Erin Napier Says She Deals with 'Panic Attacks and Spiraling Thoughts' After Past Health Issues

"It left some deep ruts in my neuro pathways that have left me with an extreme fear and preoccupation with sickness," the Home Town star said of her decade-long battle with a mystery illness

Erin Napier
Photo: Manny Carabel/Getty

Erin Napier is speaking candidly about mental health issues she still struggles with nearly a decade after her years-long battle with a mystery illness.

On Wednesday evening, the HGTV star, 36, spoke openly about her health in an Instagram post. "This time of year, I feel the anniversary of illness so acutely. These hospital photos were taken in 2014, at the end of my 10 year illness from (unknowingly) a perforated appendix," the Home Town star began the caption of her post, which included two pictures with family in the hospital, as well as two page excerpts from the book she and her husband and co-star Ben Napier penned years ago. "I wrote about that decade in our book, Make Something Good Today, and for a long time thought I had put that all to bed with that final surgery."

Noting that her "appendix has been gone along with the physical suffering for 8 years now," the Home Town star continued, "I've been learning through conversation with my friend who is a therapist that it left some deep ruts in my neuro pathways that have left me with an extreme fear and preoccupation with sickness, nausea in particular, ever since."

"My brain, without my permission, sets off on a fight or flight mission to save my life, when my life is not in any danger at all. Panic attacks and spiraling thoughts come rushing in," she added.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Erin explained that she is "relieved" she was able to "have connected all these dots in recent months," thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also reflected on why exactly she was sharing the post and how she hopes that speaking out about her own health issues will help others who may be suffering from something similar.

"This is something you don't know about me, but I don't mind if you do. It's not bad or good, it's just part of my weird brain and I'm trying to untangle it every day, even as you may see happy news and posts from me," she said.

"That's everyone though, isn't it? We've all got our personal struggles. But isn't it so nice to have this place for editing the hard parts out?" Erin concluded. "Like seeing the people you love most gathered around your hospital bed, there's always a light in the darkness."

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

In the comments section, Erin received an outpouring of love and support from fans, many of whom said they commend her for being so open.

"Thanks for sharing. We are all a little broken, that's how the light gets in," one user wrote. Another said, "Thank you for sharing the hard parts as well as the easy ones. This is the reality we all need. Blessings to you as you continue to work through your trauma. 💜."

Drew Barrymore also responded to Erin's post, writing in her own comment, "I love you @erinapier and THIS DOES HELP TO KNOW and I believe we are lucky to have a window into you that will also help others!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing. Ps rely on us right back. Everyone loves you!!!!"

RELATED VIDEO: 'Home Town' Stars Erin and Ben Napier on Fame, Fans and Their Future: "We're Not Fancy Hollywood People"

Erin opened up about her prior illness in her and her husband's memoir in 2018, and also spoke to PEOPLE about the horrifying situation that same year. "It was a really sad and scary and confusing ten years," Erin previously explained to PEOPLE.

Noting that her health episodes started when she was 19, Erin explained at the time: "In the beginning, it would be 24 hours of terrible stomach pain and a low grade fever, and then it would disappear."

But, she explained, the episodes only grew more intense after she married Ben, 38, in 2008. "It became two days, then three." At its worst, Erin would be laid up for a week at a time, unable to move without pain and without any idea what was causing it.

After going "through everything, from doctors thinking it might be something really bad like cancer to saying it was in Erin's head," as Ben said, Erin underwent an emergency exploratory surgery on the advice of her OBGYN that revealed her organs were all bound together, fused by a tissue that covered everything. Baffled by the finding, they sent her to another surgeon.

During a second procedure, doctors discovered the cause of the extremely rare condition: a perforated appendix. The organ had been bursting and healing itself repeatedly for years. "The first time it happened, when I was 19, it just partially ruptured. Not enough to kill me, just enough to make me sick," Erin said in 2018. The organ had healed itself, becoming encased in scar tissue that eventually spread "like a cancer" to cover her other internal organs.

Thankfully, it was successfully removed along with her appendix, resolving the physical issue, if not the emotional scars.

Related Articles