Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
I never actually thought there was something wrong with me. I just thought I was different. I mean, I am different, but not to the extent where I have issues with my mental health. Being different though seemed to be my downfall in high school. I couldn’t even say I was at the bottom of the food chain because I wasn’t visible to my student body. I was very secluded. Very introverted. I didn’t think much of people. Considering people didn’t think much of me...
I went to University in Ontario to escape B.C.. I didn’t like who I became after high school and I wasn’t too fond of the people I was surrounded by so I decided to leave the province. It was the best decision of my life. However, when I came to university, all of a sudden I became visible. I made friends. Hell, they even LIKED me. Surprise! I became more and more comfortable with who I was and now, being a 5th year student, I am quite positive I know who I am and I don’t give a damn if people don’t like it. Haters gon’ hate.
Here’s the thing, though… This was the first time I was truly visible… People actually started wondering who I was, what I was all about, questions were being asked, judgments were being made, so on and so forth. So I became strongly aware of my presence. And it overwhelmed me. I became so very aware of how much I worried about everything, about how negative aspects of my new life really shone through, about how what others thought about me actually started to matter, and how introverted I truly wanted to be because the thought of being social all of a sudden freaked me out. I wasn’t doing well in school, either, so I got to a point where I started convincing myself I wasn’t worthy of these new people, of school, and of life. Despite the fact that I had a significantly better life in Ontario, I still wasn’t happy. I was lost, confused, and ashamed, once again, of who I was.
In 3rd year, I really started thinking about the fact that something could be wrong with me. Every time I worried about something, I couldn’t breath. It always started in my chest, every single time. And then it moved into my throat, as if I were about to cry out of nowhere. If I didn’t end up crying, then the possibility of crying would be replaced by hyperventilating. Everything positive would disappear, and I would be consumed by my worries and fears. And then, if I was lucky, I’d blackout. This also become quite common whenever I would write a midterm or an exam. After these “episodes” occurred one too many times, I was positive something was wrong with me.
I eventually went in for a psycho-educational exam with a psychologist to get some answers about why I did poorly in school and why my worries and fears took a control of my life. 2 weeks later and I got a diagnosis: a learning disability specific to my working memory and severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
At first, I was incredibly relieved. I know, odd initial response. I had an answer, though. There WAS something wrong. It wasn’t just me. I wasn’t stupid when it came to school, I wasn’t just a worry-wart. No, I just had no control over these things! But immediately after the relief, I felt scared. My chest tightened up once again and I proceeded to try my hardest to keep an anxiety attack at bay right then and there in front of the psychologist. She told me that it was strongly recommended that I get help from not only a therapist, but that I become medicated as well. I immediately refused medication, but considered professional help. This if my life now. A learning disability and severe anxiety. I had no idea what I was going to do.
4th year was the worst. My anxiety took control over my life to the point where I had a panic attack 5-6 times a week and they ended with me crying myself to sleep. Then I was diagnosed with depression, which consumed me as well. I failed an important class in Fall semester and completely DREADED going back to school for the Winter semester. Dropping out of school sounded ridiculously ideal. I never wanted to be in school less. I didn’t want to go back to B.C. though (I was in Mexico at the time). I didn’t give a shit about my education, my friends, or anything for that matter. I didn’t want to be anywhere. I didn’t want to be anyone. I didn’t want to be.
I finally decided to go on medication. I 100% couldn’t help myself. I was lost in a sea of despair, pain, fear, and worry. Once it started to work, I finally felt like I could breath right again. I started hanging out with my friends once again, I started working harder at my volunteer job, I actually studied for tests. I was breaking out of my rut. I then realized that everything was going to be ok.
I have anxiety. But I am not alone. No, I don’t have a coping mechanism just yet, but I know for a fact that I am doing better. I cry less. I breathe more. I surround myself with as much positivity as possible. I can’t control this. I never will be able to. But I am learning to maintain it and that’s all I need right now. It sucks sometimes, but I don’t let it define me. In fact, I allow it to make me stronger. Because I’m anxious and alive, and I’m going to be ok.
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Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.