The first time I was actually “diagnosed” with anxiety was when I was in high school. I was a junior in high school when I started noticing my chest getting tight and my breath becoming short. I thought at first I had asthma or some other serious medical condition. I had never had any issues before with not being able to breath and I wasn’t especially overweight. So it really didn’t make a lot of sense why I suddenly couldn’t seem to catch my breath.
I went to the doctor and described to him what my symptoms were. I told him how unusual it was for me to have those particular sort of symptoms. Especially when I had no prior history of not being able to breathe. He checked my lungs and took a chest x-ray only to tell me, “Your lungs are clear as a bell.”
“Okay then why can’t I breathe, doc?” I thought to myself.
I remember he asked, “Are you worried about anything?”
What an odd question to ask a kid who came in there with her chest tight and her breathe being short. But no, I wasn’t worried about anything that I could have thought of at the time.
“No,” I told him. He scratched his head and replied, “Well there’s nothing wrong with your lungs. I think you have anxiety.”
I remember thinking, how do you “have” anxiety? I thought anxiety was just something you felt every now and then when you were stressed about something. I didn’t know one could be diagnosed with it. But I was.
So I had anxiety. Okay cool. No big deal. I didn’t have something seriously wrong with me so I pushed the diagnosis to the back of my mind and forgot about it.
Recently, however, this anxiety thing seems to have resurfaced.
Almost a year ago I found myself in the midst of an interesting situation. I was depressed constantly. All I wanted to do was sleep and cry. I wasn’t myself. For months I battled panic attacks and severe depression. All the while I was just trying to make sense of all the feelings I was having.
I finally decided to seek professional help and began seeing a therapist. I went into her office once a week to explain to her my irrational dread of getting out of bed in the morning and my uncontrollable crying fits. I told her I didn’t understand what was wrong with me but I felt crazy.
“It sounds like you have anxiety,” she said.
There was that diagnosis again.
I think I sat there a little dumbfounded for a moment because I literally didn’t know how to feel about the fact that I was again diagnosed as having anxiety when something far more serious seemed to be happening. It didn’t make sense that I was being told that I had anxiety when to me anxiety didn’t seem like a big deal. I didn’t even know that a person could be diagnosed with it as if it were a type of cancer.
Nonetheless, I accepted that I indeed had anxiety. I understood I was anxious but I didn’t understand how serious anxiety as an illness and a diagnosis really was.
I decided one day, out of curiosity, to do a little research on this thing called anxiety. Turns out quite a few people actually suffer from this illness. In fact I realized that it’s much more common than I previously thought.
I began to feel a little relief as I read page after page of stories on people who had taken to the internet to share how they suffer from anxiety and what makes them anxious. Surprisingly, many of their symptoms and their anxious ticks were dangerously close to mine.
I felt a little overjoyed at the fact that I wasn’t crazy. I was overjoyed at the fact that other people suffer from this same illness and they understand what goes through my head on a daily basis; even when I don’t understand it myself. I really thought for a while that I was the only one in the world who felt nervous, or scared, or angry over small things. But I’m not the only one who gets worked up over small things or things that haven’t even happened yet.
The point is, anxiety is a real thing. It’s a real illness and it sucks. It takes time, I think, to learn how to control it. Some people have mastered how to control their anxiety. Me, I haven’t yet figured it out. But I’m trying. And that’s really all I can do.
TO BE CONTINUED….