Today’s post is going to be about something that I have struggled with my entire life. No, this post won’t be about fashion or makeup or anything super fun but it’s something that weighs on my heart everyday. I’m going to be talking about anxiety and how it has played a huge role in my life and how it feels living with something that is so misunderstood.
This is my story:
I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I remember always having knots in my stomach regardless of what was going on in my life. As I got older, anxiety started to affect me more. I would go out and be completely overwhelmed by people even when there weren’t tons of people around. I do really dislike being in crowds, though. It made it really hard to go places because all the people made me really anxious. I always dread going to concerts and sporting events. Obviously, not the part of the main event but the part where you have to figure out where to go and navigating the stadium with all the other 1,000+ people. It makes me anxious just thinking about it.
When I was in 10th or 11th grade, my anxiety worsened and these little things called panic attacks started happening. My doctor diagnosed me with general anxiety disorder and put me on 2 different anxiety medications to try to help get the panic attacks under control. I didn’t tell anyone when I first started the meds. I was ashamed that I needed to take medication to help me feel how most people feel everyday without meds. The medication did get my attacks under control, but they did nothing to put me at ease on a daily basis. The anxiety continued.
My freshman year of college was when the panic attacks returned. I was in a new place, new relationship and had new struggles. I was a nutrition major and I really struggled with my chemistry classes. I was so incredibly anxious all the time. I remember going to my chemistry exams and getting sick right before because of the anxiety. I hated my anxiety because my panic attacks would happen without warning and at any time. I was terrified of having one while I was in class or hanging out with friends or even in front of my boyfriend at the time. I didn’t want to be rejected or looked at funny because I was hyperventilating and crying.
My anxiety reached its peak the summer of 2014. My friends from home were very distant and I was being excluded a lot. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to besides family. I was taking a summer chemistry class and going to a therapist to help me handle my anxiety. It didn’t help. It seemed like it didn’t matter what I did, I was constantly struggling. I went through a hideous breakup at the end of the summer and that fear I mentioned before about being rejected due to my anxiety was realized. It was seen as an inconvenience. Something I couldn’t control and struggled with was seen as a huge flaw. To say that time was the lowest point in my life would be a gross understatement. I lost 20 pounds and dealt with depression. It wasn’t just the breakup. It was because I was being rejected by everyone around me simply because someone didn’t understand the nature of anxiety. Most people don’t.
A year went by and I slowly started to feel better. During the summer of 2015, my panic attacks were subsiding and I thought maybe I’d be able to get off my meds. I decided to take things into my own hands and didn’t think anything of quitting my medication cold turkey. That was a huge mistake. My body went through withdrawal and I had a bunch of days where I was violently ill. I thought I was headed for another depression. I just couldn’t win. I didn’t like the way my medication made me feel but I couldn’t get off it quickly. I did eventually get weaned off my meds and haven’t taken them in 2 years.
My anxiety is by no means cured. My anxiety is very much alive and well still. I go through waves of panic attacks. I can go a few months without one and then all of a sudden I’m having a few per week. I don’t think it’s ever something I won’t have to deal with. I still overthink things and worry way more than most situations warrant. Everyday is a new struggle but I have an incredible support system in my family and Joey. It makes a huge difference when you have people around you that understand just what anxiety looks like and how to handle it.
The reason I’m writing this post is to bring attention to a disorder that very few people who don’t struggle with it understand. During a panic attack, most people think to just tell you to calm down. Oh wow, didn’t think to do that…They don’t understand that it’s physically impossible to just calm down. It’s not that we’re overreacting. I can’t speak for everyone because everyone’s anxiety looks different, but for me, during a panic attack, I can’t breathe, the room closes in around me, and I can’t hear anything that is being said to me. I have to just let it run its course. There’s nothing I can do to stop it from coming or to shorten it.
Most people don’t understand that telling us to calm down during a panic attack is the most frustrating thing in the world. Wouldn’t we just love to be able to do that! We would love to be able to turn off our anxiety. Sorry, we can’t. Anxiety is treated like an inconvenience. It absolutely is an inconvenience. But not to anybody else but the person struggling with it. It really hurts when somebody treats your struggle with anxiety as an inconvenience to them. Sorry, somebody else’s anxiety is not about you.
The last thing I have to say about anxiety is that many people confuse it with stress and it’s extremely different. Stress is a passing feeling that has a known cause. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling that stays indefinitely and sometimes does not even have a cause that can be easily identified. I know for me, anxiety doesn’t always have a known cause. Most of the time I just have an extreme feeling of anxiety for absolutely no reason. Anxiety can interfere with everyday functions and I know that for me, it can really hold me back from day to day.
This post isn’t meant to be harsh. I just really felt a need to bring attention to anxiety disorders and maybe help those of you who don’t struggle with anxiety, understand it a little better. Anxiety isn’t something that we can just turn off. It’s a very real disorder that affects so many people on a daily basis. I don’t think there will ever be a day that I don’t struggle with anxiety but I know I can’t let it consume me.
My favorite verse is 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”. This verse is my favorite because it feels like it was written just for me. When I feel like my anxiety is getting the best of me, this verse just brings me strength and gives me hope that I can defeat it. I hope it can strengthen you as well.