I’m not sure how to even begin. Everyone keeps telling me to write about my anxiety, but I honestly don’t think I have anything helpful or thoughtful to say. I thought I knew how to combat the anxiety I’ve had since I was 6 years old; I thought I was a warrior who had fought her tough battles and won. After all, I graduated college with a high GPA, moved out of my parent’s house, and managed to keep it together when my mother had a stroke. I thought that I had figured it out, and was in control of my life. I even published a few articles about how to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, and felt helpful to other people. As it turns out, I am an imposter. I thought I had overcome my battle with severe anxiety, but it has only just begun.
Three months ago, I was leaving Starbucks in my car when I felt like my vision had gone blurry. I shook it off and told myself I was fine, and started to drive home. I was at a light on a bridge and started to see black. I was in complete and utter terror, and I thought I was going to pass out right in the middle of the road. Somehow, I ended up making it into a mall parking lot, where I proceeded to hyperventilate. I have never hyperventilated before, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t breathe. I felt dizzy, my heart was pounding out of my chest, and I felt like I was on fire. I was completely helpless, confused, and thought I was dying. It was later that night that I realized in the 18 years I have had anxiety, I had never had a true panic attack until that day.
Ever since that day, I have struggled immensely to drive, be alone, go to school, and go to work. I am constantly reliving the experience, wondering when the next attack will be, and feeling powerless. My mind is constantly in fear, and my body is in fight or flight mode because of it. I am always sweating, my heart is usually pounding, and within seconds I can feel like I’ve lost my breath. I have lost nine pounds, which is bad for someone who was 99 pounds to begin with. I cannot eat when I am anxious because I get nausea and pain, so keeping weight on has always been hard, and it seems almost impossible now. My blood sugar levels are dropping because I am not getting the nutrients I need, so I am always feeling lightheaded and shaky. It’s not that I don’t want to eat, it’s that I physically feel too ill to do so a lot of the time. I have started forcing myself to eat every few hours, which is uncomfortable, but necessary.
I am at a loss for how to get my life back. I don’t like the person that anxiety has forced me to become. I am always terrified that something bad is going to happen, and I no longer trust myself to handle something when it does because of how bad my panic attacks are. I don’t feel like I have confidence in my ability to function properly, which is so terrifying because I used to be an independent, strong, and relatively carefree. I used to believe that everything was going to be okay, and that if you were a good person, good things would happen. Now I am face to face with the unknown, and I have an incredibly hard time accepting that bad things happen to good people, and some things are totally out of our control. The world hasn’t changed; I know it’s always been this way…but I never truly realized how little control we actually have, and how scary it is once you are forced to grow up.
I am exhausted – every single day is a fight, and I wish I could say that it has gotten far easier over time, but it hasn’t. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m sick of taking the long way to get to work because the short way involves a bridge. I’m sick of being unable to stop and get a coffee before school because it’s too far out of the way, and I don’t want to be in the car longer than I have to. I’m sick of being so negative all the time. I’m sick of running from my own mind because I don’t know what it’s going to tell me, and I don’t want to give it a chance to tell me something I’ll fear.
I know that it sounds like I am completely hopeless and pathetic, but I haven’t given up yet. I know that I either need to keep going or quit, and quitting is not an option for me. I know that I need to relearn how to drive calmly, how to be alone, and how to function at work and school, but it is going to take time. I am having a hard time accepting that I am going through this, and I think that is a large part of the pain. I just want to be myself again. I also fear that I will never get through this stage in my life, which means I will never be able to become a teacher or have a family of my own. How am I supposed to teach and raise children if I cannot even take care of myself? I have always dreamed of having a family and educating children, and I pray that this is not going to ruin it. I have high hopes for myself, but mental illness does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time, and it is devastating.
I hope that one day, this experience will be worth it. I hope that I will meet someone who needs to hear that they are not alone, and that it is possible to recover from severe anxiety. If I can help at least one person, this pain and misery that I am going through will be worth it. I know that once I beat this, I will truly be a warrior who fought her tough battle, and won.