This phrase had become all too familiar to me over the last few years. It is easy to downplay and try to cover up the feelings of anxiety, especially since it isn’t visible on the outside. But it always creeps back up and causes incidents.
My issues with anxiety began around the age of 14. I didn’t understand what it was until around 17 though. I can remember always feeling nervous, never wanted to raise my hand during class or speak out, and I would always sit in the very back of the classroom and bury my face in a book. In these moments I always just assumed it was the “awkward teenage phase” but it was more than that. My first actual panic attack happened during my last week of high school. I remember walking down the hall and getting this sinking feeling of panic, my heart raced and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Lucky for me the counselor didn’t have anyone in the office, so I was able to take an hour to just breathe and let out all of my thoughts.
After graduation, I spent most of the summer sick on and off, and distant from friends. I wasn’t feeling like myself and was just trying to get a grip on reality. Fortunately things turned around once I started community college that Fall, and I was able to get a routine down (without medication) that stuck until about a year & a half ago.
A big trigger for my anxiety is change. The fall of 2013 started a long period of a large amount of change for me. When I switched to a University, I felt the confidence waning. I had gotten used to my normal routine (part-time job/part-time c.c) and now I was going full-time at a major University. There started to become problems at home (which now are solved, but at the time were very hard to deal with) and I found myself frustrated that I was pursuing a degree I had no desire for. The panic attacks slowly started to come back, and the next thing I knew I was dropping out of college and losing what I had been working so hard for.
The next year that followed consisted of consistent panic attacks, binge eating to try and make myself feel better, a 30 pound weight gain, moving out with my Fiance and taking on more bills than I could handle, and pushing away friends that I love dearly. I would make excuses as to why I can’t be around and often cancel last minute because my confidence was shot and I was afraid to talk to anyone for fear of judgement.
Finally I sat down and realized that this is no way to live. I couldn’t continue to be miserable and dwell on the mistakes I made. It is still a constant struggle everyday, but it gets better with each day that I force myself out there and take the steps to get back to who I am. I am more than thankful that my dear friends stuck around despite my distance, and my Fiance for talking me through each panic. For those who are struggling with the same invisible issue, although it is cliche to say it does get better, it really does. Surround yourself with loved ones and focus on the things that make you happy.