Have you ever had such immobilizing anxiety that you didn’t know what to do?
At least, that was me. What most family and friends don’t know is that I struggled with anxiety. It’s real, and it’s harsh.
I should have seen the warning signs, but to be honest, I didn’t know what to look for. To me it was living life as usual one day, and being confined to bed the next. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t taking enough care of myself.
After it hit me two years ago, I was forced to change my lifestyle. I had to drop classes; I couldn’t go out anymore. My friends became strangers.
Every day felt like another day that I had let someone down – that I had let myself down. I was afraid to leave the house. I would be on the edge of having panic attacks in the classroom week after week.
Some days were good. Others just scared me.
Anxiety is real. It forced me to adopt a lifestyle I wasn’t proud of. I couldn’t do things anymore, and when I did I always felt sick.
My stomach would tense and my abs would tighten. My breathing stiffened until I realized what was happening and told myself to relax. Then five minutes later, I would realize again. And again.
I wasn’t trying to be afraid. I didn’t realize I wasn’t taking care of myself. I examined my lifestyle and realized I wasn’t eating enough. I tried to change that. There was a constant pain in my stomach along with the tension. I could never make it go away.
Tomorrow I’m turning 21.
This obscene torture has poisoned two years of my life. Now it’s nearly gone. After changing my diet and working on a few things, I’ve been able to do a little more. Last week I enjoyed time with friends without anxiety. It was the first time in two years. The first time being with someone not looking at the clock in anticipation of heading home to my bed where it was safe.
It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Lying in bed trembling, throwing up at school and work, being too dizzy to drive, feeling like the flu consistently, being asked why I spent all of my time in bed and why I claimed to be feeling ill when I still had the strength to laugh.
It’s like my body was a cage to my soul. I had dreams and expectations that remained unfulfilled due to the strain on my physical self.
If you’ve met with me in the past two years, I probably had anxiety. You may not have known about it – as I try to hide it – but most likely, it was there.
If you want to help someone with anxiety, don’t burden them further by making them feel like its their fault. Because chances are – they’re already thinking that. Support them. This is a battle they have to fight, but they need your support. Let them know you’re there for them even if they can’t be there for you. Let them know they’re not alone.
To those with anxiety: Half of the battle is knowing that you’re not to blame. You’re not trapping yourself, you just need to heal. Don’t be afraid to tell someone. You’re not alone. I know it’s scary, but you can get through this. Be calm. Be happy. Rest. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am confident you will see it, hopefully someday soon.
(To watch a video of this speech, CLICK HERE.)