Chad T Grant’s Anxiety Story
"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
Before I tell the long and winding tale of my personal journey towards optimal health, I feel it’s prudent to preface this story with one simple fact: at no point were my body and mind truly “broken”. And neither are yours, for that matter. Throughout our lives, we’re all striving to be healthy fish in the poisoned river of the modern world.
Those of us who get sick-and-tired of being sick-and-tired just tend to dig deeper for answers than those who prioritize comfort over progress. We search for the root causes under the symphony of symptoms and stress. We get tired of playing the role of the victim, blaming our health on back luck or poor genetics. We come to a point where we can no longer accept the excuses and poor results that conventional medicine has offered us for our chronic conditions.
Likely, that journey is what has brought you here. I hope that reading my story may shed some additional light onto yours as well.
If you notice some strong emotions coming through this narrative, that’s because telling my story does indeed get me fired up. The pain of my health journey has been hard on me, both physically and mentally. Sometimes that pain manifests itself as anger and frustration, as I process and release it. I appreciate your empathy and compassion in advance. Here we go.
Upon cursory inspection, my childhood may seem rather harmless. Dare I say “normal”, compared to the those with acute events traditionally considered to be traumatic. But ironically, to me that has made my story more interesting as I’ve learned about the intricate ways that common, but not actually normal, aspects of modern life can have significant impacts on our health.
For example, my first few weeks of life started out with a complicated C-section birth where my mother required further surgeries, I was put into a nursery and fed 1980’s baby formula (gasp), and I was circumcised without my consent or anesthesia. Ok, we’re two minutes into this story and maybe a bit more acute trauma than I thought.
So long healthy microbiome, mother’s milk, and proper initial emotional bonding and connection with my primary caregiver. So long foreskin and nerve endings. And so long to a solid start for my nutritional needs as a growing human. Looking back, these things really hurt. I mention them as I hope that education might help save other young men from the same outcome.
My epigenetics were indeed off to a shaky start. But as a young man in patriarchal America, I unfortunately learned that processing feelings was a luxury for the weak, so I sucked it up and soldiered on. At the time, I was oblivious to how that erroneous belief would come back to haunt me.
While you might think that growing up on a small farm in rural California would have made my diet full of organic, biodynamic foods, that was mostly not the case. My family did enjoy bacon and eggs from the chickens and pigs we raised, but we also lived on a sand dune and our local community was not aware of the profound health benefits of pasturing livestock, both for the animals themselves and those that consume them.
Consequently, we ended up feeding our livestock conventional, antibiotic laden, grain-based products. We supplemented our farmed meat with a steady supply of similarly processed foods including fortified grains, non-fat pasteurized dairy, sugar, and fast food.
Another large stressor in my childhood which took me time to recognize was the relative isolation and lack of close friends that came with living in a small town. Compared to the cities and suburbs, I see that I had a pretty severe lack of “tribe” in my early years. Seeing now how community and emotional support are such critical components of overall mental health and longevity, I believe that this contributed to my propensity towards shyness and social anxiety in my youth.
As a parent now, I get it. Work hours are long, paychecks are short, and life is hard. My parents were always doing the best they had with what they had, and I love and appreciate them for that. But suffice to say, these conditions would not be conducive for a lifetime of health and wellness. Things would have to change.
As I grew up consistently playing soccer, I did manage to maintain a lean, strong build through my adolescence despite a less-than-optimal diet and mindset. Have you seen the quads on that guy?
However, during my teens my body did give me warning signs of the decline to come in the form of acute indigestion, man boobs, and severe acne. Not so sexy. These issues were my first experiences with the “conventional medical model” and their supposed standard of care.
During that period, I suffered chronic stomach cramps that had me doubled over for hours at a time, unable to focus or work. The general MD I saw for the issue said I was likely “just stressed” and left me with no real answers. Not he, nor the emergency room docs who decades later scanned my GI tract due to similar acute pain, once asked what kind of diet I ate.
After all, what effect could food possibly have on the gut?! As I was finding out the hard way, apparently a whole lot. As I didn’t have a diagnosable, diagnostic-coded “disease” at that time, I was sent packing.
The severe acne that persisted for 4-5 years during my teens didn’t fare much better. Maybe check my hormones? What are those again? Nah, let’s just give a growing boy some steroid drugs strong enough to knock out and elephant and might also cause permanent damage to his adrenal and immune systems.
While my acne symptoms did start to clear up after two courses of these harsh drugs, my journey with the physiological damage they likely contributed to was only just beginning. Chronic fatigue, weakened immune system, and hormone imbalance, here we come.
Despite all of this, somehow my activity levels allowed me to mostly maintain my mental performance and physical appearance to what I considered to be “reasonable” standards. I aced all the advanced courses through high school and enjoyed taking a deep dive into my English and Psychology classes.
Meanwhile, all that raging hormonal chaos combined with the cultural narrative of being a “nice guy” left me sexually frustrated and confused. I’d learn later that women actually like it when the right guy growls at them.
However, I did use my some of my time in high school wisely, doing some serious exploration of the interpersonal dynamics of human behavior. My lack of connection in my earlier years made me extremely curious about how healthy people might relate to each other, and how to generate the ideal conditions for doing so.
As I left my teens with more questions than answers and sailed into adulthood, the entitlements of youth would only take me so far.
Enter the college years. I adopted a steady diet of pizza, fried foods, burgers, and cheap alcohol combined with lowered activity levels and poor sleep. My body gained an additional 60 pounds of body fat over the next 6 years. I became embarrassed to take my shirt off, dreading the sight of stretch marks and the growing “spare tire” of fat rolling over the waist of my jeans.
Embarrassed by what I saw in the mirror, I wore loose-fitting clothing to hide my body fat accumulation. At the time, I had so many more questions that answers as to why my body was changing so drastically for the worse. I guess part of this process seemed “normal”, as most of the men around me seemed just as soft, pasty, and domesticated as I was quickly becoming.
Productivity and comfort were the waypoints on the horizon being sold to me as the solution for existential angst and a pathway towards significance and meaning. Advertising and cultural messages of instant gratification and quick fixes through hyperpalatable foods, drugs, and chronic consumerism clouded my judgement. It would take another decade of being lost before I would finally wake up to the world pulled over my eyes.
In the meantime, I had a decision to make about my career path. My long-term girlfriend at the time (later wife and mother of my son), was pre-med in zoology in college but later decided against the long and arduous road of medical school in favor of a teaching degree and starting a family sooner. Based on my opinion of most conventional medicine, probably a wise choice.
I completed my BA in Psychology at UC Santa Barbara in three years, with a heavy emphasis on evolutionary psychology, human sexuality, and english literature. As I was eager to learn and start helping people, during the same time period I worked as a counselor alongside licensed therapists and psychiatrists, serving teen and adult populations with mental health challenges. I learned how to support and triage those struggling in acute crises, and am grateful for the stories and experiences both the staff and patients shared with me.
However, despite working in clinical treatment settings with “ideal conditions” of tightly controlled medication cocktails, conventional dietary options, and full-time talk therapy, virtually none of the clients were actually getting better. The prospect of watching people maintain the same levels of dysfunction at best, or decompensate into suicide and psychosis at worse, was depressing and uninspiring.
Faced with the limited potential I saw to help people with conventional psych treatment, at the time I decided against continuing in that career path. I also considered a PhD in evolutionary psychology, but somehow a lifelong academia and research position didn’t seem to resonate. I felt the urge to get out and experience life and get my hands dirty. What better way than changing oil and tires on expensive German and Italian supercars?
This seemed like a workable shortcut to financial success and masculine validation through a “real job”. After all, vulnerability and self-expression are just for women and children, right? At the time, it seemed self-indulgent to prioritize my intellectual stimulation and creativity over putting money in the bank. I spent a year in Arizona completing a degree in Automotive Technology, led my class academically, delivered the graduation speech, and I began my 12-year career as an auto mechanic.
After years of sliding backward, I also decided to start making changes with my approach to health. My new job offered more movement and physical exertion, which I combined with weight training and taking up soccer again. For nutrition, I turned to the conventional wisdom approaches: whole grains, low-calorie, low-fat, small meals, eat less / move more, moderation, 80/20, etc. The experts assured me results would soon come.
The Scalpel Cuts Deep
Problem was, all this effort didn’t take me very far. Despite following mainstream advise, I still had chronic sinus issues and post-nasal drip. My partner became increasingly frustrated as I continued clearing my throat every few minutes and driving her nuts. After cursory attempts at elimination diets made no change and IgE allergy testing only turned up a dust mite issue, I was advised by an ENT to have sinus surgery to “fix my small nasal passages”.
After recovering from what felt like a getting hit in the face with a brick, my sinus drip was still there. There’s a reason I now have a passion for educating others about the chronic immune system and brain dysregulation caused by wheat gluten and cow’s milk dairy. (Spoiler Alert: there are better ways to do food sensitivity testing, which we now employ in our practice.)
My body composition didn’t fare much better. While I did lose the first 20 pounds, my youthful sense of agility and strength were now replaced by feeling slow and weak. I felt my physical resilience breaking down, with injuries and pulled muscles now commonplace. For the first time in my life, I felt my extra body fat bouncing when I ran. After my initial fat loss plateaued, I felt stuck, frustrated, and confused.
At this point, the lasting changes to my appearance over the years had shaken my self-confidence and masculinity to the core. My negative body image became a blocking factor to physically connecting with my partner, and I ruthlessly shamed myself for not knowing how to make progress. Feeling stuck in an unattractive body, I hit rock bottom and the motivation to continue to make changes became harder and harder to find.
In my darkest moments, the thing I wanted the most was to see a strong, lean man looking back at me in the mirror. I wanted to see my abs. I wanted to look good naked and feel worthy of love and desire from attractive women.
One of the most embarrassing parts of my journey was when my current MD informed me that my breast tissue seemed abnormally enlarged. Looking back, I realized that even during my teens I’d always had a little “man boob” going on, and that during my twenties the condition had only gotten worse. I now realize the hormone-disrupting effects all the processed food, sugar, and toxins likely had on my developing body that caused my estrogen levels to skyrocket and testosterone to plummet.
After a consult with a plastic surgeon, I decided to have Gynecomastia surgery to restore my body to its previously altered state. I remember the profound sense of shame I had at the idea of needed surgery to remove breasts as a man. The emotional pain was intense, and I hid the surgery and recovery from everyone but my wife. Shame thrives in secret, which I why I’m sharing my journey now. My hope is to educate other young men about ways to keep their hormones balanced so they don’t have to go through that kind of physical and emotional suffering.
As the years passed, my mental health suffered with increasing depression and anxiety. I felt socially, intellectually, and emotionally isolated. The conventional dietary changes I made still left me with brain fog, fatigue, weakened immunity, and poor recovery.
I would get sick for three weeks at a time and miss work, taking money out of my bank account and food off my family’s table. I would feel my focus and concentration slipping on the job, and my performance reviews started slipping. My chronic fatigue drove me to start show up later and later to work, with tense arguments and shame from my supervisors as a result. I felt guilty for letting down my co-workers and clients, but just couldn’t seem to shake the effects that chronic stress in all forms were having on my brain.
The Primal Awakening
On top of my career faltering, my sexuality was also becoming dangerous stagnant. Through a joint lack of maintenance and intentionality, my marriage became increasingly disconnected and emotionally strained.
My unmet sexual desires continued to build up over the years and became an increasing source of anxiety and distraction, both at home and work. Like many men, I turned to internet pornography daily for short-term release and stimulation. My masculinity was on life-support, and something needed to change.
As with all chronic stress cascades, things eventually came to a breaking point. While in Los Angeles for a business trip in 2010, I had what I now refer to as my “Primal Awakening”. I remember the moment clearly: I returned from a day of training back to my hotel room, set down my things, turned and stood still in the middle of the room.
I closed my eyes, my head bowed, and an ethereal flow of primordial life-force bubbled up to the surface of my higher consciousness from the foundational depths of my weary soul. My shoulders tensed, the hair on the back of my neck raised, and my inner voice spoke the intention, clear as day –
You must Hunt.
My eyes snapped open, my comfortable complacency shattered in an instant. Hunt what?! Women? Money? Wild Beasts?! Being a man of at least some integrity at the time, I sheathed my arrow and returned home to my wife.
Ethical non-monogamy wasn’t on my radar at the time, and discussions of an open marriage were initially met with intense fear and dismissal. Increasingly desperate and starving for connection, I made what in retrospect was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I made a bad deal – one in which I would trade my agency, self-respect, and hard-earned integrity for the preservation of the appearance of fidelity in my marriage. I agreed to try to meet my needs underground, in unhealthy ways and in all the wrong places.
While providing an emergency release valve for the pressure building up on my fractured psyche, this mutual “deal with the devil” ran its inevitable course. I drove fast, stayed up late, and pushed the lines in my life on all fronts – all in an attempt to self-medicate and balance my fragile neurochemistry by chasing highs.
While expanding and exploring my sexuality relieved one form of anxiety, the same non-monogamous lifestyle also generated an intense inner struggle of jealousy and fear. My already fractured ego was now under a new assault: struggling to find the solid ground of self-worth and internal validation without the artificial support of a partner’s physical and emotional fidelity. My stomach was now clenched and head spinning for different reasons. Finally cracking under the pressure, my marriage suffered irreparable damage, eventually ending in divorce.
While the pain of that abrupt life change was massive and still impacts me to this day, I still am grateful that I had the courage to take a stand for meaningful change in my life. Owning the pain that I felt allowed me to own my story, and thereby write the ending. The self-belief I gained by learning to prioritize myself allowed me to take actions the old me wouldn’t have considered doing.
When my first automotive job declined to give me a raise I had earned through eight years of hard work, I walked right into another dealership and got another job. When that workplace became too stressful, and my anxiety reached another breaking point after a few years, I decided to quit. With no backup plan and no other job.
It was time to draw a line in the sand: this is who I really am. No more compromises and selling myself short. The time to create the life I truly wanted was now, and I was ready.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt
At this point, I had seen enough of the ineffective results of mainstream "health advice", I realized that I needed to find more knowledge, resources, and strategies than what conventional wisdom had for me.
I spent next few years on a mission to solve my functional health puzzle. Building on the foundation of evolutionary biology from my undergrad education, I read thousands of pages of books and articles on the Paleo lifestyle, gluten-free diets, whole and organic foods, fasting, and ketosis. I tried radical experiments with my diet and macros, attempting every combination of high-fat/low-carb to low-fat/high-carb.
For exercise, I learned everything I could about natural movement, minimalist running, and targeted resistance training, High-Intensity Interval Training, and CrossFit. I immersed myself in emerging fields of nootropics, biohacking, and advanced supplementation. I also rebuilt and expanded my mindset, researching the latest developments in human sexuality and evolutionary psychology to complete my working model of what an "optimal modern human" might look like.
During this time period, I worked with several Naturopathic Doctors who helped me start the process on untangling my web of chronic symptoms to dig deeper for their true root causes. I food some much-needed insights, such as finding estrogen-dominance, low testosterone levels, and dairy sensitivities. I got some needed relief through hormone creams, digestive enzymes, and comprehensive multivitamins. I felt headed in the right direction, was grateful for the help, and was hungry for more.
When I heard the founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition®, Reed Davis, speak at the Paleo f(x) conference, I realized I’d found the paradigm I’d been searching for. I signed up for the course soon after and begin an even deeper dive into my own biochemistry and mindset. The journey would uncover undiagnosed adrenal fatigue, gut pathogens, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, and hidden viral and bacterial infections.
Sounds daunting, but without knowing the scope of the problem, solutions are all but impossible to find. I now look at all of our health journeys as lifelong endeavors, with each new hidden stressor an opportunity for healing that was previously unknown. Staying the course and correcting as needed, winding towards our personal version of health and happiness.
Acceptance and Emergence
As I increased my awareness of the ways mainstream medicine and cultural brainwashing had hurt my body, mind, and soul, I also started the painful process of grieving. My long-standing defense mechanisms of anger and criticism flared acutely in response to the raw emotions being unearthed and released.
I sought counsel along the way from the articles and books of many self-help and personal growth writers, including Tim Ferriss, Aubrey Marcus, Mark Manson, Kelly Brogan, and Brene Brown to name a few. They guided me to the long road towards 100% responsibility and accountability. I started owning up to the poor choices and habits I'd learned through my youth and adolescence, along with their sometimes devastating consequences.
I realized my life was exactly how it should have been, and it was all my fault.
I started to open my heart and soul to vulnerability, practiced radical self-care, and started to let go of productivity as self-worth and exhaustion as a lifestyle. Slowly but surely, humility replaced my hubris. I made significant pushes to increase the quality of my tribe and community, network with other entrepreneurs, and strengthen my family relationships. I felt my vital reserves regenerating: restoring my capacity to handle stress and quelling my anxiety.
I embraced a life of service full of contribution and significance. Filling up my desperately dry cup allowed me to start giving back. I began teaching and coaching others to escape the downward spiral of disease, metabolic chaos, and decline into the existential abyss. I now felt confident, masculine, and capable of achieving my goals with business, and relationships.
In short, I put in the hard work to change my personal and professional life profoundly for the better. Because of that, I’m passionate about empowering others to regain control over their health and mindset, just like I did. My journey is far from over, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to get up every day and continue to enjoy the ride.
I sincerely thank you for taking the time to hear my story, and I hoped it helped you in exactly the ways you needed. If you’re ready to get help with your own health journey, please reach out to book a free strategy session to share your story and learn more about how we can help.