Before I write about my experience with anxiety, I want you guys to know that this topic is very personal and extremely hard for me to talk about. I would say only a few close friends of mine know about my battle with anxiety because I’m pretty embarrassed about it. I’m hoping that writing it out and allowing you to see another side of me, it would help me realize all the improvements I’ve made. If I can reach out and help one other person, that’s enough for me.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an awful emotion that you cannot control. It consists of being worried, nervous, and fear. Everyone will feel anxiety in their life; however, the length and severity of anxiety differs from one person to the other. Anxiety can come when you are overwhelmed with work or something more nerve-wrecking such as an upcoming interview. For me, when I’m stressed, my sensitivity for anxiety is extremely high. And there are other people who can remain calm during nerve-wrecking situations, thus those people have low anxiety threshold. These people are fearless and can keep themselves together. (I’m jealous!)
Symptoms of Anxiety:
- Churning stomach
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness or “pins and needles” in arms, hands or legs
- Easily tired
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Frequent urination
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- Being easily startled
My own experience:
For majority of my life, I never had trouble with anxiety. Sure, I’d get the normal nervousness (before I spoke in class, before a job interview, etc.) but it didn’t interfere with my daily life and what I wanted to accomplish. I was able to go out with friends, party, and drink with no problems. One evening, I was out with a couple of friends and went to the restroom to wash my hands. I heard a girl vomiting and all of a sudden, tensed up and left. The rest of the night was fine; I was still able to eat my dinner, but throughout the week, I always heard the noise reply in my head and it would tense me up to the point where I’d hold my breath and forget to breathe, but I was still able to do my daily activities. A week later, I went into the restroom, and the girl next to me vomited. I freaked out, flushed the toilet about 10 times so I can block out the sound and ran out as fast as I could. That’s when I knew, I had emetophobia, a fear of vomiting. I’m currently 23 years old and have not vomit since I was 12. I’m so so so so scared of it. After that, every time I’d be in public, I’d have major anxiety. The only time I felt comfortable was in my own home or my boyfriend’s place because I knew I could get sick there and not be as embarrassed. I only went to school for half of my semester that year; I would go to class, I wanted to go, but after sitting there for 10-20 minutes, my anxiety would heighten and I’d feel so nausea, to the point where I was dizzy, light headed, and sweaty. Being nausea caused me to leave class right away. There were other times where I’d be at dinner with my boyfriend and before the food even came out, I’d want to leave and we’d have to take it TOGO. Or times where we’d be at the bar and my anxiety would hit, I’d have to leave ASAP.
I felt really bad because it was hard for him to understand and see me act out like that. I was very mean and snappy if I didn’t get to leave. And I was frustrated, so frustrated because I WANTED to be in school; I WANTED to go out with friends; I WANTED to attend parties and be what I considered NORMAL. I’ve turned down so many events and outings because I was scared that I would have an attack and people would know. I couldn’t go anywhere that risked me seeing vomit. I was 21 and I hadn’t been to a club or bar. I didn’t drink; I couldn’t watch people drink. Everyone thought I was a grandma and just loved to stay home. But that wasn’t true. I’d give ANYTHING to be there; I was just scared. I didn’t want to go anywhere without my boyfriend because he was the only one who knew my truth. Imagine not being able to just go out with your girlfriends. It sucked. I felt like I also developed a mild case of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). I could not stop thinking about getting sick and getting myself nauseous! There were many times where I just cried myself to sleep because I was just so frustrated.
My “normals” became taking a pillbox with my everywhere I went. This “pillbox” consisted of anti-nausea meds, pepto-bismo, ginger candy, peppermint gum, and Advil. I also brought some kind of salty cracker with me, like pretzels because it seemed to help my stomach settle down. I didn’t want to go anywhere where I didn’t have access to a single bathroom. Forget public bathrooms; I was terrified of them by now! My anxiety became so bad and I would feel so nausea that I would lock up my jaw and clench my teeth through the night. This was bad; I had developed TMJ (a jaw disorder) and acid reflux from “making myself burp”. TMJ cause my ears to clog which made me dizzy which made me nausea and to top it off, I had to sleep with a mouthguard most of the night or else I’d have a headache!
After 6 months of dealing with my anxiety and searching the web for help, I decided to get some professional help. I went to my family doctor and told him about my problems. He made me take a couple of tests, including depression from the symptoms I was telling him and in the end, decided to prescribe me Xanax. Before taking Xanax during the peak of my anxiety, I researched the symptoms of it. I wanted to make sure that it would not make nausea and I was scared of taking medication that I wasn’t used to. The dr. prescribed me 0.5mg pills, which is a pretty small dosage and even then, I still broke it in half just to make sure that my body wouldn’t react negatively. The Xanax helped A LOT. I would only take 1/2 of a pill everyday and my anxiety would go away and I’d be much calmer. I tried to take it every other day or 2-3 times a week; I read stories and didn’t want to be dependent on it. I would ween off it as my anxiety decreased.
What helped me
– Exercise, yoga specifically, taught me to take deep breaths and calm down my nervous system. Breathing before bed helped me fall asleep as well. I’d breathe in for 6, hold for 6, and then exhale for 6.
– Boyfriend’s texts. I’d text my boyfriend every time I felt anxious in class and he’d calm me down by saying, “what’s the worse that can happen, you can do it, just sit it out.”
– A good diet. A balanced diet helped me feel a lot better without junk food and sweets made me feel a lot better. Junk food (fast food) would actually make me more anxious and hurt my stomach.
– Believing that I can overcome it. Believing that I was acting silly for being scared. I always told myself, “So what if I threw up, I’m not going to die”
– Pretending that nothings wrong. When I talked to classmates and put on a front, it actually helped me to believe that I was okay and most of the time, the anxiety would go away.
– I’d draw, write letters, or doodle in a notebook to help keep my mind off my fear.
– Snacking on salty crackers or sucking on a candy.
– Asking my boyfriend to keep quiet unless I say something. I can’t stand someone talking to me when I’m on edge. It makes me snappy and more anxious.
– Being proud of myself for staying in risky situations. Instead of criticizing myself for not being able to pay attention in class or wasting my time there just doodling away, I’d say, “I made it. I stayed the whole time. I didn’t vomit.” and that was an accomplishment.
Where am I now?
I still bring my Xanax with me everywhere I go just in case. Last semester, I only took it before a presentation or a test (in a situation that I couldn’t escape). But today, I no longer take it!! I don’t take it during tests or before I have to speak. I’m so happy. I can go out with my girls to eat; I can go on vacations with my boyfriend. I still stay away from bars and clubs because drunk people scare me since they’re out of control and yeah..it just scares me. But I’m hopeful! I’m hopeful that one day I will overcome this fear. I haven’t skipped class this semester. I still do get anxious occasionally but I just take deep breaths and stick with it. I learned that leaving the scene would heighten my anxiety. I have to stick it out. Yoga has helped me so much. I feel confident and good about myself after I finish a class. I’m honestly so happy and proud of myself so I want to share this with everyone.
How can you help people with anxiety?
Be supportive. Do not tell them to just “get over it”. Use positive words, “You can do it. I’m proud of you.” It is a hard emotion to deal with and really takes a toll on their body so try not to degrade them and make them feel “stupid” for having anxiety. Do not be forceful. Being forceful will frustrate them and cause other negative emotions such as depression. Be patient with them. Be calm. Allow them to do things at their own pace. Allow them to express themselves and try to understand. Don’t try to “distract” them by talking and asking a million questions. They are doing enough trying to calm themselves down. Asking a million questions will against frustrate them.
I hope I’ve managed to make a difference by writing this post. Anxiety is a horrible thing but IT CAN AND WILL GET BETTER within time. Take care of yourself. Know that everyday is a new day for change. What you did yesterday does NOT determine your future. I’m ALWAYS here to talk if you need to. We can and will concur this together. Please tell your stories because it will help others. NO ONE is alone. This happens to MANY PEOPLE. and KNOW that you are NOT ALONE. Thank you so much for reading, and I will update from time to time to let you know about my progress.
Please e-mail me if you need to talk. I’m here to help. Jjjjenn.firstname.lastname@example.org