- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Submitted by: Abby Foster
I can’t remember a time before I had anxiety. But the day I turned 18 it was literally like someone threw a switch and the next day I couldn’t leave my house. I couldn’t drive. I lost my job. I missed 32 days out of 90 my senior semester. Before at least I could do things, I would have a little bit of anxiety but literally the day I turned 18 it just took me over.
The best way I can describe my panic attacks is imagine being underwater and trying to swim up to get your head above water but you can never seem to reach the surface. You can see the sun ripple above but you can’t get there. It’s a battle with my mind. Like I’m fighting a war but it’s you on both sides.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not a person. I feel like I am a disorder. Instead of having a nervous system it is like I am a nervous system.
So, I went to the doctor because my mom and I realize I really need help. First, I went to my primary doctor and it was literally the longest car ride of my life. The whole time I cannot breathe, I’m freaking out, my body is rejecting the fact that I want to sit down comfortably. It got to the point where all of my limbs became numb. It started at the tip of my fingers and ran up my arms and I just completely went numb. It’s like my body went stiff like I had lockjaw but all over my body.
Finally, somehow, I managed to make it to my doctor’s office, and I couldn’t even walk inside. Eventually they got to the point where they had to get me a wheelchair and wheel me in and I was freaking out the whole way until we got into a room. Even then I couldn’t stay in the room, I had to go hide in the bathroom for a long time because when I have a panic attack I like to be alone. Like completely by myself, I do not want anyone around me. I don’t want people to make me feel better. I just like to be on my own, breathe through it.
Eventually, I made it out of the bathroom and into the office and I still can’t breathe, just completely freaking out still, but I managed to make it into the room. She referred me to a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Luckily, I managed to get to them the same day because there was no way I was going to make that car trip again.
We made it over there, it was right down the road, it took me awhile to get inside, they got me back there immediately. I talked to the psychologist first, and I remember just like sitting there freaking out in the office and I kept having to go to the bathroom but the was so awesome that he sat outside the bathroom with me, just sat down right beside me so I could get up and like walk in when I had to. He met me right where I was. He told me I had a panic disorder and was suffering from panic attacks. He gave recommendations to the psychiatrist and they started me on medication that day.
Then I started college and I had anxiety every day. It was a struggle. It got to the point where I would have 5 panic attacks a day or just one constant panic attack that would last all day. I sought help again from my doctor’s and we had to switch my type of medication and that helped. I’ve also tried other methods along with the medication. I tried talk therapy, I’ve tried breathing exercises, I’ve tried the changing the diet, I’ve tried to cut out caffeine, I’ve tried to add in herbals. I wear lavender. I see what helps and I add that to my care.
I’ve tried the herbal teas I really like mint tea for some reason, it’s like a calming stomach thing and I get really nauseous so just that calming one symptom helps me with the rest. Have an outlet if you go somewhere have a safe zone. Me, I always know where the exit is and the bathroom. Whenever I go into a restaurant my really good friends who understand what I’m going through or who know what I’m going through point them out and say, “there’s the bathroom, just so you know and there’s the exit”. Make sure your closest friends know what’s going on even if they don’t completely understand it, help them. They need to know.
My two best friends are really great. Bree, my sorority sister, friend, coworker, is so patient and understanding. She always knows what I need before I even say it. She sees my symptoms as soon as they start and knows what to do. Ashley, my best friend, my soulmate, my roommate, and my future maid of honor, although she may always understand and even if it’s frustrating at times, she is a huge support. She’s closer to me than anyone in the world because she knows me- I mean really REALLY knows me. She listens and she’s always ready to cut the party early when necessary.
Panic attacks are hard, panic disorders are hard in general. I’ve never really met anybody who specifically has panic disorder. There’s anxiety where it’s all in your head, you have racing thoughts. But, the mental racing thoughts freaking me out, thinking I’m dying is not how I experience it. Mine is very physical. I start sweating, my heart starts racing, nausea, it’s like the need to flee and it’s weird because it’s almost like I’m trying to convince myself that it isn’t real. There’s a constant doubt that I have, a constant doubt that I even have a disorder. I always wonder is it all in my head, am I being dramatic? Am I making myself do this? Because nothing is more terrifying than battling your own mind every single day. I am my own worst enemy.
Right before summer started my ex-boyfriend and I broke up because he loved to be out and doing things and I couldn’t go do those things. It was really restricting and because my disorder ruined a relationship for me, I decided, ‘alright I need to put myself out there’. Now, I’ve begun pushing myself to doing things that I know will give me anxiety.
I don’t want to waste my youth being scared. Even though I don’t talk to my ex much anymore, I’m so thankful for him. Because now I’m actually going out and trying new things. I venture outside of my physical comfort zone, try a new area of town. I’ve started pushing myself to do karaoke while out with friends. It was huge! I faced another trigger of mine which is eating in restaurants. I’ve been eating at a large sports bar with friends and playing trivia with a big team of friends. I am living and enjoying life with my panic disorder.
Don’t do what I did. I guess eventually I got there but I wouldn’t recommend it. Find out what works for you, if you don’t like to take medication, do it if you need to, if anything it’ll get you started and you can wean off of it and find your own things. Your disorder is just something you deal with- find what works for you. Get out there, make it happen until it doesn’t happen anymore. Do karaoke! Live your life!