If you have ever suffered from any form of anxiety, you might be able to relate to my story.
Monday I had a huge presentation I was going to give to the executive team in my company. I had been handed a project several weeks ago to develop a training program which I worked tirelessly on.
Tedious editing, non-stop meetings, endless drafts.
But I owned it. I knew it inside and out, better than any manager, and was given the opportunity to present my work to the bi-wigs.
Of course, I was nervous.
The voices in my head were telling me everything I needed to hear to be confident and strong, but my body was having an entirely different reaction.
And I couldn’t help but think that I can’t be in this alone.
This is not the first time this has happened. You might not be able to tell from reading my posts and looking at my pictures, but I suffer from anxiety.
Panic attack inducing, heart pounding, word crippling, pull-over-on-the-shoulder-of-a-busy-highway-to-keep-from-passing-out anxiety that I have little control over.
Let me start by saying, I haven’t always been this way. Those I grew up with would characterize me as an outgoing, center of attention, people person.
Non-surprisingly, I’m a Leo.
I danced and sang in front of audiences, made speeches in classes, performed in talent shows, acted in plays – all with no issue.
When I gained weight in college, I noticed I had more anxiety in social settings. I didn’t go out for the dance team, I didn’t try to join a sorority, I didn’t even stand up for things I believed in or felt because I lacked the confidence.
Over time that lack of confidence snowballed into severe anxiety and by my junior year I had my first full blown panic attack.
I was driving on I-5 towards California with a friend and out of nowhere I started to lose control of my body. For no apparent reason my heart started racing, I got clammy, light headed and I couldn’t decide if I was going to throw up, pass out, or both.
I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, threw the car in park, and jumped in the back seat. I was ghost white and shaking so vigorously my friend was convinced I was having a seizure.
This was one of the most terrifying moments of my life (and my friends, who was a 1 away from having 911 dialed..), I literally had no idea what was happening to me or why.
My mom informed me it was something that ran in the family. While she herself suffered from anxiety, my aunt also had severe panic attacks like I had just experienced.
From that point on, they inconsistent but more frequent.
I would have to leave class.
Step away from my work to sit down.
Frequently pull over when driving.
Avoid flying at all costs.
While it seemed to come out of nowhere, and happen in some of the most random settings, it gradually got worse.
I am now aware of specific situations that are almost guaranteed to ignite a panic attack, as well as methods to prevent it, but I still feel like I have very little control over my condition.
I am very adamant in that [nearly] all conditions can be treated without medication. I understand that, for me, public speaking in a formal setting, driving [especially if I’m not behind the wheel], confined spaces, consuming caffeine of any kind, alcohol, loud music, and even the smell of cigarettes will set me on edge and put me at risk.
It has gotten to the point where I can’t have coffee at all, I struggle with strong teas, and multiple times a week I spend my entire 20 mile commute fighting back light headedness just because I have to pass a slower vehicle.
Now, if I was naturally introverted and nervous, these behaviors might make sense. But the second I step out of my car I walk with confidence and certainty underfoot.
My inner monologue is almost always positive and up lifting. I have natural doubts, but for the most part I am my own biggest supporter with goals and ambitions that do not warrant a sudden on coming of anxiety.
In truth, anxiety even prevented me from creating this blog for almost two years because I would get so clammy at even the thought of someone being interested in me or my life.
So, how is it possible that in almost every fiber of my being, I do not feel I am easily stressed or anxious yet I can hardly ask my boss a simple question without hours of mental pep-talk?
My outward and inner portrayal of myself represents a person that no one would suspect of hardly being able to introduce themselves at a department meeting without wanting to run out of the room as fast as possible.
But I am.
I am the person sitting in the back of the room scratching her legs to keep from blacking out completely just because I was asked to explain what I do to my co-workers.
All the while reminding myself that I am in a room filled with friendship and support and in no way have anything to worry about.
Yet I do.
Without fail, I continue to struggle daily.
And that’s OK, because I have support. While I don’t always have a control of my body, I have a grasp on reality and my potential.
Whether or not I feel like a person with anxiety, I am and person with anxiety.
And I know I am not alone.