When things get better, it’s very common, I think, to say things like “oh that was just because of the circumstances” and “I’m fine; I’m just a worrier.” The truth is, I do have anxiety. It’s mostly something I can manage but not always. This week I had a severe panic attack and then another one within twenty-four hours that, thankfully, wasn’t as bad. Each one left me feeling like I had extremely over-exerted myself. My lungs ached like I had hiked up a steep hill in high altitude. My stomach felt like I had done way too many sit ups. But, that’s not even the worst part. Panic attacks are draining both physically and mentally. It’s traumatic. In my experience, it’s like your emotions convince your body you can’t breathe and no matter how much your logical mind screams that you definitely can breathe, your body doesn’t listen. In the end, my body hurt of course but more than that, my emotions felt completely drained. I hate that I can’t control this. I felt it coming and I knew as my breathing started to quicken that it was going to happen but I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I probably just fueled the panic because I started thinking “this is going to hurt the baby” and “Collin is going to think I’m crazy.” When everything is done and I’ve recovered I know that the baby is fine and my fiancé has never made me feel crazy. But, when anxiety turns into a panic attack, any possible thing a person can worry about is suddenly the most terrifying thing in the world.
It has been two years since my last panic attack. I stopped having them after I saw my therapist for a while, so I thought that I was cured. Logically, I knew it wasn’t that simple. But, when I’m being truly honest with myself, I know that I thought I had been cured. I would look back at that time in my life and say “it was the circumstances” and “it won’t happen again. I’m better now.” But anxiety doesn’t magically go away just because you learn how to manage it. It can get easier to manage and you can learn about ways to stop spiraling, but it doesn’t go away. The advice I have this week is: it’s okay to not always be okay. Everyone has struggles they deal with and you aren’t broken, even if you feel broken. Also, I think it’s important to be honest with yourself. Don’t pretend the problem isn’t there, because it is. And, it’s a lot easier to face when you aren’t closing your eyes.
“But you give your thoughts too much power, Aza. Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t” (John Green).
I highly recommend Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Whether you have anxiety or not, it’s an amazing read.
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