6 Things You Need To Know About Me and My Anxiety

6 Things You Need To Know About Me and My Anxiety

I'm still me

Well, here it is, I'm finally coming clean about something that has been (literally) haunting me for as long as I can remember. I have anxiety and it affects the way that I live my life. I've struggled with it for almost as long as I can remember and a lot of times it goes unnoticed by the people in my everyday life. A lot of my personal relationships suffer because of the way my mind talks to me. As the years have passed, I'm learning to cope with my anxieties and approach them in a sensible manner, but part of that requires letting the people in my life know some major things about how I personally deal with the way that I am.

1. Sometimes, I just need to be alone

If it has been a really long and stressful day at school or at work, the first thing that I want to do when I get home is go straight to my room and sit on the floor. I need the time to recollect my thoughts of the day because truthfully, I'm still processing some of the awkward run-ins I had with people in my 8 am class. I like to just sit by myself and recall the entire day moment by moment before I'm ready to deal with other people.

2. I'm very nervous

I know tons of people who don't really understand this one, but I get nervous about absolutely everything. I get nervous pulling out my ID to get on the bus and standing in line for my favorite ride that I just got off of less than five minutes ago. Deep deep down, I know that nothing is wrong, but my shaking hands and wobbling legs find it very very hard to believe.

3. I'm an overthinker

Truth be told, that one conversation we had 3 years ago where you made that joke about how my fly was unzipped, still haunts me every time I see you. You might have forgotten what you had for breakfast but I remember (sometimes verbatim) conversations that I've had with people, even if they mean absolutely nothing.

4. I get angry

This one a lot of people know, but I'm easily angered and frustrated. Most of the time it's my anxiety taking over my thoughts and I'm angry at myself for letting it get to me. I just need you to understand that me being mad at you, is most likely me being mad at myself for being mad in the first place.

5. I value relationships

Because I find it really difficult to develop relationships with people, essentially because of my fear, I value the relationships that I have with people. It takes me a long time to open up about who I am and the things that my mind tells me.

6. I'm just me

Most importantly, I've been dealing with this for so many years of my life that I've been able to become more vocal about the thoughts that eat my brain. This is something that I deal with on a day to day basis, and I just want you to be aware. Don't treat me differently because all of a sudden you think I'm fragile and weird. I'm just me and that has never changed.

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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To All The People I've Canceled On, I'm Sorry, It's Just Hard To Be Honest When You Feel So Small

An open letter to all the people I've had to cancel on.


To All The People I've Canceled On,

I want to see you. I really do. I got up to get ready, but my reflection was empty. I pulled all my tricks; I curled my hair, painted my nails, put on my favorite outfit, but I still felt bad. Overwhelmingly bad. So bad I had to crawl back in bed and count my breaths to keep them from escaping too fast.

My body feels heavy and tired, but I had already canceled on you last week so I have to try again. Sometimes the feeling passes, but today is a tough one. It's as if the harder I try to push forward, the stronger my heart thumps. The knot in my throat chokes me as I try to tell myself that I can do it and that everything will be alright. But today, it is not alright.

So I texted you with tears in my eyes apologizing because I can't make it. It's not intentional, it never is. I really want to go to lunch or the beach or the movies. I want to get fresh air and be in another's company.

My mind and body are at war with each other, and today was simply caught in the crossfire. This constant anxiety is something that I have to live with and today I couldn't figure out how to shut it off. It rings so loud in my mind that I can physically feel it in my body. I try my best to make it work because I value our friendship. Today, it just didn't happen. You've heard my excuses; they've been overused. I say I'm sick or I forgot I had an assignment due, but you know it's a lie. It's hard to be honest with people, though, when you already feel so small.

Please don't be angry at me for this. I wish I could be there. I can't promise you that I'll make it the next time or any other time after that. I can't promise that if I do make it out that I'll be able to stay. But I can promise you that I will try and try again to be the friend that you need and the person you want to keep inviting out. I promise that my intentions are always good and that I plan on attending every date. But today I canceled on you and I'm sorry. I hope to see you soon.

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