My Experience With Anxiety: Speaking Up About My Feelings
My first experience with anxiety was in the eighth grade. I was sitting alone in my house, thinking about school, when my mind started racing. My thoughts began to spiral with stresses + worries that quickly felt out of my control. Within an instant my heart was pounding + I felt nauseous. I wasn’t able to control my own thoughts — a feeling that continued to persist for the next few months.
Within the week, I was diagnosed by my doctor with anxiety, prescribed prescriptions to calm my mind + ease the nausea + recommended to see a therapist. I was extremely relieved to have a name for what I was experiencing + to know that there were ways to treat it. It helped me see that I wasn’t the first person to feel this way + that I could get help.
In the first two days, I missed school + spent most of my time sleeping. I was exhausted from constantly trying to fight my own thoughts. I could barely eat + felt like nothing could possibly make me feel better.
It was thanks to my mom’s persistence to get me to go to school + other activities that I forced myself to keep fighting to get better. All I wanted to do was lay on the couch + let my thoughts take over. While it felt mean at the time, forcing me to get up + even just get out of the house was the best thing she could have done for me — mom always knows best! Putting myself in uncomfortable situations [some days this included things as simple as going to get the mail] is what challenged me to learn how to deal with the anxiety + find ways to cope with it. Persisting to continue through daily activities was probably one of the best things I could have done.
Over the next few months I continued to battle constant feelings of nausea + uncontrollable thoughts. I felt like I was stuck in my head. Unable to fully understand what was going on, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it to others. I feared that social situations would make me vulnerable for people to notice that I wasn’t myself. However, I happily shared what was going on with my close friends, knowing that they could help me [my mom couldn’t be by my side every second of the day!]. While it was a very personal battle, I relied greatly on loved ones. Just because I knew something might help me didn’t mean it was easy to do — sometimes I needed the extra nudge of someone telling me what to do or when to give myself a break + take a step back.
It took almost an entire year to feel completely normal again, + even then, I felt like a different person. I had learned a lot about myself + what makes my body react certain ways. I knew that exercise + movement helped me clear my mind, but also saw how competition heightened my anxiety. As someone who spent most of their life on a swim team, it was hard to learn to be less competitive + just enjoy the sport for what it is. I learned that something as simple as going outside for a short walk could help me change perspectives + gain some control over my thoughts. Even forcing myself to stop + count my breaths for a few seconds did wonders to slowing my racing mind.
To this day, I still apply what I learned from this experience to my everyday life.
I have been fortunate not to repeat the full symptoms I experienced in eighth grade, but I can see when I start letting my thoughts get out of control. Thanks to my past experience, I am aware of what my anxious thoughts look like + can use what I’ve learned to take a step back + try to control them.
One of the most important lessons I took away from this experience was to talk about my feelings. Yes, it sounds cheesy + it can be hard to do, but it can make a huge difference. Not only does it show people what is going on + give them a chance to help you, but sometimes hearing yourself speak your thoughts can give you a new perspective on them. I am extremely grateful to have had a strong support system while dealing with this, + encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to reach out for help!