A few months into my freshman year of college, I noticed a pretty substantial shift in both my mood and my way of thinking. I started to worry about what was going on in my life more and more, and I didn’t feel as happy-go-lucky as I used to. I tried to brush off those feelings as just part of being homesick or making such a huge transition in life. However, ignoring the problems I was starting to have only made them worse. I thought something was wrong with me, and I was really scared because I didn’t know what it was. One day, I went with my boyfriend to his psychology class on a whim, and they happened to be talking about different anxiety disorders. Something clicked in my mind, and I realized that there was a word for what was happening to me: anxiety.
While anxiety is being discussed much more openly in our society now, I still sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it. Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because I don’t want people to treat me differently because of it. However, I’ve started to find some power not only in sharing my experiences, but in being able to help other people going through the same thing
What Anxiety Is Like For Me
Anxiety is a word that encompasses a lot of different symptoms and sub-conditions, like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I personally have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. The generalized anxiety means that I will worry about certain things more often and for longer periods of time than is normal. Social anxiety means that I worry about what people think of me, and I will sometimes feel stressed in social situations. I also have a bit of what is called “specific phobia”, which just means that there are certain things that will cause intense feelings of anxiety, like speaking in public or seeing a spider.
My anxiety presents itself in different situations and in different ways. If I’m texting someone and they don’t respond for over an hour, I’ll sometimes start to worry that something happened to them rather than just assuming they forgot to reply or are busy. This worry will take up most of my thoughts, and will make me feel restless and really uneasy until the situation resolves itself. One time I received a text from a friend I had a falling out with, telling me how sorry they were. Their wording reminded me of what I’ve seen about how people might try to make amends before attempting suicide, and this friend was someone who had expressed feelings like that before. As soon as I got the text I began panicking and hyperventilating, and it took an hour and a phone conversation with my friend before I calmed down. I will also experience anxiety attacks from time to time, which for me means hyperventilating and an overwhelming sense of a lack of control over myself.
The way I experience anxiety may be similar to someone else, or it may be different. While there are certain symptoms that will warrant a diagnosis, people may have different combinations of these symptoms, or different types of anxiety disorders altogether. I found out about the specific disorders I have by going to a therapist and talking to her about what I was feeling and experiencing.
How I Cope With Anxiety
I went to the doctor about my anxiety before going to a therapist. My doctor told me that therapy would help me work through why I was having anxiety and find ways to cope. They also told me that I had the option of receiving medication that I could take on occasion when my anxiety was particularly bad. I personally chose to go to therapy first, and make a decision later about whether or not I thought I needed medication as well. I wanted to see what the coping strategies would be like, and see if those could help me on their own. There is absolutely no shame in taking medication to help with anxiety, and for some people it is necessary to get it under control. But since I was given a choice, I just didn’t think my anxiety was severe enough to warrant it, at least not before seeing how much therapy could help me.
I have gone to therapy a few different times, and have learned many strategies that have helped me. The most important ones for me are meditation and breathing, because they help me center my focus and put my worries into perspective. I use a lot of other strategies too, and I might make a separate post about them in the future.
Therapy on its own proved to be enough for me. I still suffer from anxiety, and I don’t expect to ever fully get rid of it. Still, having coping mechanisms in my tool belt help me deal with the anxiety when it comes.
Asking for help can be really difficult. I was worried that people wouldn’t believe that I had a problem, partly because I still didn’t want to admit it to myself. I’m really glad that I eventually did seek help, because it has made my life much more manageable and livable.
If you think you might be struggling with some type of anxiety, find someone you trust and ask them for help. I started by telling my boyfriend, then my mom, and finally my doctor who directed me to my therapist. Telling someone you love will help you get it off your chest, and they can help you get the help you need. It’s also super important to have a support system, and to know that you’re not alone.
I plan on writing more about my anxiety in the future, and I hope this post was helpful in teaching about anxiety and giving someone’s personal perspective on it! If you have any questions or want advice about my experiences or anxiety in general, feel free to comment or visit my contact page to find other ways to get in touch.