Disclaimer: I do not discuss any graphic content in this post. However, if reading about anxiety, panic attacks, or things of that nature is triggering for you, this may not be a good post for you to read.
I’m Meg and I have suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks my entire life.
My anxiety isn’t something that I tend to use as an opening conversation topic. “Hi, I’m Meg and sometimes I freak out for no reason. What’s your name?” I have a feeling I would get some confused looks and uncomfortable reactions.
Regardless, that’s exactly what I’m doing today with this post. I spent a lot of time deciding whether or not I wanted to send all of this information out into the world, but I really think that some people will benefit from what they read here.
I don’t know many of you. Some of the people reading this might know me personally. If you don’t already know this about me, strap in, cause you’re about to learn a lot.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve lived in a constant state of fear and worry. Fear of what? Usually nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s a difficult thing to explain to people that don’t have anxiety or have never experienced anxiety, but that’s exactly what I’m going to try to do.
Growing up, I genuinely thought I was crazy. I was afraid to tell anyone how I was feeling or what was going on in my head because I was honestly convinced that there was something wrong with me. Granted, there is something wrong with me, but I thought it was untreatable and that I was the only one that felt the way I felt. I used to wake up in the middle of the night every night, like clockwork, anxious and panicked for absolutely no reason.
I remember my first panic attack. It wasn’t nearly as severe as the ones I have now. However, at eight years old, it seemed like the end of the world. I was having this particular panic attack because I had said a curse word all by myself in my room. I was so ashamed of myself that I called my mom in the room, shaking and sobbing. My heart was racing so fast that I thought it was going to jump right out of my throat. However, at that time, telling my mom was able to calm me down. She was able to assure me that everything was okay and I would be all right.
Here comes the difficult part: it’s nearly impossible to listen to any form of reason when you don’t know what you’re panicking about.
I grew from having panicked moments over small things such as saying a curse word to practically hyperventilating in a classroom because I had to sit in a chair, trapped, for 50 minutes.
I dreaded going to school. Absolutely dreaded it. I would have severe stomach aches every morning in sheer anticipation of the day ahead of me. One hour classes, unable to get up and leave the room, with five minute breaks in between. I felt trapped, claustrophobic, and scared. Anxiety was a term that I was unaware of at the time.
I begged my parents to let me leave public school as early as the seventh grade. I blamed the school district, which was part of it, but that was never the whole problem. Like I said, I was too afraid to tell anyone what was going on in my head. I resolved in the eighth grade that if I couldn’t be homeschooled, I would graduate from high school early.
Sophomore year of high school rolled around. I was a bitch. I was angry, frustrated, upset, and lost. I simply felt alone. I was suffering from my anxiety more severely than before, still never having heard the term. I was on track with my counselor’s plan for me to graduate as a junior. Somehow, I managed to convince my mom to attend an information session for online schooling. After the information session, she told me it was a possibility and we could go from there on one condition: I would graduate in four years instead of three. I was sold.
After leaving public school, my life improved dramatically. I was able to keep my anxiety under control. At the beginning of my junior year, I went to a one-time counseling appointment where I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. It was a relief to have a diagnosis. Knowing that there was a reason for the way I was feeling and that I wasn’t the only person that felt that way was so reassuring and changed my life.
This doesn’t mean my life is perfect now and I have my anxiety tied up in a neat little bow. I don’t, and I don’t think I ever will. My anxiety still has significant effects on my personal life. I can’t drink caffeine or alcohol without my anxiety going through the roof. I always choose the seat closest to the door of a classroom so that I feel less trapped and can exit without being noticed. My boyfriend and I can’t even go out to dinner and a movie because I get scared that dinner will upset my stomach and we won’t be able to go to the movie. That is a result of my generalized anxiety.
My panic attacks have also increased significantly. I would classify it as a development of panic disorder and agoraphobia. About a year ago, I had my first “severe” panic attack (that is not to say that panic attacks that don’t look like mine aren’t severe – these panic attacks are just what I consider the most severe ones that I have had in my personal life).
I can usually feel when a severe panic attack is coming on. It usually starts with an unusually fast heart rate. I can feel it in my chest and I get a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat. My entire body starts to shake violently (my mom was sitting next to me on the bed during one of my panic attacks and told me I was shaking the entire bed frame). These panic attacks usually last for about 20-30 minutes and end with me sitting on the bathroom floor throwing up.
Anxiety isn’t pretty. It isn’t a cute girl that sits quietly in the back of the classroom because she’s shy. It’s ugly and horrible. That’s the reality of it.
My panic attacks are not something I’m proud of and they’re not something I immediately announce to every single person I meet (until now, I suppose). But they’re important. They’re important because I know that there are other people out there with the same problem. The difference is that those people might think they’re alone, just like I did. They might not understand what it is that’s happening to them.
I wish with everything in me that I could make my anxiety disappear. Anxiety is something that I wouldn’t even wish upon my worst enemy, if I had one. No one deserves to feel like that and it makes me so unbelievably sad to know how many people out there are suffering as well.
This post is meant for awareness. Please realize that people out there suffer with things that you don’t even know about and will never know about unless they choose to tell you. No one would know about my anxiety if I never said anything about it, but that’s no way to live life. I’m so grateful to have so many people that I know will be there for me at a moment’s notice if I need them.
P.S. A special thank you to my parents and my boyfriend for always being the most supportive people in the world. I love you all.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
More information on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
More information on Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline