By Danielle James
I always know when it’s going to happen. My heart starts racing. My breathing gets heavier. My vision gets blurry and my head starts to spin. Soon, I can’t breathe at all and I start to cry.
Then people start to back away from me and whisper about what’s happening. People ask a lot of questions. They ask me if I need anything or what they should do. I can’t answer them because I can’t breathe. I start to retrace my steps to how my attack started, and that usually makes me panic even more.
When I tell people that I have anxiety, they tend to brush it off as just getting nervous before tests or presentations. They never seem to fully understand the gravity of what I am telling them.
When people tell me not to worry so much, it drives me even crazier. Do you think I want to be nervous about something as simple as going in to work? No. Do you think I enjoy having minor panic attacks every time I have to talk to a member of the opposite sex? Definitely not.
Every single case of anxiety is different, yet people seem to think those of us that suffer from it are just overly nervous and we can be cured with some alcohol or medication. False. People assume I’m shy or weak or even sometimes bitchy. False.
My anxiety developed when I was about seventeen. I remember the first time I had a panic attack, I felt like a brick wall was wrapping around me, suffocating every possible emotion out of my body. I had no idea what was happening, and to make it worse, no one else around me did either. I remember going home that day and laying in bed until the next morning because I was so physically and emotionally drained.
The attacks became more frequent during my senior year of high school when I was under immense pressure to apply to colleges and try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Every time I had an attack, I felt as if my value as a person went down. People started to avoid me; they thought I wouldn’t notice, but I did and that made it progressively worse. I don’t blame them for avoiding me; anxiety attacks are almost as hard to witness as they are to experience.
Anxiety isn’t a joke. It’s the reason why I disappeared into my own world for the second semester of my freshman year. It’s the reason why I fear intimacy with men. It’s the reason why I hate spontaneity. It’s the reason why I have such a hard time opening up to people. I feel as if every thing I do will somehow be wrong; that it’s never going to be good enough.
I have slowly been finding ways to deal with my anxiety. Towards the beginning of the semester, I was actually able to catch an attack in its early stages and stop it. That was a huge step for me. But my anxiety is something that I will continue to struggle with as long as I live. It’s definitely changed the way I live, but I refuse to let it reduce the life I live.