Trying to understand my anxiety has become one of the most difficult personal challenges I've ever experienced. Unfortunately, my anxiety is not a new diagnosis. Back in 2010, something happened to me and to this day, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on my way to visit a friend I hadn't seen in a couple years. As I came closer to arriving at her place, my heart began to race. A little strange. Maybe I was nervous? I then started to feel out of breath. Ok, now I'm nervous. I became dizzy and began to sweat. I quickly parked my car and at that very moment, I realized I had no control over what was happening to me. The emotions were so overwhelming I thought I was dying. When I tried to step outside of my car for some fresh air, I literally could not get out of my car. It was like a force was stopping me from physically completing the tiniest action. Before I knew it, I was hyperventilating and I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my face. For a second, I considered driving to a local urgent care but driving was not an option. Over an hour had gone by and I finally started to feel better. What the heck is going on? Was this for real or was it all in my head? Once I felt comfortable, I drove straight back home. Clearly, I missed the party and felt pretty awful for canceling at the last minute. Thankfully my friend was very understanding and we rescheduled our hangout.
Monday morning came and the first thing I did was make an appointment with my primary care physician. Luckily I was able to get in later that same day. When I met with my doctor and started to explain what happened over the weekend, I started to get those same feelings I experienced. I felt out of breath and the room started to spin. Next thing I remember is waking up surrounded by two nurses and my doctor continuously saying my name as I laid on the floor. To be honest, I instantly started crying with confusion and fear. After I drank some water, tried to control my tears and collected my thoughts, my doctor explained to me that I had a panic attack and fainted. Wait, what?! She explained to me that the symptoms I experienced over the weekend were also a panic attack brought on by anxiety and stress. She explained to me that anxiety and panic attacks come and go, and I have no way of predicting when it'll hit. She said, "think of anxiety like unpredictable winds, you never know when the weather will change". We continued to discuss and by the time I walked out of the office, I had two prescriptions and a mind full of confusion. I was diagnosed with anxiety/panic disorder and depression. It was by far the most interesting doctor appointment of my life.
As I sat in my car in the office parking lot, still processing what the hell just happened, I realized my life, moving forward would be very different. All I could do was cry. Cry for an answer. Cry for an understanding. Why? Why did this happen to me? How am I going to live with this, possibly forever? Is my job bringing this on? Friends? Family? Nothing added up and so from that day forward, I took the antidepressant medication every morning and carried my anxiety medication with me daily.
Looking back on the last five years of my life comes with mixed emotions. There have been amazingly fun and memorable times, but there have also been many dark days. To this day, I'm still learning and understanding my anxiety. The first year was one of the most difficult years of my life. My health is my number one priority. When I feel an anxiety/panic attack coming on, I instantly pull over if I'm driving or go to the nearest place I can sit down. I instantly take my medication, close my eyes, and begin to count to 100 until the medication kicks in. It may seem silly but these small actions have helped me focus on something other than my attack. I've also had a few small attacks at home. I find that lying on the cold bathroom floor with my eyes closed and counting to 100 has been a very helpful method for me. I went from taking my anxiety medication to a few times a month to now once every few months. Huge improvement. To my surprise, I have not had an actual panic attack in over a year. That alone is a blessing. However, my anxiety still lives inside me and continues to be a daily struggle. I proudly beat my battle with depression a year after I was diagnosed. Depression has its own story and, therefore, will have its own post coming shortly.
For those of you who also suffer from an anxiety/panic disorder, you're not alone! My advice is to take action and not hide. Don't be afraid to ask or seek help. It's out there for a reason. I know it can be difficult for some but don't let that stop you. I strongly suggest seeking professional help. Find a doctor who you enjoy seeing. A doctor who listens, explains, makes you feel comfortable and mostly, who's just as concerned about your health as you are. If I hadn't seen a doctor, who knows where I'd be today. Trust me, you'll be happy you sought out professional help and it'll be well worth it in the end. You can live a happy and healthy lifestyle even with anxiety. I'm so thankful my doctor prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication but that didn't stop me from trying other methods to cure myself. Take this time to learn more about yourself. Find things that make you happy and keep you busy. Create the life you want and make it a point to celebrate little accomplishments every day. We all deserve to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Overall, my experience with my anxiety/panic disorder was and has been pretty intense. I'm now well aware that anxiety and panic attacks are no joke. It's an exhausting daily battle. Unfortunately, we can't tell anxiety or depression when to come and go. It's an illness. An illness that thankfully can be treated. For that, I am forever thankful to my doctor, friends, and family who have stuck by my side through one of the most traumatic moments in my life.
So what's my anxiety cure? A strong support system, exercise, eating healthy, writing, and laughter! All of these methods combined have made a huge difference in my life. Hey, give them a try! You never know, they too could be your anxiety cure. If they aren't, what are your anxiety cures? What's working for you? I'd love to hear from you!