosis, I underwent a special type of therapy used to bring back repressed memories for the purpose of healing. Up came violent images of being choked and raped by a 28-year-old co-worker when I was 16. This was one of many developments that would arise from the 6 months I spent in therapy. I had blocked out so much trauma and it was all coming to the surface.

I knew I wanted to be with my fiancé. I knew I wanted to build a life with him. Therefore, I knew I had to dig myself out of the sludge… again.

I began educating myself and experimenting with various forms of wellness. I toyed with everything from magnesium bath’s for anxiety to acupuncture for digestion. I visited tons of different doctors and eventually became functional again. I was not healed and was still hurting but I could function. I could live and enjoy life again. I was ready to begin the next chapter.

My eyes had been opened to a world of wellness. In my search to become functional, I became enlightened to so many opportunities and methodologies that I could never look back. I saw where I was and where I had gone and knew how much room there was for further growth. I learned how aligning myself with the right people and practices, I could support that growth. I was forever changed. I was wanderlust for wellness.

Professional Bio

Carly Knapp, MMC

Carly is a certified holistic health coach with a Master’s degree in health communications from Louisiana State University and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Mississippi. She attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she was trained on over 100 dietary theories by the world’s top nutrition experts.

She currently lives out of a suitcase, traveling the world with her husband. Wherever she goes, she takes cooking classes, visits health stores and learns about the region’s mindset on healthy living. Learning about different foods and practices around the world provides knowledge and insight that supports her in helping others navigate the journey to better health. Since she travels frequently and aims for healthy living, she has first hand experience on how to travel lite.