I could feel the chair’s hard back through the fabric of my hoodie.
My arms wrapped around my knees, hugging them to my chest.
The green fabric on my arms reminded me of my older sister.
My heart was pounding. I could hear the doctor talking but it was hard to understand her words.
“Your anxiety won’t get better without medication and I recommend attending an outpatient treatment program.”
Those words changed my life.
I felt like crying and smiling at the same time. Those words were simultaneously validating and discouraging. They acknowledged the problem I’d been struggling with for 6 years.
I don’t know why exactly.
This is my story
It started when I was 14.
I would wake up nauseous and couldn’t describe what was happening inside of me. It progressed from happening every few weeks to every few days to almost daily.
2 years later, I stumbled across a description of GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) on Pinterest. Suddenly it clicked. Anxiety was the problem.
But I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to get help for another 4 years. I have hundreds of diary entries cataloging the terror of not understanding what was happening.
For 6 years I dealt with panic attacks and anxiety attacks on a daily basis. I ended up developing several phobias including agoraphobia. Which turned me into a hermit. I dealt with so much stress I lost a bunch of weight and my hair started falling out.
Anxiety Became Me
For 6 years I was scared to open up to a professional because I thought ‘I wasn’t sick enough’ or ‘I was making it up.’
At 18, I opened up to some close friends for the first time. This started me down the very long road of remission. A road I’m still traveling.
I use the word remission because anxiety is something I will never fully ‘recover’ from. Now, it’s a chronic condition that ebbs and flows with the seasons of my life. Some days, I barely remember I deal with anything. Others, it’s all I can think about. But they’re just days. And, I have lots of them.
Remission is Arduous
3 weeks before my 20th birthday I opened up to a doctor about my anxiety for the first time. It was terrifying but eye-opening.
I’d been dealing with it for so long and at such extreme levels I had forgotten how bad it was. I hadn’t been able to enjoy eating at a restaurant in 2 years. I hadn’t even been inside a movie theater for 5 years. I’d lost most of my friends and the courage to make more.
After that appointment, I tried a couple different medications before finding the one that worked for me. I started seeing a therapist regularly and finally opened up to someone about stuff I’d only told my diaries before.
I’ve learned quite a few lessons along this journey:
- Healing isn’t linear
- Deflecting everything through humor makes therapy entertaining
- Medication is amazing
- Music holds more memories than my brain ever could
- It’s okay to do things that help you cope even if they appear weird to other people
- Medication side effects can be serious and need understanding
- Life happens when you’re making plans
- Writing and Art express my emotions better than my voice can
- True friendship is deflecting your pain through humor together
- Healing is worth it
- It’s okay to not know who you were before anxiety
- You’re constantly changing
Finding Peace in the Journey to Remission
In the past 6 months, I’ve become a different person.
I found myself again.
Yes, I still deal with anxiety from time-to-time. Yes, I get panic attacks occasionally. But, I can eat at restaurants again. I can leave my house without constant panic attacks. I’m yet to visit a movie theater, but I know I’ll get there someday.
Even better than finding myself, along this journey I’ve reinvented myself. Everyday I’m getting closer to the person I’m supposed to be.
The remission road is long and arduous but it’s worth it. I know what it’s like to deal with a condition so long it becomes part of your identity. I became terrified of losing it because it felt like losing part of myself.
I’m ready to take my life back from anxiety. It’s taken so much from me. It’s time I take something from it.
P.S. I am 100% for dealing with mental conditions both with medication and without. I highly recommend talking to your doctor and a therapist and learning what works best for you. Everyone’s path is different but we’ll make it together.
P.P.S. This story is a lot longer and I hope someday I’ll have the courage to tell it.
P.P.P.S. Do you deal with any mental health conditions? What has helped you on your journey? Have you reached remission yet?