Anxiety affects millions of people. Technically, every person experiences anxiety up to some extent in their lives. It might be feeling nervous before a big exam, a concert performance, or a competitive business presentation. For me, anxiety has always been a different story. I had my first panic attack when I was nine years old, sitting in my fifth-grade classroom. I went to the nurse's office because I thought I was sick with something, but little did I know that panic attacks would affect my life for years after that!
Panic attack symptoms vary for every single person. For me, it starts with a horrible, wrenching, worrying feeling deep inside my gut. My hands start to sweat; they get cold, clammy, and chaotic. My vision gets cloudy and blurry, which causes me to feel dizzy and confused. My stomach churns, there are millions of butterflies inside it that flutter, desperately trying to find peace. I feel so sick and worried, I start to hyperventilate and gasp for air. If it's a bad one, my legs restlessly tremble and I dry heave. My mind races rapidly, until it ultimately reaches the finish line. After about thirty to forty-five minutes, I am good. I can breathe again. Everything is fine.
The physical symptoms are not even the hard part about having panic attacks. The hard part is having to deal with it in public when I am busy with other people, or when I am all by myself and feel lost. I get panic attacks during class and work for no reason, because my stress builds up. It's difficult to hide for sure. Luckily, I have amazing people in my life who support and understand me so much, including family, friends, peers. My mom has really been my number one supporter every day and is a great listener. She would do anything for me; I am so grateful. As I grew older, I became a lot more comfortable with being open and talking about my anxiety.
Never judge anyone for their circumstances or how they act, because they may experience the awful feelings and tiresome struggle of panic attacks or anxiety. A lot of people who have met me do not know that I experience multiple panic attacks every day. Some people ask me why I'm jumpy, uptight or leave parties early. A manager at a restaurant I worked at even called me a "spaz" a few years ago. I want the mental health stigma to stop. I'm not afraid to talk about it anymore. What is there to hide?
Panic attacks are like mountain lions or wolves that sneak up on me during very inconvenient times. I realized that they are not dangerous, and are not a threat. For anyone who does struggle with anxiety or panic attacks, this is a wonderful thought to digest. You will be okay, you will get through this! Panic attacks are a real thing. You are stronger than you know. I am confident that one day I will be completely better, and minimize my panic attacks as much as possible. I am almost there. I refuse to fall prey to this lurking predator! My anxiety is not my fault and it does not define me. With the right stepping stones, I'm on my way to eliminating this!