Imagine being seven years old and trying to make yourself sick so that you didn’t have to go to school. That was me.
This is my first memory of a panic attack.
Little me was shaking in bed the night before our state standardized tests, which decided what level of English and math classes I would be taking the following year. I couldn’t breathe and felt like I couldn't move. When I woke up the next morning, I tried to stick fingers down my throat so my parents wouldn't make me go to school and take the test. I was told that being nervous was normal, but this wasn’t nerves.
This was purely an anxiety attack.
In fourth grade, I could not figure out long division. The fact that everyone around me was able to understand the concept and I was lost, allowed anxiety to take over my body. I completely started to feel weak and had to be taken out of class by my teacher.
She stood outside with me for 10 minutes trying to explain it was okay and telling me “to calm down.” (The worst thing to tell someone who is having an anxiety attack.) I could not calm down. My freak out was seen as just an insecurity, but it was my second memorable anxiety attack.
In middle school, I received my first grade that was considered failing. Seeing the low grade led me to complete panic. Worried what my parents would say and how it would affect my grade, I asked to go to the bathroom. I sat on the floor sobbing and shaking in a stall, all over a number on a piece of paper.
I informed my parents of these intense feelings, but I was constantly told it was normal to be anxious. My extreme anxiety was not taken seriously.
In high school, the panic attacks and anxiety were hitting all new levels. I decided it was time to seek help as it was starting to affect my everyday life. When I started therapy, I was told these episodes of freakouts were panic attacks and I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder.
Nine years of extreme rushes of worthlessness were finally explained. My freakouts weren’t normal.
I always thought everyone probably felt the way I did at some point in their lives. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing there was a reason why this was happening to me, but it was also scary to find out I technically have a disorder.
Luckily, anxiety can be treated. Once I started therapy and medication, the attacks started to slow down and life seemed more manageable. Life is so different without the horrible devil of anxiety on your shoulders 24/7: it’s freeing.
Unfortunately, there are triggers that will always cause anxiety and it will never completely go away. However, with methods learned in therapy, my freakouts occur on a complete lower level than in my past.
No one knows your body better than you, so it's important for you to take care of yourself. I’m forever thankful for the mental health awareness I have today.