While I’ve always been a pretty anxious person, I hadn’t experienced real, no-nonsense anxiety until I was 23 years old. It was a rough year mentally, emotionally, and financially, and it wasn’t long before I was experiencing frequent panic attacks and constant anxiety. I lost my job, I dropped out of my classes, my relationships suffered, and my emotional health was at an all-time low. Or so I thought…
The anxiety lasted a few months before, somehow, it got better. I moved back home, found a new job, and put my focus back on my schooling. I started therapy and learned to have fun on my own. I spent most of my free time with friends, and I learned to be happy again. Everything was great. And then, about a year and a half ago, the anxiety came back with a vengeance.
I first noticed it when I began having trouble breathing. I didn’t know it was due to anxiety at the time, but my chest would feet tight, and I would frequently feel like I couldn’t get a deep enough breath. One night, when it was really bad, my concerned boyfriend convinced me to make a trip to the E.R. They did EKGs and blood work and X-rays and found… nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was perfectly fine, they said. Sure, I felt like I couldn’t breathe most days, but all signs pointed to nothing being wrong.
It got better for a few months before I really experienced that all-time low. Starting around spring of 2017, when I was 27 years old, I began experiencing the worst anxiety of my life. The breathing problems came back and were worse than ever. I started experiencing heart palpitations and sharp pains in my chest. I was having daily panic attacks, some so bad I was sure I was going to pass out or have a heart attack. Every day was a struggle against myself, and every day my anxiety was all I could think about.
I visited multiple doctors about my chest pains, but no one could do anything for me. They all told me it was “just anxiety,” and many of them gave no other option than to go on medication for the rest of my life. I didn’t want that. I wanted to get better on my own, without the help of medication. I started going to therapy again. I got into yoga and exercising. I tried to stay busy to keep my mind off of my mind. But at this point, my anxiety was so bad that nothing helped. I was losing the battle against my own mind, and it was the worst feeling I had ever experienced. I just wanted to sleep my life away so I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. And for a while, I did. I gave up.
And then, about a month ago, I had had enough.
I was tired of living in fear of my anxiety. I was tired of letting it rule my life, making me a miserable person and miserable for others to be around. I was tired of knowing how much better my life could be if I wasn’t constantly being sucked into that black hole of anxiety. I was so, so tired.
So, despite everything I had told myself, I began taking medication. And you know what? I’ve learned to be okay with that. Sure, if I could have defeated my anxiety on my own, that would have been wonderful, but I’m realizing that sometimes it’s okay to have a little help. And I know I’m not going to stay on medication forever. I’m going to let it work its magic for maybe a few months, enough to get me to a more neutral state, and in that time I’m going use my more rational (thanks to the meds) mind to focus on learning to deal with my anxiety — really deal with it. And, when I’m ready, I plan to wean myself off. I know, in time, I will be able to deal with my anxiety without the help of meds, and I know, one day, I won’t even have to worry about anxiety at all. I know I will one day be free.
For now, I’m learning to focus on what makes me happy and put all my energy towards those things. I started a blog in December and have really gotten into within the last couple of months. Through it, I have made friends and found a passion that I didn’t know I had. I look forward to spending my time creating new content, and it offers me a much-needed escape from my anxiety. When I blog, I actually feel good… normal… weightless. Those who have experienced debilitating anxiety know how much weight it can put on you, both mentally and physically (due to tense muscles), and it’s truly an incredible feeling when that weight is finally lifted.
I’m telling this story not to lead you down the road of an anxiety-filled mind but to tell you that there is a way out. Living with anxiety does not mean the end of hope. While different techniques work for different people, there are ways to defeat it. Exercise helps for some. Yoga, running, weightlifting. Spending time with friends and family can lift spirits for others. Hobbies and passion can be a good source of escape as well. And, if you truly cannot handle what anxiety is doing to you, if you truly feel that you cannot get better without medication, then that’s okay, too.
The important thing I’ve learned is not to be ashamed of what you have to do to survive. It may take days or months or years. It may take rigorous exercise or medication or something as simple as daily walks in the park. Whatever it takes to get better, to feel normal again, don’t feel ashamed or broken because of it. Focus on the end goal, on the day when you are finally able to breathe again and live your life without the weight of anxiety, because that day will come. Focus on being free, and know that you can fight your anxiety, just as I am fighting mine. Know that we can win.