I’ve always had anxiety. For a while, I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew that it had the potential to be mentally crippling. It wasn’t until my first semester of college that I found out what it was. After having a panic attack while taking a test, I went to talk to someone about it. But it wasn’t just the panic attack that triggered my need for expert help, it was also my inability to function in rooms full of people, my inability to travel without a companion, not being able to hang with friends without feeling anxious, not being able to speak up about things (just the thought of speaking up would send me into a panic), and so much more. Anxiety affected my school performance. Group work freaked me out because I would have to interact with people. Speaking out loud and standing in front of the class might as well have been punishment. At home, I would stay quiet about certain things for fear of confrontation. I was afraid to ask my parents for things. It freaked me out to have to answer the phone whenever someone called and I couldn’t make phone calls to people because the idea of speaking to someone was scary. I hated answering the door for people. To this day, I can’t go to the mall because of how open and how crowded it gets. Anxiety drives my fear of the dark, my fear of heights, and my fear of moving too fast. I get nervous about ordering food at restaurants. I can’t go to Starbucks without reciting my order in my head multiple times first, just because I don’t want to mess up. Whenever I’m talking to someone and words get jumbled or I mispronounce something, I freak out. This is just a portion of what I had/ have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Over the years, I have gotten better at maintaining my anxiety, but I think that it’s important for people to understand that: There is a difference between having anxiety and being nervous. I always hear people say, “I have anxiety” when really, they are just nervous about something. Anxiety is crippling. The panic attacks are worse. Whenever I have a panic attack, I sweat profusely. My hands shake uncontrollably and there is a lot of pressure on my chest to the point that I feel like I can’t breathe. I get light-headed and I start to breathe heavily. I cry as well because I know what’s happening and sometimes I can’t control it. Anxiety makes me feel like something is seriously wrong. It is a mental disease that a lot of people fail to understand. Whenever I fill out job applications and they ask if we have any mental/physical illnesses, I always write in “Anxiety” because I do consider it to be serious enough to be a mental illness. If you should be prescribed medicine then it’s an illness. I have chosen not to take medicine simply because I don’t like pills and I don’t like feeling like I should depend on a drug to feel better.
It’s been awhile since my last panic attack. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to control my anxiety. That requires a lot more than just mentally telling me to calm down. It is important to have good people around you who are aware of your illness and are trained to be able to help you deal with it. Luckily, I found someone who helps me. Of course, I still struggle with a lot of things (still can’t call people without freaking out lol) but it’s gotten better. I just want other people with anxiety to know that I get it. I know what it’s like to freak out while taking a test and to not feel like getting out of bed some days. I know what it’s like to walk around feeling like you are suffocating, or to be around friends and family and feeling like your suffocating. Hell, to be alone and feeling like you’re are suffocating. I know.
Understand that anxiety is not something to just joke around with. Not everything that happens to you can be labeled as “anxiety” and it really upsets me to hear people throw that term around so loosely. And I really hate it when people treat anxiety as if it’s not serious. It’s almost like a joke to some people and that’s because they’ve never experienced it. Just because you can’t “see” it doesn’t mean that it’s not real.
The purpose of this is not to offer advice on how to deal with anxiety because I haven’t completely figured it out. Not all anxiety is the same, it’s worse for some people. I just want to offer a different perspective on it as a mental illness and shed some light on just how detrimental it can be.
I also want to encourage you all to share your experiences. I think that it’s important to talk to people who know what you are going through.
Leave a comment down below if you have any questions or if you want to talk.
Want it to be a bit more personal? Just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also check out this article that talks a bit more about anxiety: http://mentallyaware.org/anxiety-disorder/
Disclaimer: I am not a professional.