My Journey with Anxiety

I was never the type of person who took anxiety seriously. I always thought to feel anxious was only something that happened before a big performance or when you had to talk in front of the entire class. I never looked at anxiety as a disorder, but instead, as something people used to get attention. Since then my views have changed entirely. I was forced to see the other side. It’s been a difficult but empowering journey full of confusing highs, lows and so many questions, but I’m here now to say that I’ve learned how to conquer living this challenging life.

Before I came to FSU, I was at the top of my class in high school, had leadership roles in various clubs, loved being involved, and always kept myself busy. I enjoyed the certain stressors these titles placed on me because I knew that I was being productive and doing things that I actually liked. I was on the homecoming court, ran in the Miss DHS pageant, walked the stage in various outfits for the Fashion Club, and hosted almost every single school event. If someone would have told me that having anxiety would even be a possibility in the near future I would have laughed in their face. I enjoyed every second of my life. I was even more excited to finally start life in Tallahassee at FSU. Boy, did I have no idea how unprepared I was.

Courtesy: Sarah Bordeaux​

I truly believed that I had college in the bag. I was going to have so much fun being on my own and becoming immersed in an essentially new world. That changed pretty quick. I was taking chemistry and failing terribly. I thought to myself daily, “I aced chem in high school! Why is this so difficult?” This class stressed me out so much that I had full-on mental breakdowns twice if not three times, a week. At the moment, I thought I was just frustrated at the fact that I was struggling, and I was, but every time I sat down to try and study the material, I could not focus. I would start panicking and freaking myself out because I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I was probably going to fail. For someone who’s never gotten below a B on their report card, this was a huge step backward. The stress became so bad that I ended up balling in my advisor’s office and came to the conclusion that I should probably just drop the class. I was so relieved when I finally didn’t have to think about it anymore.

Courtesy: Simoneau Photography

A few months later, I was in the car with my boyfriend at the time. He was driving us home from church and pulled into a gas station on the way back. He got out and went inside to pay. For some unknown reason, a huge rush of terror came over me. I knew that in that exact place and time that I felt unsafe and didn’t want to be there. I didn’t know why I felt this way, but something triggered that sense of fear. I tried holding it in but before we got back to campus my heart started racing. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or I might throw up all while crying uncontrollably. I was so confused, scared and angry all at the same time. My thoughts were racing. “What is happening to me?” “Am I dying?” “I need to get out of this truck right now!” Of course, my boyfriend started freaking out and tried to calm me down. I had no idea what had just happened or why it happened.

I later learned that I had had a panic attack. “Me? A panic attack? Why?” All of these questions were racing through my brain every minute of every day until I finally met with a doctor. She had me fill out a ton of questions that I thought were pointless but she eventually diagnosed me with moderate anxiety. I was mad at myself. I could slowly start to see that my thoughts overcame my feelings. It got to the point where it affected me physically. My heart rate was all over the place all the time. On really bad days I felt like I was going to throw up or even pass out at certain points. I would get bad headaches and falling asleep was hard. It was so insanely exhausting. I did not want to come to terms with what was happening. I wanted so badly to forget about it but you see, anxiety won’t let you forget. The harder you try to forget the more it’s there, getting worse and worse. It’s like your own brain is arguing with itself all day long. At this point, I didn’t know how to control it. It affected my mood, the way I interacted with people, my drive to do anything. I was scared to go to the gym because I thought I was going to pass out. I was scared to drive because I thought about getting into an accident. I was scared to go to class because all I wanted to do was get up and leave. I could see myself starting to change and that scared me more than anything.

People around me tried to understand but they would never really get it. I wrestled with the idea of going on medication for a while and finally saw another doctor back home. I never really liked the idea of being put on medication because I was nervous about the side effects and if it was going to change the way I acted, but at this point, I was willing to try anything to get my brain to calm down. My doctor prescribed me a pretty common medication for anxiety so I picked it up that same day, went home, and just stared at it.

Around this same time, I started talking to a professional and I cannot stress enough how much this saved me. I had finally felt like somebody else understood exactly what I was dealing with. I saw her a few times before I came back to FSU this fall. She was genuinely concerned with how things were affecting me and made me feel so normal for dealing with something that used to make me so angry. We both came to the conclusion that I should not start the medication and that I should give myself some more time to try and handle things on my own. This involved lots of meditation, breathing exercises, talking myself out of my outlandish thoughts, and simply being good to myself. I actually started to face things head-on instead of pushing everything away like I had been doing for so long. Educating myself on how anxiety really affects the brain and body helped me understand how to combat it.

I have amazing days where I forget I even have anxiety and other days where it completely encompasses everything I’m doing. Dealing with this has been a huge struggle but I have so many people around me that get it, and that make things so much better. I’ve really learned to take time for myself. I am glad I didn’t start the medication because now I know I can handle it on my own. I’m so lucky that I get to say that. There are people who have it way worse than I do. For those of you who are taking medication, props to you for taking charge. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of something that makes things just that much easier. I mentioned earlier that having anxiety literally feels like you’re arguing with your own brain 24/7. For those of you who struggle with anxiety, you know what I mean. For us, doing simple tasks may be harder than the average person. Keep going. Make bold decisions that help you to better understand yourself. Do what scares you. Don’t let the anxiety win. Take a deep breath and conquer every single day.

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