With Midterms and the overall mood of the semester, everyone is a little stressed. We are at that point in the semester where it feels like our professors are piling on assignments all at the same time. We stress about these things and then we feel relief when we're done with them.
But that isn't the case with anxiety. A lot of people like to use stress and anxiety interchangeably, which is incorrect. Stress is caused by something that is happening in the moment or in the future. You stress about an upcoming exam. Anxiety, however, continues after the stressful thing has passed. You stress about your exam, you stress during your exam, and you stress even after your exam and you're not exactly sure why.
In some cases, high-stress levels can make your anxiety make you think something is wrong when it actually isn't. I've literally gone back to my room after a final, laid down for a few minutes, and started panicking thinking that I didn't put my name on the test. This is anxiety, and it sucks.
I started really having anxiety and panic attacks in the fourth grade because of my math class. We thought that this was just test-based anxiety, which is common with students, until high school where I had anxiety attacks in almost every class during tests. But in my sophomore year of high school, the anxiety got worse, and I wasn't just stressing about school anymore; I would have random panic attacks for no reason.
I didn't even know I had anxiety until the attacks became worse. I didn't know what a panic attack was, nor did I even want to think of myself as having anxiety. I was just the girl who freaked out during tests; I thought this was normal. However, the chest pains and hyperventilation was not.
When I had a panic attack, and still do, they start out with chest pains. I can be completely calm and not even in a stressful situation and my chest will tighten. But usually, I am around some sort of stressor or have just experienced a stressor. Then comes the shaky breathing, shaky hands, and my body's (somewhat) natural reaction to the panic attack, which is to clutch at my arms or legs and use my nails to scratch. If I'm wearing long sleeves, I wring my hands.
Most times, I cry during my panic attacks if they're bad enough. I don't want to; I'm an ugly crier and I hate crying in front of anyone besides my mom. But during a panic attack, I can't control my body. It's like I lose control of all of my emotions and actions and it's hard to regain that control.
The mild panic attacks are more tamed. I have control of myself and can function well enough to remove myself from the situation and think rationally, but I still have chest pains and maybe some heavy breathing. Otherwise, I'm paralyzed and an absolute mess.
But, my anxiety goes beyond the attacks. It's a part of my everyday life. It's a daily struggle of trying to rationalize my thoughts, not overthink, not make-up things, and not let it hinder me.
I have to go on with my day pretending to function. Pretend that I’m not exhausted and every social encounter furthers my fatigue. And that I’m not overthinking every single one of my actions, worried that I did or said something.
And still, it’s just something I deal with on the daily now. I do everything I can to subside it, but there’s nothing that will make it all go away.