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Anxiety, I've Got This

by Savannah Aichem 4 years ago in anxiety
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(Pun Intended)

I've lived with anxiety since I was about 12-years-old. I had lost my aunt whom my family and I were taking care of every day, my boyfriend (if you can call someone that at age 12) and several other people I really loved all left me around the same time, and I was okay at first. We had my aunt's funeral to plan. I still had some friends and sports to occupy my time, so I did okay for the first few months after all of those things happened, until the day I slowed down.

I will never forget my first anxiety attack. It was the single most terrifying thing I have ever experienced in my life. I was outside playing badminton (yes, I know that's not a common sport but it was one of my favorites) in my backyard like any other day and suddenly I felt sick. Really, really sick. Something you need to know about me is that I don't like being sick or vulnerable in front of anyone, even people I love, so right about then I decided I needed to make my escape. I figured it might pass after a minute so I told my friend I just had to run inside for a minute and I would be right out. I was wrong. As soon as I was inside the house I ran toward the bathroom, locked the door behind me, and dropped to the floor by the toilet. I was terrified. I couldn't breathe, I was shaking uncontrollably, and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I just sat there trying to get some kind of control of myself, trying to understand what was happening to me, and I started crying. I'm not a crier, even less so back then than I am now. I couldn't understand why I was losing it like this and I just wanted to go back outside and play with my friend, but that never happened.

I lost all track of time but it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes before my mom asked if I was okay from her bedroom right next door to the bathroom. By then the attack had slowed down enough that I could shakily stand back up, walk to the door, get to my mom's room and plop face first onto her bed. She was as shocked as I was. I was nothing like the energetic, stubborn, smiling daughter she was used to. I must have looked so defeated staring up at her with my big brown eyes filled with tears and exhaustion. I want to say right now how blessed I am to have the parents I have. They did everything they could to help me. Anything I told them I needed to feel better, they did everything they could to get me; at my lowest point they even drove me to the local pet store every day just so I could see the animals to calm me down. They were and still are beyond incredible and I can never thank them enough for all they did to get me through that.

As the years have gone on, I've tried a lot of different things to tame my anxiety and I've found a couple things that work. I put my favorite show on and just listen to it, the familiarity lulling me out of the attacks a lot more quickly than if I don't have my phone. Talking to my husband or my mother during an attack are both a huge help. My father tells me increasingly corny jokes throughout the entire attack so when I manage to come out of it I am always laughing. I play games on my phone, I work on a project, I distract myself anyway I can, and MOST of the time these things work. But I have my bad days, days when I have such bad anxiety I have to take medication which makes me sleep all day just so I won't get sick or have an attack every 15 to 20 minutes, and I have come to realize that is OKAY. I still feel guilty every once and while about my anxiety, like I am failing those around me and the people I love because I can't function the way they can. I still have days where I feel like I can't take the anxiety anymore and I just want to lay in bed for the rest of my life. I still go over most comments or conversations I have with people around me because I worry I might offend people with what I say. But I can honestly say I am doing better now. I am surviving with my anxiety in ways I never would have imagined possible in the beginning. I managed to fall in love with someone who sees my anxiety and loves me even with it, and who convinces me even on the worst days with it I deserve the love I get from him, from our family, and from our friends.

With this article I am finally telling my story (at least the abridged version for now, maybe one day I'll have the courage to tell it all), but I also want to accomplish something with it. I want to show other people with anxiety that they aren't alone, they're not weird or crazy, they're just human and sometimes we need help. It's never going to be easy living a life with anxiety, you'll struggle more with every day tasks than most people, and sometimes that will make you angry because you just want to be "normal." Just remember you are normal. You are tough enough to make it through this. Anxiety is terrifying, debilitating, an invisible illness that a lot of people can't understand if they don't have it, but you are stronger than your anxiety. Your mental and behavioral illness doesn't define who you are. It's a part of you that you carry but you aren't your illness. I tell some of the corniest jokes you will ever hear, I snort when I laugh too hard, I play fetch with my dogs, I love going to the casino with my Grandma (who also happens to be one of my BEST friends). I'm goofy, passionate, cranky in the mornings, and I have anxiety. My illness is just a small piece of the person I am but all of that other stuff reminds me that I am so much more than the struggles I face with it. So keep reminding yourself that you aren't alone, that you're a fighter, and you ARE NOT ALONE. I hope my story helps someone, someday find the peace I have found from sharing it with all of you.


About the author

Savannah Aichem

"What doesn't kill us gives us something new to write about." -Julie Wright

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