It was my first year out of high school. I was working at McDonald's for almost my second year. I remember it being a decent morning. I came into work, dreading my shift. I made my morning coffee, and started my day. The customers were slowly starting to diminish my good spirit, and it wasn't even mid day yet. It first happened around 11:45 am, while we were in the middle of a big sea of customer lunch orders. I was standing in the drive thru window handing out the bagged food. All of a sudden, everything just stopped. My hearing vanished for a few moments. There was just a ringing. There was a loud ringing, that was getting more, and more persistent with each second. I tried to ignore it at first. Maybe the sounds were just too ear-splitting in the restaurant, and my mind needed a moment to focus. It took a bit, but my hearing came back, and it returned full force. Everything was BOOMING. I could hear people yelling inside and outside, the customers car blaring rap music next to me, the whooshing sound of the drinks being made in the machine, the dinging sound of the fryers, people chewing obnoxiously, the wind rustling past the window, and making a terrible creaking sound. It was all way too much. My heart started thumping erratically like it was trying to fight it's way out of my chest, because it didn't want to stay for whatever was about to happen. Every individual sound was piercing my eardrum, every light was too bright, everything felt fuzzy and funny, and something was wrong. I started panicking. I was full on pacing behind the counter. "I don't feel good. Somethings not right.", I told my boss. She proceeded to tell me that she couldn't do this right now, and that we were in the middle of a lunch rush. I tried to suck it up. I went back to my post, stood there, and started tapping my foot to distract myself. Everything felt off, like I was surrounded by a bubble of water, and someone kept taking a needle to it, and was purposely letting little bits of everything I had slip away with each second. My reality felt like it was riding away from me on a dirt road in the back of a truck, and I was running after it, barefoot and crying. And then the weakness came. My legs started shaking. I could feel every ounce of my strength inching away, and for some reason, I couldn't ask for help. The only communication I had, was the endless scuttle of terrible thoughts, and they wouldn't cease, or slow down. How could no one else feel the floor shifting beneath them? Suddenly, my body collapsed. I knew it was happening. I hit the ground with a thud, and everyone started rushing over. I can't really remember it all anymore. It was a blur. What happened to the customers? Who helped me up? How long did I lose consciousness? What about the food i had to hand out? What about the other employees? Soon, an ambulance arrived, and the first question they asked me was if I was pregnant, to which I answered no. Basically, they figured nothing was wrong with me. I was a healthy 19 year old. I went home early that day. I went home, and I couldn't stop crying. I had never felt that terrible, and scared in my life. Was I psychotic? Was I sick? Over the course of the next few days, I had that same odd episode a few more times. I later found out that it was anxiety. Anxiety that had never showed its face before. Anxiety that was giving me symptoms that I didn't even know existed. Anxiety that was giving me attacks that were angry, ugly, and brand new. In the next six months, everything began falling apart. I would call my boyfriend everyday, huddled in the corner of my room in the fetal posterior, and I would cry to him, saying that I was going crazy. For six months, I felt like I was watching myself from a helicopter that flew circles above me. Like I just wasn't there anymore. Everything felt fuzzy and off. I couldn't sleep. Right as I would begin to rest, and fall into a slumber, I would jump out of bed, heart thumping, and thoughts racing, with that same detached, panicked feeling. I remember laying in bed for hours, limbs buzzing, and I would wonder what was happening to me. Why did it feel like nothing was really there in front of me? I'd reach my hand out, and it felt like my fingers were in a different dimension. It felt like someone was living my life instead of me. Like I was in a snow globe that they carried in their pocket, while they walked around, and did everything that I used to do. I started getting angry. Pounding my fists, and having full on break downs each day, because EVERYTHING was different. Eating dinner felt strange. Going to the beach felt strange. Laughing felt strange. Every activity felt strange. Sometimes there was so much pressure, it felt like my brain was pushing against my skull, asking for release. Nothing was the same anymore. No one believed me. But how can you explain to others that you're living inside an empty shell of yourself that's being kicked around and piloted by another being, without sounding a little crazy? I wanted to yell at everyone. I wanted to tell them that I was still inside that lost girl, that someone, or something, was pushing me further, and further into myself and soon, I wouldn't be there anymore. Some days were better than others. It felt like someone would finally decide to take the cord out of my back, and I could walk, and talk, and just be, without feeling like there were screws underneath my skin scratching away each time I moved, or hammers banging against my brain, and taking off pieces at a time. It felt okay. Like I was normal again, and maybe I wasn't going insane. And then, I'd wake up the next day, and there was that feeling again. I always called them my "bad days." My family didn't understand. I would say "I just don't feel good today". And it was because I didn't. It wasn't a headache, or cramps, or a sore throat. It was a constant feeling of uneasiness, helplessness, sadness, fear, and an untethered reality. Life felt fake. It was as if someone was digging inside of my brain at night while I was sleeping, and they were changing everything I knew, like how to talk, to see, to walk, to hear. I was a zombie, walking through life. Was it even life? After six long months, things got a little better. My head cleared up a bit, my body stopped locking up, I could breathe, and see, and think my own thoughts. I later found out that what I was feeling was depersonalization/derealization. It is a common symptom of anxiety. It has many forms, but it can make you feel a string of symptoms such as feeling like you're an outside observer of your own life, feeling crazy, feeling like things aren't real, numbness, memory loss, blurry and colorless vision, distortions, and so much more. It was the worst year of my life, and no one understood. It's such a typical symptom of anxiety, yet no one talks about it. With medication, my symptoms aren't as bad as they used to be. They're still here some days. I'll wake up, and I know it's one of those days, but my mind is a bit more at ease. I know that I'm not going crazy, I know that I'm still me, and I'm here and I'm living, and it's okay, and someone... believes me. Anxiety hits hard. If someone tells you that things aren't okay, then believe them. Wouldn't you go a little crazy, if you were slowly losing yourself?
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