Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
My name is Michelle and I have suffered from anxiety issues for about 5 years now. All of this started during my third year of university. I was still living in residence as a Residence Assistant (RA). I was so excited to be working in residence again, working with some good friends and meeting my new students who I would be with for the next 8 months.
I was so set on being a good RA, becoming friends with my students and being there for them whenever I needed, as well as maintaining my average grades, volunteering on campus as well as a social life with my non-RA friends. This proved to be extremely difficult and it wasn’t until I had become a completely different person, that I realized I had some problems. At this point I had started to skip class, half-assed my school work, neglect my students and duties as an RA, stared drinking more, not to mention my sleeping and eating habits were far from healthy, my mood started to change and as much as I tried to hide it, people were starting to notice.
It wasn’t until one of my good friends approached me and asked what had gotten into me – I was not myself. She suggested that I see the doctors or counsellors on campus…I was shocked that she would even suggest that.
By looking at me, my grades, my heavy involvement at school and my pretty positive outlook on life, having a friend suggest that I should see a counsellor was far from what I had ever expected – but I bit the bullet and saw one of the doctors on campus. After explaining my symptoms and situation, she prescribed me with some medication. After taking just two doses of the medication and experiencing some bizarre side effects that the doctor couldn’t even explain, I decided that medication was not for me.
The following week I tiptoed my way to the counsellor’s office, in fear of getting caught by a friend or worse, one of my students (Funny enough, one of my students that I was so worried about seeing me at the counsellor’s office, is the one who created this fantastic website and community! Thanks Katie! ) I was extremely skeptical but it ended up being a really great experience – after only a couple of meetings with the counsellor I was starting to feel a lot better.
The summer and the next school year passed and I was managing…barely. The anxious fire inside of me was still burning, ready to explode at any time. When I returned home that summer everything was out of control again and it was even more difficult to hide it. After having a fight with my sister one night, my parents sat me down and asked me what had gotten into me. Immediately the tears poured out of my eyes, my face was hot, my hands were shaking and that anxious fire was spreading through my veins. Then the word vomit started and I couldn’t stop. I explained everything to my parents about what had been going on for the past year and half and they were shocked. From that point on they understood (as much as they could) but instead of feeling more relieved, I felt even more anxious. Were they going to blab to other family members, neighbours, or friends of the family? Was I going to be the laughing stock of the family? That summer proved to be the most challenging. My symptoms started to change and I started to experience my anxious stomach, as l like to call it. I was constantly nauseous and lethargic and lived on smoothies and Gravol because that’s all I could stomach. Going back to school that September was a life-saver! I wanted to see the counsellor again, see my friends, and get back into the school routine. I started going to the gym more, trying to have a better work-life-school balance and things definitely started to improve – bouts of my anxious stomach returned but I knew what it meant and how to deal with it.
I graduated that spring and it felt like 50lbs was lifted off of my shoulders – let me be clear, I loved school and the whole university experience and although it wasn’t always sunshine and roses, I wouldn’t change it for the world. When I moved back home after graduating from university, I began my journey through my post-graduate program which was another fabulous life experience! Things were really looking up and I felt like I was on a great path, but as graduation loomed and the job search began, the fire started again, this time in the form of heart palpitations, breathing problems and headaches. After doing some research, getting a CT scan, wearing a heart monitor, and just reflecting on how I felt inside, the light bulb went off and I realized this was just another version of my anxiety. I combated those symptoms by getting into hot yoga and trying to stay active which definitely helped. I graduated from my post-grad in April 2015 with honours, am currently working for the government, I make a conscious effort to work out and eat healthy, I have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me and supports me on my best and worst days, and my family understands that sometimes I’m not super happy and cheerful and not to take it personally.
I’d be lying if I said that every day is great and that I’m magically cured but the reality is that I just know how to cope with what happens when I get anxious and why I feel that way. Sometimes that fire ignites when I’m on the subway in the morning, at the mall, or watching TV – it doesn’t always happen when I’m dealing with something stressful, as most people assume. Every day is different and presents new challenges that I must face but now that I know my body and can recognize those symptoms, I am much more comfortable in my own skin and have little to no problems talking about my struggles with anxiety. For those reading this, please know that you are not alone and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are going to be some days that aren’t so great but talking to people who you love (and who love you) or reaching out to our amazing community here at Anxious & Alive will hopefully make things a little bit easier.
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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.