Anxiety…. the word we all know, but unless you have it you will never understand. The dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Those of us with Anxiety know it is so much more. It can consume your life, control your mind and body and manifest itself in so many other ways. Anxiety is also something YOU can control.
Yes I know that goes against what I just said, but Anxiety is tricky like that. One of the ways I take control of my Anxiety is talking about it. If I am not afraid or ashamed of it I can take some of that control back. I also talk about my Anxiety to share my story. To let others know they are not alone, to be a resource for those who have questions. So this is my story, it is a long one so I will break it up into a few posts. Hopefully hearing about my journey can help someone else in a similar situation feel a little less alone.
I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. I can picture myself as a young girl laying on my mom’s bedroom floor crying because I felt so nervous for a test at school that I was physically ill, the only problem was that I didn’t know it was Anxiety back then. I remember “getting the flu” at the worst times growing up; on a school trip to the amusement park, at a sleepover, at camp. We talked to my doctor about it all the time. How could I get the flu so often? There were times it was almost weekly. They had a ton of answers for me, I was lactose intolerant, I had crones disease, irritable bowel syndrome – if one of the symptoms of a condition was throwing up or the other fun flu symptom – I had it. I tried tracking what foods I ate that made me sick, I tried a few medications, nothing seemed to help.
When I was in college I had to go in for a physical while I was home for a school break. My normal doctor was gone so I had to see a new doctor – a MALE doctor. Now for all the women out there you know how awkward a physical can be, but with a new doctor who was a MAN! I wasn’t excited. By the time I got back into his office I was sick to my stomach – great, here it comes again I thought. When he came in to see me he did something none of the other doctors did. He didn’t read my chart, he didn’t examine me – he talked to me. He asked me about my life, my school, my day. I was instantly put at ease. I had my physical and went home.
After college, I moved home and continued to see the same doctor. I also continued to feel sick a lot, but I had gotten used to it for me it just became a part of life. Then, one day I went in for a routine doctors appointment when I went in they told me they needed to take a blood sample to just run some tests. The nurse left the room and by the time the doctor came in I was about ready to throw up. He clearly noticed I was now a nice shade of green and asked if I was feeling okay. I explained I didn’t feel well and that it was pretty normal for this to happen and that I would be okay. He sat down and just talked to me. After a few minutes, he looked at me and said the words that would change my life. “I think you are having a panic attack” As soon as he said the words I felt almost instantly better. Like the justification of him telling me it was okay to feel like this was enough to set my mind at ease. We decided to test his theory. He gave me 2 Ativan pills and sent me home with the instructions that next time that happened I should cut one in half and take it.
Christmas Eve that year we slept at my parent house. The plan was to get up and have breakfast with my family and then go to Madison to see Glenn’s family. I woke up in the middle of the night with the flu. I felt terrible I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to Christmas and as the night went on I felt worse and worse. I skipped Christmas breakfast to stay in bed. I barely made the 20-minute drive back to our house. I told Glenn I couldn’t go with him to Madison for Christmas and got into bed. He was actually the one that reminded me about the pills from the doctor. I cut 1 in half and took it, not really believing it would work. 20 minutes late I spent 95% better. It worked. It really worked.
Flash forward to a few more panic attacks and I was out of the medication he had sent me to try, I was also now convinced it worked and was not just a fluke. I went back to see the doctor and told him it worked. We talked for a long time (well I talked and he listened) about me, my life and just about everything you could think of. In the end, he told me that it sounded like I had Anxiety and panic attacks – and while that sounded scary there was a lot of things they could do to help me.
I have never been so relieved to finally have answers, and to begin the next part of my journey, taking the control back.