Drowning Above Ground: Living with Anxiety
When people hear that I have anxiety, even a minor from of it, I’ve noticed that they treat me differently. It’s only for a little while, but they feel that need to hold back because of what could happen if my anxiety acted up. People assume that, because I get anxiety attacks more than others, I am more sensitive to things they may say to me. It’s true that some things do set me off, but I have never had an attack that was caused by someone else, it is always because of me. Most people think that anxiety and anxiety attacks are the same thing, and while they are similar, they are indeed different. Anxiety by itself is “a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying,” it is a subject with many parts to it that applies to some people and not others (Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments). Anxiety attacks “are episodes of high degree stress responses accompanied…by high degree fear,” think of it as the body and mind’s breaking point to heightened stress, not the cause of it like most people think (Anxiety Attack Symptoms). Having an attack is one of the worst feelings in the world, it feels like something is crushing your sternum and lungs at the same time, making it impossible to get enough air. It is a difficult thing to deal with because I might always have to live with it, however, it has made be more careful to not let my emotions take control of me. The lucky people who don’t have anxiety tend to think that it cripples you, what they don’t know is that it doesn’t have to drag you down if you know how it works. The key things with dealing with anxiety is knowing when it is about to happen, understanding how it works, and learning to live with it.
Anxiety attacks are scary in a way most people aren’t used to, your mind shuts down and your body is trying to get air to breathe while simultaneously suffocating you. Chest pain is the signal that it’s about to happen, you know it’s an attack because the pain is right in the center feeling like someone has a death grip on your sternum. People ask if you’re okay, but you can’t even answer them because you can’t form the words to tell them no. You cry because you don’t know what to do, but even when all your tears are gone it doesn’t fix anything. At first there’s nothing to do but let the attack run its course, eventually you are able to get a proper breath of air, but it’s not comforting. The feeling of foreboding haunts you after the episode is over, because you know it will happen again, and not knowing when is the worst part.
This is a place in my bedroom where I’ve had to deal with most of my anxiety attacks, I find that it helps if I’m in my own space. When I have an attack I need to be in a secure, quiet, and safe place making my bedroom a perfect place. It provides me comfort that I have my own space to come to terms with whatever is bothering me that day, because the attack is over faster when I can deal with it without anyone worrying about me.
When my attacks first started happening I had no clue what was wrong with me, so instead of asking my parents, I took to the internet. I didn’t take into account that the web would stress me out even more with discouraging comments about constant fear. They did help me with detecting when an attack was coming and helped me prepare for it, but it offered me no advice to prevent one from happening. Even if it didn’t help as much as I wanted it to I continued to bear this weight on my own shoulders, hiding this information from my parents. I didn’t want to bother my parents with thinking that something was wrong with their child, I made sure they didn’t know until the last possible moment.
Once my family did find out about my anxiety they really didn’t know how to treat me. I noticed that they were being nicer to me, but it just made me mad because they were trying to be careful around me. I understood that they didn’t want me to suffer, but I was the same person they had always known, and it hurt that they were treating me like a stranger. Even today my parents freak out when I tell them I’ve had an attack, they ask if I’m okay and give me all sorts of health tips, which I appreciate, but I always have to reassure them that I’ll be okay for the rest of the week by myself.
This is a picture of some of my family, specifically my Grandma with some of her siblings and my Great-Grandma, the person to focus on is the man in the green shirt. That’s my Great Uncle Roy who also suffers from anxiety, which is ironic because he looks the happiest in the photo, his anxiety is far worse than mine making it impossible for him to have a job. I’m not sure how he deals with his anxiety, but he manages to keep a smile up for the family. I am aware that if there was anyone would know how an anxiety attack really feels it would be my Uncle, but I don’t know if it would be okay for me to ask. I also don’t know how he would react if I did ask him, I don’t want to re-open a touchy subject with him.
When my attacks started to get very bad my Mom took me to a doctor where he gave me an option of taking prescribed medication in order to stop my anxiety. Mom thought I should take the medicine, but I wanted nothing to do with them. I knew that to stop my anxiety there would be a price to pay and I didn’t want the medicine to change me. The doctor smiled and gave me some tips on ways to get through my attacks.
Despite the fact that I can never fully get rid of the attacks, there are other things that I can focus on to help me. I have a family that cares about me and helps me by celebrating my victories, even if they are small. I can always write my thoughts on paper so I can view them and accept them, even if they aren’t the happiest. My relationship with my faith gives me an other outlet for the feelings that drive my attacks, it may seem silly to some people, but if it works for me that’s all that matters. I have also found that music can be very therapeutic when going through an attack by myself, the beat to the song can act as an example for what my heart rate should be which helps me calm down.
The way I live with my anxiety is learning how to look past it, yes having anxiety and anxiety attacks does suck, but I can still enjoy things. What’s good now is that I can sense when it starts to happen, my chest gets tighter and my heart rate goes up, all I need to do is redirect my train of thought. My experience with anxiety has dark and light areas to it, if I let it get the best of me I’ll only see the bad things life has to offer, but if I let my experience empower me I can look up and see a sky full of opportunity.
Living with anxiety has defiantly been a challenge to overcome but I have learned to deal with it in my own way. After figuring out what normally triggers my attacks and when one is about to happen, is how I can live with my anxiety. Living with it is not the same as accepting the possibility that I will always have to deal with this struggle, because I refuse to let this control me for the rest of my life.
Anxiety Centre. 2016. Web. 3 Dec. 2016. http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-attack-symptoms.shtml.
Medical News Today. 2016. Web. 3 Dec. 2016. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/anxiety.