My Journey with Anxiety – Part One

I believe words are powerful. The words we choose are important. They can change the way a thought is conveyed, and they can change the way a thought is perceived. I was originally going to title this “My Battle with Anxiety”, but the word battle insinuates something that can be defeated. My anxiety will be with me for the rest of my life. To treat it as something that can be beaten and forgotten is to do a disservice to myself. So, this is my journey with anxiety.

My Journey with Anxiety

Thinking back now, I can see that I’ve had anxiety all my life. There’s a joke out there about how children who kept stickers instead of putting them on things are now adults with anxiety. I still have a shoebox full of stickers that I never used and have now lost their sticky. Yeah, I didn’t know that could happen either. (Honestly, if I did, I might have actually used them because now they are unusable.)

My doctor put me on birth control in my early twenties to manage my infrequent periods caused by PCOS (perhaps a topic for another time? lol). To keep it short, they would come monthly for three months, and then I wouldn’t have one for three months. Doctors refused to believe I wasn’t sexually active. I was a virgin until the age 25, for those wondering.

The panic attacks would happen anytime, anywhere for no reason whatsoever. I remember sitting in sanitation class and feeling like there was no air left in the room. I was breathing, but I couldn’t breathe. Sometimes it would pass within moments. Sometimes, I would have to step out and pretend to go to the bathroom until I could catch my breath. The crazy thing was, I wasn’t out of breath. I was breathing just fine, but my brain was telling me otherwise. If I got dizzy, it wasn’t due to lack of oxygen, it was due to too much. I was hyperventilating.

Driving set it off too. If I got too warm in my car while driving, I would have one of these attacks. I’d have to roll down the window to let the cool air in so I could breathe. During this time, I was having to drive my boyfriend to and from work. (I’m actually a little fuzzy on the timeline, as this was 14 years ago, but it was around the same time.) He worked nights and I had to drive him to another town for work. An hour’s drive both ways. We didn’t live together and I lived farther out than he did. So I had to pick him up, take him to work, then drive home. On the way home at night, I would often have to call my grandmother. Someone once told me, “If you’re talking, you’re breathing.” So, when singing to the radio didn’t help, I called someone to talk to on the way home to distract myself enough that the attack would pass.

Talking and distraction are my coping mechanisms for my attacks. It’s strange to look back on my younger years and see where the anxiety was already present. Next week, I will continue my journey with anxiety and discuss the first attack I remember during the eight months I spent in a cult.

Do you remember when your anxieties began? Was there a trigger or have they always been there? Can you look back and see things that you missed? Leave a comment or feel free to email me.

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