My name is Faith Andrews. I am 21 years old and I have been dealing with anxiety/panic disorder my whole life. I decided to write this not just for me, but for anyone else who may be able to relate to what I deal with on a daily basis.
From a stranger’s point of view my life looks very normal and for the most part it is. I go to class, hang out with my friends, take trips, and do other normal things like everyone else. Some days these simple activities are just harder for me to handle than others.
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Although I often times suffer from situational anxiety, I also deal with random anxiety along with mild to severe panic attacks.
A lot of people think they know what a panic attack is, but don’t actually know until they really experience one. My panic attacks typically come without warning or reason and are debilitating at times. To me, it is similar to an out of body experience. At times, I completely lose touch with reality because of how powerful the anxiety is. Most of the time I will experience dizziness or feel the need to remove myself from whatever situation I am in at the moment which isn’t always possible at that time. Although they pass relatively quickly, I can feel the aftermath of a panic attack for at least 5 hours after it takes place. They are extremely emotionally draining. My anxiety and panic attacks also disturb my sleep schedule. I have many sleepless nights throughout the week, which make it very difficult to stay energized throughout the day.
I have experienced panic attacks in class, in cars, on planes, at parties, in my sleep, and even just hanging out with my friends and family. The time or the place do not play a factor in whether or not I will suffer from anxiety or panic and 9/10 the people around me will not know it is even going on. Anxiety makes you feel alone. It makes you feel as if you’re the only one and no one could possibly understand how you feel.
I began experiencing anxiety and panic attacks at night around the age of 7 or 8 due to somewhat of a bumpy upbringing as a child. This is where my sleepless nights began. I became so afraid to go to bed because I was so frightened by that foreign feeling of panic. This was incredibly difficult for me because I was so young and had no clue what was happening and no way of explaining it to anyone close to me without sounding “crazy”. To everyone I was just a very high-strung child who had a lot of fears. From then until around the age of 18 I was basically suffering in silence.
When I was 19 I decided to go see a therapist. I was terrified to do so because of the ignorance surrounding the idea of therapy. People really go around thinking therapy means you’re crazy or unstable, when it really is just an outlet to help you overcome struggles in your daily life. Entering this, I still had no clue what was going on with myself. I am very in tune with my body, so I definitely knew something was off, but I still wasn’t sure. At times I thought I had a medical condition that I would never be able to explain to anyone. Anxiety has a sneaky way of tricking your brain into thinking you are completely out of your mind crazy when in reality you’re extremely normal. In fact, anxiety effects over 40 million adults in the U.S. so if you think you are alone, you’re not.
After 2 years of therapy I have learned to accept anxiety as a part of my life instead of fearing it. Although I still struggle from time to time, I have gotten a lot better with not letting my anxiety stop me from living my life and doing things I love. Medication has worked miracles for some; however, after a lot of research I chose to take a different route. Instead, I have learned holistic and natural ways of treating and easing my anxiety. For instance, whenever I feel necessary, I take a mental health day. This consists of me sleeping as late as I want, skipping my classes and/or work, and spending the remainder of the day doing something I love with people I love. I am currently learning the benefits of being able to talk about my anxiety with my loved ones and not keeping it bottled up.
When I was deciding whether or not to write this, I had to make a pros and cons list. I have only shared these personal thoughts with a handful of people, so this was a difficult decision for me. After making this list I quickly realized this is strictly for me and others who are suffering and NOT for those who are close minded or judgmental. More attention needs to be placed on mental health to help those who are close minded understand people who suffer from mental health issues are just like them. We must end this mental health stigma and discrimination. Do not be afraid to speak out and ask for help because you are not alone. Always remember to never let ANYTHING or ANYONE come before you and your health.