Ever since I was young, I have suffered from anxiety. Yes, suffered. There is anxiety like people get before a presentation or right when they’re about to go down the biggest drop on the rollercoaster. And there is the anxiety that myself and so many others face on a day to day basis. The overwhelming thoughts before completing any task, simple or not. The uncontrollable shaking, of not just the hands, but the entire body, something that isn’t all that easy to hide. And the panic attacks. Oh boy, the panic attacks. Some days, it can feel so impossible to just live, to do anything. But there is strength in finding ways to combat this, to tell yourself that everything is okay. There is strength in just breathing.
Anxiety is no small matter, though many have tried to make me feel otherwise. There isn’t enough discussion on anxiety and the toll that it takes on people. The fatigue, the weight loss, the depression. All of it. So few people actually talk about it because so few people actually understand anxiety, especially those that don’t have to deal with it themselves.
Anxiety can start off small, something that is barely noticeable, maybe a feeling of “I shouldn’t go to work today.” But it can grow. Now you’re at work and the sense of unease has gotten worse and any little thing can set you off. For me, it can so much as take a child that starts to cry to send me into a panic attack. The child’s tears and screaming have nothing to do with it, but my mind was already so on edge that it tips, and a panic attack sets in.
For me, a panic attack starts with heavy breathing that I cannot control, no matter how hard I try. Then, my body will begin to shake, roughly, to the point where it looks like I may be having a seizure, though I am not. And then the tears will start. Despite any effort I make to hold them back, they always start to flow, and they flow until my mind decides that it is done. For the longest time, I just had to let my panic attack take its course, even if that meant waiting for hours for it to subside on its own. I get them at work, at school, at home, when I’m out with friends, anywhere and everywhere. And nine times out of ten, I don’t know what the cause is.
In the last year or so, I have come to understand the way my mind works a little bit more. I have yet to learn how to prevent my panic attacks since my anxiety is something that won’t go away. But I have learned how to move them along faster. For me personally, it all comes down to my breathing and having something to do with my hands. I breathe deeply while counting out each of the breaths. While I do this, I have this little thing that I do with my hands that is basically pressing as hard as I can on each of my fingers to focus.
While I cannot prevent anything from happening, doing these small things helps me to calm down to a point where I can continue functioning. Not every attack is bad, some of them I can work through and continue functioning.
Anxiety is a weird thing; it affects people so differently. But it is usually so aggressive. Anxiety should be normalized, because too many people are unsure of how to handle it. And sometimes, people need the help of others. My advice would be to listen to those with anxiety and hear out their needs. Everyone is different, they handle things differently, and they may request something that someone else wouldn’t. Be patient, be understanding, and most of all be ready. Because it could come at any point.