I remember my first panic attack: I was in a college classroom, pretending to pay attention to the professor who was overly excited about calculus, when I started to sweat profusely. My stomach turned within seconds and the urge to go to the bathroom was severe. My breathing became labored and all I could think was, “If I don’t leave this room, I’m going to die.” Obviously, a rational person would realize that I wouldn’t die if I didn’t leave the room; however, your brain can manipulate you into thinking the strangest, most dangerous things.
I left the room, ran to the bathroom and never returned. I started missing class more and more, for fear of experiencing whatever it was I was feeling (I had no idea it was a panic attack). I left college permanently; sitting in a classroom for 2-4 hours became a nightmare I just couldn’t handle.
After that, my life changed dramatically. Public places that were crowded became places I would avoid. Family events, picnics, BBQs, anything that involved a massive amount of people were things I could no longer tolerate.
“Anxiety is so misunderstood because people use the term so frequently, but improperly.”
Though I was working in an office, I made numerous trips to the bathroom to breathe, run my hands under ice cold water (somehow, that calms me) and try to reason with my brain that whatever scary thing it was fearing was just in my head; “Cut this shit out!” I’d say out loud.
That was 10 years ago. Today, my anxiety has completely taken over my life. I was diagnosed with numerous mental health issues, one of them being severe panic disorder. A lot of people don’t understand panic attacks and think that if you just “get over yourself” you’ll be fine. Believe me, I only WISH it were that easy.
My panic disorder turned into agoraphobia, another illness not many understand. It’s hard for me to leave my house without the very high chance of experiencing a panic attack. I mostly stay in my bedroom, my “safe space.” Yes, people think I’m crazy. You might be reading this right now thinking that I belong in a mental hospital and though on some days, that may be true, I’m human. I’m not perfect, and neither are you. I suffer with this disease like others suffer from cancer or diabetes. “How dare you compare anxiety to cancer!” Unfortunately, it falls under the same category of disease: treatable but not entirely curable and not something we choose to have.
Have you ever met anyone that said they went shopping for cancer? Or diabetes? Or Bipolar? No. It’s not something anyone who suffers with it wants, and though it can be treated in many different ways, (no judgement: whether you use medicine or holistic therapy, it’s whatever works for you) it’s not something I can turn off in my body.
“Do you think I want to miss out on life? If there were a magical pill to take all my anxieties and illnesses away, I’d be the first to sign up for it. But there’s not.”
Anyone who thinks I’m lazy and using my diagnosis as a way to get out of doing things is so very mistaken. I don’t like living my life in a way that changes OTHER’S day-to-day activities. For example: I can’t go food shopping, so that falls on my husband. I can’t go to an amusement park, so my husband has to take my son on his own. Do you think I want to miss out on life? If there were a magical pill to take all my anxieties and illnesses away, I’d be the first to sign up for it. But there’s not.
Anxiety is so misunderstood because people use the term so frequently, but improperly. “OMG! There was a bug on my bed and I almost had a panic attack.” When really they mean they were just frightened or disgusted. Having an actual panic attack means labored breathing, the notion that you are going to die at that very moment, temporary paralysis, and the list goes on (and it also varies person to person).
I try to enjoy my life and appreciate the times I do get to enjoy moments with my family. However, anxiety controls my life; I’m in treatment for it and I will most likely be in treatment for the rest of my life.
“So, when do you stop seeing your doctor? Are you done with the anxiety? Aren’t you on medication?”
I’ll never stop seeing my doctor; my body is not done with anxiety; yes, I’m on medication but it’s not a cure, just a band-aid.
This is my life, and though there are times I resent my illness, I know that I am who I am, and I’m okay with that. And you should be, too!
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of anxiety, please contact your doctor.