In my life, my battle with anxiety and panic disorder is both well medically documented and well known to anyone that knows me. My coworkers are familiar with what it means when in a split second I can change from being happy and having a great day to holding my head in my hands, trembling and clutching my chest. I’m suppose one might call me a veteran of panic.
Because my anxiety is so well known throughout my peer group and social circle in general, it often becomes the topic of conversation, and because it can be quite difficult to find empathy when you are dealing with this invisible but often debilitating illness, friends seem to find comfort in my ability to relate to them, and I do, and am always happy to be there.
Last week, however, I realized that I’ve never written much of anything for the anxious newbies. This realization came in the form of an instant message from somebody who I know, am casually friendly with, but have never had any level of personal conversation.
The little notification popped up at the bottom of my screen: “Hey, weird question for you,” it read.
I sat there eyes squinted watching the icon showing that they were typing wondering what this person would ask, I had never had an instant message chat with them before.
They went on to detail two experiences that happened to them over the past few weeks where they felt that their heart was going to explode, they felt numb and ‘outside of them self’. They wrote that they remembered hearing that I have anxiety and asked a simple question, could these be panic attacks?
Now lets be clear, I do not work in a doctors office, I have no medical background, but for the anxious beginner, anyone who can offer any kind of explanation is welcome, so I do my best.
Before I answered they said one more thing, “if you don’t know what I’m talking about, forget I said anything and just know that I’m crazy”.
My heart sank.
I remembered all of the times when I felt like I was too crazy, the times I felt like nobody could understand what I was going through and how I was surely the only person in this world who knew this feeling.
I got up from my desk immediately and walked over to them, I gave them a hug, I felt I had to give some comfort more than words.
After this interaction I could see that for a person who is just encountering this for the first time, its bewildering, confusing, scary and horribly lonely. I have well recounted my first time when I ended up in the emergency room and was confronted with my illness. But had I never sought medical treatment, would I ever have known?
As I pondered these thoughts I began to wonder how many people there are in the world right now that are having these feelings, but don’t realize that there is a name for this, and its not all in their head. I speculated as to how many of us are out there just genuinely feeling that they are crazy. I would have to imagine that number is impossibly countless.
I wanted to write this for these people, the beginners that are still looking for answers as to why they are feeling this way.
I wish I could say that anxiety is a neat little cookie cutter illness and one simple list of symptoms can universally diagnose both the illness and level of required treatment, sadly that is far from the case. I personally have had my anxiety manifest in more ways than I can count. The good news is there are things you can do.
The first, and most important thing you can do is know that you’re not crazy, you’re not, simple as that. The second is seek treatment. So many people are afraid to go to their doctor — they think surely they can only see a psychiatrist but avoid that out of fear that they are indeed losing it, and having that fear justified by having to see a shrink. I am by no means suggesting that therapy is not tremendously helpful, I’m simply encouraging you to know that doctors deal with this all the time, and that they get it; it is a medical condition.
If you’re reading this, and you are brand new to this, I want you to know that you are so far from alone. I get it, you are terrified right now, and you don’t understand why this is happening and you just want it to stop. Every one of us who suffers has been where you are, and we know how you feel. You are not alone.
Now the good news is, there is hope — you are not destined to spend the rest of your life feeling this way. This is a very manageable condition that can be treated, the first step however is to address it.
The one way, and the only way to combat this is to face it head on. I know that may sound scary, you don’t want it in your life so you certainly don’t want to entertain it by giving it anymore of your energy, but she is a silent predator and you must stare her right in the eyes and fight the fight.
Once you are able to stand up to this, you can start managing it. For some that may be therapeutic, for others, it may be a course of a vast amount of available medications, but you can not ignore it. Just as if you were to leave a wound untreated, it would eventually infect and be a much worse problem, that is true of anxiety and panic as well.
You may be asking how I can claim this is manageable if I am still suffering, and quite simply, I have a tiny fraction of the attacks that I had in my early days, and because I recognize it, I can handle it. Sure, it may cause me to miss work at times, but I stay away from emergencies rooms which for me is night and day different from when I started this turbulent journey.
I wish that when I first joined this club that I new more about it, I feel that if I had any idea at the time what I was up against that it may not have spiraled as badly as it did. But this is life and we live and learn.
I asked my associate later if there was anything stressful going on in their life, they confirmed that over the past few weeks there have been some heavy stressors. My advice to them, and my advice to you is that if you can identify something in your life that might be responsible for this, now is the time to eject it. If something or someone is causing this, whatever it is it’s not worth suffering over.
Remember one more thing, every thing that has happened in your life, the good the bad the happy and sad, were all just a series of moments that lead to this very moment in time, and you are here, and you are alive. This moment, this actual second, this is the first moment of the rest of your life, let it be you that chooses how the next moment goes.