Dread. Sweaty pits. Beet red. Burning up. Dizziness. Shakiness. Tongue tied. The urge to vomit.
Anxiety has ruled my life as long as I can remember. As a child, I went through phases of intense fear of things like being kidnapped, death, being the center of attention, and thunderstorms. I even had – and still have – anxiety about my anxiety. I’m also a shy person, making my anxiety worse, or perhaps causing it, or both.
Being a hand-wringing, anxiety-ridden child, I would get intense butterflies in my gut and would basically have to talk myself out of having panic attacks. When I was training to be a lifeguard as a high school sophomore, I dreaded training all day at school, even though I did well and ultimately passed the class. In training, we had to swim 500 meters before starting anything else. For some reason, this aspect of training made me so nervous, that is until I started swimming. I was able to be alone and let the world go, clear my head and prepare for the lifesaving lessons coming up.
I seem to almost thrive on my anxiety. While I am now on medication to help ease my worries, I lived with my anxious feelings for 19 years without medicine. I was weird about taking psychotropic drugs until I turned at least 18 – that was a whole other irrational belief. I’m 34 and my psychiatrist finally figured out a good medication cocktail that works for me about five years ago – I’m much better now, but I can definitely tell a difference when I do, or don’t, take my daily dose.
When I was a freshman in college, I was a member of the rowing team. I walked on as a novice and dreaded every practice and race, but once we got started with our workouts, etc. my nervousness would dissipate. Obviously, I have found a connection between exercise and the assuaging of anxiety, which of course has been medically proven. Once I got my endorphins moving, I could conquer the world. Until then, I made myself literally sick with worry.
Throughout high school and some of college, I would wake up nervous as hell for no good reason and I would vomit. Every morning; like clockwork. My mom even took me to see a gastroenterologist, who rudely and adamantly accused me of being bulimic. I laughed in his face – he was so smug and sure he was correct. I’m still angry about that appointment. He was a jackass.
Finally, after years of suffering with a perpetually upset stomach, a nurse practitioner figured out I was in the throes of anxiety. She prescribed me some medication to get me through the days until I could see my psychiatrist again. I noticed an immediate change and suddenly everything made sense – I was having somatic symptoms.
I am proud to say that I no longer vomit due to my nerves every single day! Yay! 😀 I did go through high school trying to hide my sweaty armpits. I was a nervous wreck throughout my teen years and constantly worried about my peers either seeing my soaking pits or smelling the stench. I wore tons of deodorant and showered prior to school, but could not stop the sweat. The same nurse practitioner who diagnosed the reason behind my upset stomach knew that my sweating was due to anxiety as well. Thank goodness the sweating stopped once I started medication.
Sometimes I thrive on my anxiety, but it also holds me back at times and causes me to procrastinate A LOT. When I was in school, I’d wait until the last minute to start projects and I would usually kill it and make A’s. When I was in a graduate program, I waited until the night before a tough take-home test was due to start. I sorely underestimated the time it would take me to complete the essay answer-type test. I guess that’s why my teacher gave the assignment weeks before. Oops.
I stayed up all night and into the next afternoon working on my answers. Somehow, I managed to be the only student in the class to make a perfect score. I was floored. Apparently, in my anxiety riddled, must do this now phase, I figured out how the teacher had set up the test – it was all based on assigned readings, which I hadn’t read previously and had to skim the night I finally filled out the test.
So, through surviving near-crippling anxiety, I have learned to function and kind of cope. I thought being anxious was just a part of my life, that I wasn’t meant to be cool, calm, and collected. Thankfully, through therapy and medication, my anxiety is under control and I’m like a different person than I was 15 years ago. As a person who was once afraid of taking medication for a psychiatric imbalance, I am now a major proponent of prescriptions and therapy.
My anxiety often revealed itself as irritability. I would lash out at those closest to me and would pretty much be a bitch. I figure people from my past think I’m aloof, but I don’t care about what those people think anymore. I remember this asshole girl in my senior class telling people that I had “issues”. This really hurt at the time, although it was true. I’m not going to dog that particular girl, but I feel like I got the last laugh by seeking to heal myself and solve my “issues”.
Just to illustrate how bad my anxiety can be, I often dread making simple phone calls. I hate calling anyone besides my parents and husband; thank God for texting and email! The thing that usually holds me back from doing simple tasks such as talking to people, is that I dread doing said task for hours. Usually, sometimes after days, I’ll bite the bullet and make that phone call. Stuff never seems to go as badly as I anticipate, especially conversations. I have had some unfortunate telephone talks with hateful strangers, as I’m sure many people have. I think I also have a fear of calling others outside my neck of the woods because I’m afraid people who live elsewhere won’t understand my accent.
In a nutshell, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) a few years ago. The diagnosis came as a relief – I finally had an explanation and a way to treat my problem. I know I must be a pretty strong person to have lived with the anxiety I have for such a long time. While my anxiousness really never fully goes away, my medication is a lifesaver, as is my doctor.
My advice to anyone experiencing symptoms of anxiety is to reach out for help. I understand that asking for aid can be nerve wracking – it was for me at first. The key to overcoming any psychological issues is seeing a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, but, hey, my nurse practitioner helped me hugely. I’ve also found that writing helps me so much – it helps for me to put my anxious thoughts on paper or to escape by blogging.
To all of y’all out there who are anxious – I understand and you are not alone. You can seek and receive help without stigma; it’s worth it. Life almost wasn’t worth living while feeling intense dread nearly constantly, but I see the beauty in life much more now and I want to live and experience all kinds of things. I may not be spotted speaking in public much, but I will certainly have a smile on my face and will live my life to the fullest.