Accepting my anxiety
April 30, 2020
Over the past year, I have become very close with my own mental health, specifically my anxiety. But at first, it was hard for me to identify how my anxiety was impacting and getting in the way of my everyday life.
Last summer, my family and I took a trip to New York where we went to a couple different Broadway shows, along with a ballet performance. While sitting through these shows, there were multiple moments where I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. And of course, when this happened, I started to freak out, making myself feel sick. On our flight home, my anxiety became so bad that I thought I was going to pass out on the plane. My heart rate accelerated, it became hard to breathe, and in this moment I began to lose my hearing. Thankfully, my sister Lily, who was sitting next to me, was able to help distract me and calm me down.
But even in these moments, I didn’t think this so-called “anxiety” was something that I had. Of course, there had been other times in my life where I was nervous or anxious about something, but it had never stopped me from going to an event or participating in an activity.
During the fall of my senior year, I was faced with a couple more challenging situations, one involving a car ride away from home and another Broadway performance. After freaking out in both of these situations and experiencing multiple panic attacks, my mom and I came to the conclusion that it was time for me to reach out and find some professional help.
I talked to my doctor about possible medications and seeing a counselor, but both of these ideas were still hard for me to accept. Not only was I scared to go on medication, but I was more worried about the possible side effects. I didn’t like the idea of going to a counselor or going on medication. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was struggling with my mental health, nor was I very interested in seeking help. So, I tried to hold off on both solutions.
As time passed, however, I started to realize that I did need that professional help. While attending a couple parties and hanging out with big groups of people, I found myself coming home after each night crying and panicking yet again. I loved the idea of going and doing these activities, but my brain and my body were telling me different things. My best friend, Carly, soon began to notice how I acted and felt in these situations, where she too suggested that I reach out for help.
I began to follow my doctor’s plan: taking medication and going to see my counselor once a week. At first, these two solutions were both hard to accept mentally and physically. I became really tired and nauseous due to my medication, which also stopped me from hanging out with friends. Along with this, the stigma around going to therapy and counseling made me feel like the problem was out of my control. I felt overwhelmed, and my parents thought that going to a counselor would be a quicker solution than it is. Going to a counselor made me feel different than everyone else, and in my mind, not having anxiety was considered “normal,” which is all I wanted to be.
Today I am still following my doctor’s plan, including medication and my weekly counselor appointments. Through my discussions with my counselor, I have learned and accepted that I am never going to be “normal.” I also learned that there are thousands, even millions of people who experience the same struggle and challenges that I face with mental health. This has made me realize that everyone struggles with mental health in their own way, and that no one is “normal.”
I chose to write this piece not to only reflect on my own experiences and challenges, but also to share my story with others who may have experienced the same struggle or are currently experiencing it. Through my relationship with mental health I have learned the importance of reaching out to your family and friends, letting them know what you are comfortable with, and informing them about what situations may heighten your anxiety and lead to panic attacks.
Before writing this piece, only my family and a couple of my friends knew what I was facing, but now I am finally comfortable sharing my experiences with others because I think it is important for people to be aware of each other’s mental health. By sharing my story I am not asking for pity, but I want everyone to see another example of what your peers and classmates go through in their everyday lives that may go unnoticed. Although my anxiety is challenging at times, it has taught me to treat everyone with kindness because you really don’t know what your peers are going through in and outside of school.