For those of you who don’t know, I have an anxiety disorder and am currently enrolled in school for my third and final degree. I’m getting a master’s in Creative Writing. Schoolwork takes up most of my time, so this month I decided to share the story of the night I had an anxiety attack and found out about my anxiety disorder with you guys. Happy June!
The date was November 15th. My heart was racing. My body was numb. I felt as if I were falling. I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what it was. I laid in bed for hours, Googling my symptoms on my cell phone, as my brain tried desperately to shut itself down. I had been experiencing symptoms of anxiety for close to six months before my anxiety attack occurred. However, I thought nothing of them, and continued on with my daily tasks. I thought they were nothing to worry about. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree, and was used to not getting enough sleep and worrying as a college student. Furthermore, no one I knew had ever had an anxiety attack before, so I didn’t notice signs of symptoms in myself until it was too late. In hindsight, I wish I had paid more attention to the symptoms before the night the attack hit, and perhaps it could have been avoided. I had been losing weight without explanation, was always tired, and constantly worried. Lower back pain also had increased during the months leading up to my anxiety attack, along with difficulty falling and staying asleep at night. No matter what I tried, it seemed that I just couldn’t rest at night. My inability to rest became so bad that it was difficult for me to relax, day and night.
At exactly 3:15 a.m. on November 15th, 2014, I decided to end my confusion. I decided to stop trying to diagnose myself via Google. I started to scream. Loudly. I screamed uncontrollably for help from my mother. From my sister. From anyone. I screamed because I was afraid to get out of the bed, I was afraid that my limbs were falling apart. I was ready to go to the emergency room. I screamed for what seemed like forever before my mom came into my room. She was hesitant and tired, but agreed to go with me to the hospital to find out what was wrong. We were both in our pajamas, so she threw on some clothes, and came into my room to help me put some on, since I was afraid of moving my body. I thought that I would need my step-dad to carry me to the car once my mom got me dressed, but I managed to walk to the car myself.
An hour later, I was in the back of an emergency room, lying on a hospital bed. I was surrounded by nurses and other staff members trying to calm me down, while my mom and step-dad tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Nevertheless, I kept panicking and couldn’t calm down by myself because I didn’t understand what was happening to me. One of the nurses ended up giving me a tranquilizer and sleeping pills to lull me to sleep. She later told me that if she had not medicated me, I would have died; my heart was beating and pumping blood much faster than it should have been. All of the nurses and doctors were kind and patient with me. Nonetheless, my anxiety levels kept climbing.
As the nurse finished giving me the pills, my grandmother walked through the door and sat down. I knew who she was, but I was oblivious to the comforting words she spoke to me as I began to feel the effects of the pills. I lay there, and the worries, cares, and frustrations of the last few months flashed through my mind. Months before, my concerns about finding a job after graduating from college, my estrangement from my best friend, and drama with my family had filled my head and overwhelmed me. In that moment, laying in the hospital bed, surrounded by family members, none of that mattered. All that mattered to me was getting some rest and finding peace of mind and body.
The anxiety attack lasted a few hours, but the effects of it would change my mind-set and lifestyle forever. The doctor told my family and me about how hard my recovery from the attack might be, and I drifted to sleep. The anxiety attack was over, but another nightmare had just begun.
The road to recovery was a long hard one. For weeks after my anxiety attack, I was lightheaded and weak. I barely ate, and laid in bed and watched television day in and day out. Most of the time, I felt as if I couldn’t feel my body. My limbs were uncoordinated like a baby’s. My body was so weak that at times I couldn’t stand or sit upright on my own. Family members helped me walk, fixed my meals, sat with me, and supported me emotionally and spiritually.
Nights were the worst. At night while my family members slept, I would lie in bed, terrified to go to sleep. The panic and fear that I felt during my anxiety attack always came back to torment me as soon as the lights were out. For a long time after my anxiety attack happened, I couldn’t sleep, wouldn’t sleep, and stayed awake most nights talking to God. My appetite for food, fun, and entertainment was nonexistent as well. After about a month after my emergency room visit, I called and made an appointment with my medical doctor. I was supposed to have made an appointment with him after a week after leaving the emergency room, but I was too scared to call until a month after my anxiety attack occurred. The day of the doctor’s appointment came, and I went. The doctor walked into the exam room, and took a look at me. He then asked me a few questions, and proceeded to take a book out that he browsed through. He diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants, and told me to come visit him in a few weeks to let him know how I was doing. Relieved that I wasn’t going crazy, I left my doctor’ s office with a new sense of appreciation for life that day.
All in all, the experience of having an anxiety attack, going through the effects of it, and having to fight my way back through recovery was a trying one. Finding myself and accepting myself again after the anxiety attack as the same person with a medical condition was a long hard battle, but it taught me how to live in the moment, and helped me to find peace within myself.
I share my story with others now, because I feel it has to be shared, in order to possibly stop and or soothe the unnecessary suffering of other anxiety-ridden people in the world like me. I feel compelled to let others know that a that such diagnoses shouldn’t and doesn’t make a person crazy.
So you see, I’m not a survivor because of my anxiety attack and disorder. I’m a survivor in spite of them. Being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder wasn’t the most exciting thing to happen to me in life, but I don’t use it as an crutch to stay down in life. I don’t use it as an excuse to give up on myself or life. A lot of people may view having an anxiety disorder as an handicap, but I don’t anymore. It can be a burden, but there are so many things in my life to be thankful for that I don’t hide its presence in my life anymore. My anxiety attack and diagnosis have never changed the person that I am inside. I refused to let them. In perspective, they made me sharper, wiser, and more self-nurturing.
Before being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and having an anxiety attack, I would frown upon people who had anxiety and panic attacks. Now, I stand with them as a proud survivor of an anxiety attack and disorder. I applaud them for having the courage and strength to stand up and talk about their experiences to a world who misunderstands mental illness. My anxiety attack did in a night’s time length what I had been trying and struggling to do for myself for years. It taught me the value and worth of my peace of mind and the importance of self-care. It made me realize that you are not loving yourself fully until you have taken care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I sometimes still struggle with the effects of my anxiety disorder and the memory of my anxiety attack, but overall I’m grateful for the experience.
Without it, I wouldn’t have learned that it’s okay for people to take care of themselves, and love themselves. Without it, I would still be ignoring my own mental health and body’s needs while attending to other people’s health. Without it, I wouldn’t have learned the importance of time spent alone and relaxation.