My Battle with Anxiety
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Hello there, and welcome to my life.
This is my story with anxiety and panic attacks.
I remember I had my first anxiety attack when I was 5 years old. It was my first day of elementary school (my birthday is in October, hence I was not yet 6) and I remember standing in the entrance hall of my house and feeling very scared. My heart started racing, and I couldn’t explain why this was happening. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and freaking out even more, but I don’t remember what happened after that. I can imagine that I shrugged it off, as I did for the next 10 years, and went on about my daily life thinking I was a little stranger than everyone else.
When I was 11 years old, I moved away with my family to a different country and I don’t remember having anxiety except when I went back home. I would spend my summers with my family in a cottage that normally had 10 people around and that was when I had most of my anxiety attacks. I think that was when my social anxiety began. But, again, I always shrugged them off. Then, due to some personal issues and related to the anxiety, I remember that when I was about 13/14 years old I decided I wanted that my life goal was to be perfect in everyone’s eyes so that I could please everyone. I became obsessed with observing people to learn their reactions to everything I did and I took every criticism, analysed it and learned from it. Essentially, I became a very insecure girl.
I once tried telling my parents about my anxiety but they laughed and said I was making things up in my head so I decided to never touch on the subject again and I would never let anyone know that I had anxiety. A few years later, however – I must have been around 15 years old – I was hanging out with my aunt, who is a psychologist, and I had a small panic attack which I tried to hide from her but unsuccessfully. She noticed something was wrong so I told her that I would sometimes have these weird moments of anxiety and panic (I didn’t really know what I had at the time) and she told me that I had anxiety. It was good to put a name to what I was feeling and to know that it was a real thing but my aunt as well also shrugged it off and just said that it was how some people dealt with stress (just how other people may deal with it through anger, sadness, working out, etc). I was left still a little confused because I didn’t always have anxiety just when I was stressed out. In fact, at the time, I had more anxiety when I was on holiday! But her reaction made me realize that she also was not the right person to talk to about this.
My anxiety got much worse when I was 16. It was my junior year in high school and all of the pressure just got to me. I became obsessed with controlling how many calories I ate and how many calories I burned at the gym. I became obsessed with my grades. The truth is, that year I got straight A’s in every class, every term. The truth is, I never went out with my friends. I isolated myself from everyone and everything. The large group of friends that I had had until then turned into 2 or 3 people by the end of the year.
Since then, I have had my ups and downs with anxiety. My senior year was much better because I met new friends and they showed me that dieting and working out like a crazy person were not the way to go. The lessened pressure at school also helped me to relax. But I became a very controlling and very distanced person. I started dating my boyfriend in my first year of college and it was with him that I realized how closed off I really was, how I really didn’t let anyone in. I’ve tried to work on all of these things, but, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you can relate to the hardships of being anxious and nervous all the time.
My last bad episode with anxiety was during the school year of 2011-2012. With my parents working night shifts and away from home all the time, I was left to take care of my sisters. Add to that the pressure to find a good master’s degree (and get into one), I became so anxious that I actually had health problems. I developed IBS because of how nervous I was all the time, my body couldn’t perform one of its most basic functions. Thankfully, I saw a doctor (well, in reality, I saw about 10 doctors because none of them thought to ask me how I was mentally feeling) and he prescribed me something to help my body function despite the nerves.
This year, I finally met someone who suffers from anxiety as well and that was an eye-opening experience for me. All these years, I thought I was this odd ball, someone with some kind of weird condition that didn’t allow me to live a normal life like everyone else. But getting to know about my friend’s experiences with anxiety made me realize that I’m not alone and that this is not something strange; it’s a condition that is perfectly treatable in many different ways. Thanks to her, I started researching online about what anxiety is and I saw a therapist a few weeks later to talk through some things and understand really what is going on with me personally, because everyone’s experience with anxiety is different. I am now in therapy and I feel like I have improved so much in just a short month or two. I truly believe that anxiety doesn’t need to be something which keeps me from living my life to the fullest anymore. I have been gaining, and will continue to gain, the tools necessary to change my way of thinking in a way that enables me to subside my anxiety and live my life the way I want to.