This is going to be a more personal post because it's not something im 100% comfortable talking about, but I will try my best. If this post helps just one person then writing this was definitely worth it :)
So what I wanted to get off my chest is what anxiety is like for me and how i'm dealing with it. Everyone has some degree of anxiety and for the most part, having anxiety is normal. A little bit of anxiety can help you stay focused and motivated. What isn't normal however, is when you become so sensitive to anxiety that it starts to become overwhelming and interferes with daily life activities. This is then called an anxiety disorder.
I've been having anxiety for almost two years now and I don't remember exactly when it started but I have a pretty good idea it was when my last relationship started going downhill. I was not happy and I depended a lot of my happiness on my boyfriend at the time. In addition to that he was very controlling and ultimately I felt really helpless as if he was the only person I could depend on. Due to all the worries and negative emotions I was feeling, stress became a constant in my life and as the relationship worsened, the stress (including stress from school) increased and started becoming unbearable and overwhelming. This started becoming a problem because I would always be on edge about everything that bothered me. I would worry about the relationship so much that the degree of worrying and stress I had became "normal" to me. This means that whenever I worry or stress about something (big or small), that degree of anxiety is what I experience. I was told that people who are prone to anxiety disorders just have a weaker sympathetic nervous system.
Having such a high degree of anxiety eventually caused me to experience panic attacks. I would be so on edge about everything that my body started to believe that it was in danger, and therefore whenever I felt anxious, a panic attack wouldn't be too far behind to "protect" me from the situation. A panic attack is just the body's way of signaling the brain that you are in danger and to run away from the problem or fight it (fight or flight) whether you are in actual danger or not.
In my experience when I have a panic attack, I would start to feel really cold then I'd start to feel like I can't beathe and because of that I would start to feel nauseous, then all I would be able to focus on are my symptoms. My panic attacks usually last for about ten minutes. I believe the longest time a person can fully panic for is thirty minutes. I would usually have panic attacks in places where I have time to reflect or think such as on the bus, skytrain, walking around in a mall, a library, laying in bed and long hallways. These panic attacks and my anxiety then got worse when my boyfriend at the time and I broke up. Because he was very controlling and essentially established himself as the only person I could depend on in my life, I felt as though my "security blanket " was taken away.
Then one day I decided to see a counsellor. Seeing this counsellor was the best decision I have ever made. She was very kind and patient and knew exactly what to say and advise me to do to gain more control over my anxiety. For me, this meant focusing on myself and becoming happy with myself. I had to regain the confidence and self esteem that I had lost. So I started doing things that I wanted to do, this meant doing things for me and not worry about other people's opinions. I had to learn how to put myself first and to take care of myself mentally and physically.
Of course today I still suffer from anxiety and panic attacks but it's not as severe as it used to be. I've realized that i'm not alone and that this is something I shouldn't be afraid to talk to people about. Feeling alone whilst having anxiety could make it a lot worse. Therefore, my advice for people who are suffering from anxiety and panic attacks is to tell someone. I know it's hard and even my friends couldn't fully understand it at first. But do have courage to tell someone, don't go through this alone because knowing that there are people who care about you and support you is going to make the healing process so much easier.