My Experience with Anxiety
Hi there fellow Steemians,
One of the many reasons that I love Steemit is that it is a place where you can openly talk about your experiences and your message actually means something. So today, I thought that I'd share my experience with Anxiety and maybe try to start some conversation with people who can relate.
Anyone who's ever experienced chronic anxiety remembers, in detail, their first anxiety attack. Mine happened my sophomore year of high school, backstage of a theatre performance I was in. Now keep in mind, I was a trained performer and I had never had any type of stage fright. Then about four minutes before curtain call, it happened. I felt that churn in my stomach, and the dizziness took over. I sat on the ground against the wall backstage as the show was beginning. I told my co-actor Catherine that I felt like I couldn't breathe and that I felt like I was going to throw up. She tried to comfort me as best she could, but anyone who's ever had an anxiety attack knows, there's not a whole lot the people around you can do for you. It's something you have to handle in your own way. Luckily, my character wasn't introduced to the show until the second act, so I had time for the anxiety to settle. By the time I was on stage the attack had come and gone, but it wouldn't be long until it reared it's ugly head again.
The second attack was a few days later before a speech but this time it came much worse. I vividly remember dry-heaving in the empty school bathroom for at least five straight minutes. This is when I knew it couldn't be stage fright and had to be something more serious. Because at this point in my life, I had performed in front of huge crowds, and this speech was in front of maybe a dozen people.I severely dry-heaved until I became lightheaded, and had to practically hug the toilet to prevent myself from falling from the dizziness. At this point someone must've walked in without me hearing because I heard from outside the stall "You okay man?" This was a somewhat loaded question, because I knew very little about anxiety at all and I genuinely didn't know if I was okay. I decided that even if I wasn't, I had no idea how to explain to another person what was happening to me, so I just muttered that I was fine. After a while I finally started dry-heaving and went about my day, but not after unknowingly being thrust into a vicious cycle.
After that day, I began having anxiety every day. I would wake up early in the morning hours before my alarm and just lay in bed fidgeting, trying to prevent myself from throwing up. I didn't understand what was happening to me, but after a few weeks, I began to notice patterns and triggers. I discovered that I would wake up every single morning at the same time, and anytime I got on the school bus it would trigger the anxiety. And just like any vicious cycle, the longer it goes, the worse it becomes.
At this point in the story you're probably wondering "Why didn't you talk to your parents about it?" Here's the thing: I come from a very traditional family who all grew up in the South, so my family didn't believe in mental health issues in general. I remember when I was young, I would hear my family be talking about someone with depression and I would hear to no end how "selfish" they were. Needless to say I didn't feel comfortable talking to my parents about it, and it didn't seem like something I could talk to as friend about, so I made the (unwise) decision that I was alone in this.
That being said, I wanted to actually know what was happening to me, so I started to do my own research. I started to learn all about anxiety such as the causes, effects, as well as personal testimonies. The more I read, the more I realized how many people actually suffer from anxiety. Although with all of my research, I couldn't find any surefire "cures" for what I was dealing with, other than medication. So as I stated earlier, the longer it went on without me getting help, the further I sunk. I got pretty close to hitting bottom when I skipped two weeks of school. Anytime I got on the school bus I felt like I was going to pass out. So I lied to my parents and told them I had strep throat so I wouldn't have to deal with it.
At this time, unfortunately, I made the decision to drop out of theatre, as I felt the anxiety was far too much to deal with and I didn't need to take on other responsibilities. My grades began to plummet as well. Obviously I was doing a lot of things wrong here (and we'll go over what all those things were later), but I was 15 dealing with a mental illness alone that I didn't understand, so I did the best I could.
After immense research, I found a glimmer of hope when I discovered "Five Flower Formula" online. It's an all-natural, liquid based, tasteless solution that you can add to your water and it's meant to treat anxiety, PTSD, and things of that nature. Now I don't know if it was just placebo, or this stuff actually worked, but after a few days I actually noticed a significant difference in my mental state. And here's the thing, even if it was placebo, who cares? All I was worried about is that the stuff was working. I actually started to get a good-night's rest and I was able to function in real-life normally again.
After a while the anxiety stopped and I stopped drinking the Five Flower Formula, and everything in my life went back to normal for a while. I started to get my grades back up, I began taking acting classes, and I began dating a beautiful girl named Lorissa who I'm still with today. I graduated from high school a year later and began working towards my film degree. Although with the stress and work load that comes with being a freshmen in college, my anxiety attacks began happening again. Although this time, I was a lot more mature. I handled things in the way I felt were necessary and didn't let the influence of others impact my decision, so I decided the see a professional.
My doctor diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and proscribed me Zoloft which is an SSRI designed for people who suffer from anxiety disorders or major depression. I also sought help from a therapist who has helped me immensely with my anxiety as well as some depression issues.
So at this point in my life everything is going great! In my experiences I've learned a lot about life as well as gained wisdom so I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned with you and hopefully help someone out there who needs it, so here goes:
1: Do not ever be afraid to seek help!
Even if you think that your parents won't understand, try talking to them anyway. Tell them how you're feeling and what you think needs to be done to fix it. Word of advise though, don't go straight in saying that you need to start taking antidepressants immediately because that probably won't go well. Tell them you'd like to maybe start seeing a therapist to help you with some of the things you're struggling with, there response may surprise you. If they tell you they'd like you to see a doctor, do it. If your doctor advises you to start taking medication such as Zoloft or Lexapro or something of that nature, don't be afraid to do it. Antidepressants get a bad rep in general but in reality they've helped many people and they can help you too, just be patient. If you're an adult talk to your spouse or your best friend, the people that love you want to help you!
2: Don’t shut yourself out from the world!
The worst thing that you can do when you're suffering anxiety is isolate yourself. Even though other people can't exactly “help” you or make your anxiety go away, being around people you're comfortable with makes dealing with anxiety unbelievably more bearable. One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was that when I was having anxiety, I would isolate myself and just lay in bed, ignoring everyone around me who could be helping me. Learn from my mistakes!!
3: Don't let anxiety make choices for you!
My biggest regret I can say to this day, was dropping out of theatre my junior year. It was a program that was my heart and soul, I spent hours upon hour of my life on that stage, and put literal blood sweat and tears into it, and I threw it all away because I was letting my anxiety control my life. Guess what else, right after I dropped out, my theatre program won state two years in a row which was my dream. Regret isn't a good thing to carry on your shoulders and it's a difficult thing to get rid of so please do not ever let anxiety or depression dictate how you live your life! I know this is easier said than done, but trust me, you'll be glad you kept your course.
So that about wraps up my experience with anxiety, I hope my story can help someone else out there who is struggling, and always remember, you're not alone!
You rock Steemians!