Getting Stronger

by Samantha
(Silvis, Illinois)

I first noticed having episodes of mild anxiety back in 2007. I was a sophomore in High School just about to begin the new year. I found myself not wanting to get out of bed, due to my high level of anxiety regarding the fact that I was starting a new year in school, and didn't have a large amount of friends. I did end up attending school, and got over my irrational thoughts, but I wasn't totally sure why I was feeling this way. I just thought maybe my nerves had gotten the best of me, and that I probably wasn't the only one nervous about starting a new school year and not knowing many people.

My anxious feelings had subsided for a few years, until one day randomly, I was standing there behind the counter at work, and found my heart racing, I was very confused and scared for no apparent reason. I was not able to get a grip and calm myself down. From then on, I dealt with severe anxiety. It was constant, and just got worse as the days passed. I had to excuse myself multiple times throughout my work day to go to the rest room and just cry.

I didn't know why I felt that way or how I could make it stop. I was just scared and alone. I was in a serious relationship at the time and my significant other rarely made any attempt to help, understand me, or have any sympathy whatsoever. I did my best to explain to him everything, but it was very hard for me to put the definition of anxiety into words for others to explain. I had no one to talk to or to lean on, so naturally, I leaned on my boyfriend when I could. Like I said, this did not help since he made no effort to comfort me or ask how I was doing or anything of that nature.

As my anxiety progressed, I became very ill. I lost a lot of weight because I wasn't able to hold anything down even though I had an appetite. I had an unusual bowel movement cycle, my face began to break out and I also lost a lot of color and pigmentation in my skin, and face especially. It got to the point where I literally could not force myself to get out of bed in the morning. I was nervous and anxious from the second I was able to fall asleep (if ever), to the time my alarm clock went off. It was so severe, that I didn't even want to hear my alarm. I would wake up and stay up so I didn't have to hear my alarm going off. My alarm to me was just another reminder of how terrible my day was going to be. I was literally paralysed by my own irrational thoughts. I planted myself on the couch until I had to go to sleep.

Sleeping was also very difficult for me. My mind was unable to rest. It was like a constant tape playing in fast forward of negative thoughts. I couldn't get my mind to even slow down, let alone let me sleep. Sleep was the only time I ever got to escape from this dreadful feeling, so I laid down as much as I could, hoping I would fall asleep and be able to catch a break for a couple hours if anything. I had thoughts of suicide; I gained new phobias such as fear of dying, or someone close to me dying. I feared my inability to cope with these things happening. I feared getting in my car and driving, because I was afraid that I would get into a serious or fatal car accident. I was afraid to ride along in others' cars. I was afraid to even talk. It got the point where I would find myself plotting out ways to end my life if something negative were to happen to me that I knew I could not cope with. Me living in total fear of everything was not worth it.

I finally took myself to my family doctor and just wept. I tried to put into words how I was feeling, but all that came out were tears upon tears. I was so fed up with feelings of apprehension, fear, social anxiety, situational anxiety, irrational thoughts and not being able to sleep. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't sure how to fix it and I desperately needed help. At the time, the only option/thing I thought to do was see a doctor. I was then referred to my first psychiatrist. I wasn't totally comfortable with the fact that I had been prescribed FOUR medications within a 30 minute visit, on my FIRST VISIT, but I needed help, and I was desperately willing to take anything. I didn't see much improvement from the various medications I had tried, and I was never too fond of taking medication in the first place for personal reasons.

I wanted to take a different approach to my anxiety, but wasn't sure how. I abruptly stopped my treatment and sought other help. I had stumbled upon a psychologist, someone who I was actually able to talk to, someone who could try and help me make sense of all of this. It was very comforting to talk to someone who could finish my sentences when I was finding it hard to explain what I was really feeling. I still wasn't satisfied with these visits, so I will say that it has not been an easy road, depending on myself for relief from anxiety. I have had times where I was completely and 100% anxious about EVERYTHING.

Eventually it started with me taking small steps. I knew I had to keep myself busy, so luckily, I randomly and spontaneously landed a full time job at a coffee shop about 5 minutes from where I lived. This had to be one of the best things that had ever happened to me. I was able to keep myself busy, and I actually enjoyed it. I was looking for employment prior to getting that job because I had lost my last two jobs due to my inability to work and regularly be there. It was a very difficult time for me, but worrying about income wasn't decreasing my stress any more. I had bills to pay and things to buy, as I lived on my own. Getting a full time job was the first step to recovery.

I was sceptical about working again because I was afraid that I would fall back into a state of severe anxiety again. I didn't let that happen. I basically forced myself out of bed in the morning, and did what I knew I had to do. Was this easy by any means?? Hell no. I wanted to give up every single day. I no longer work there, but am currently serving while I arrange plans for school in the Fall. I still struggle with anxiety here and there, but it isn't nearly as severe as it was. I do fear it taking a turn for the worse, but I ultimately have the power to choose what I will and will not let happen. I feel as though I have reached a healthier state.

I am not back to normal like I would like to be, but I know it's possible to reach that state. I believe that is one of the things that keeps me hanging on is that I am ultimately responsible for helping myself. I have the power and option to choose the way that I handle things and the way that I think about things. If something bothers me, I have the choice to handle it in a healthy manner, or I have the choice to dwell on it and let it define me.

Although I choose to not dwell on my negative feelings doesn't mean I breeze through my episodes. It's still very hard for me. I don't know the answers to everything or how to perfectly deal with anxiety, but I will say I have come a long way from where I used to be and I am very thankful and blessed that I found some sort of inner strength to help me get by and deal with this as well as make small improvements and positive steps in the right direction. I used to be a walking anxiety disorder. Some may refer to me as a zombie, physically and mentally, but as I said, as hard as my battle still may be, I choose not to go back to the way I was before. I am making the best choices possible right now and doing the best of everything in hopes that it will work in my favor.

I have chosen natural remedies currently such as meditation, proper nutrition (mind and body), exercise, taking vitamins to ensure I have the proper nutrients, getting on a somewhat regular sleep cycle, and only worrying about things that I have control over, so that I may fix them to the best of my ability, and move on so I am no longer worrying. This overall has proven to be somewhat effective, as I am still gaining strength and knowledge every day.

I have a great side kick in my life that has chosen to help me as well as understand, listen and stand by me for support which helps a lot. I am proud to say that I am working my way to an anxiety free life. You can do it too!!!!

Conquering your anxiety is never impossible, even when you feel hopeless and find that there aren't any real solutions. There are solutions. You finding strength and recovering all starts with a tiny ounce of hope. I am very thankful that I am sitting here sharing my story with whoever cares to read it, as I could have easily ended my life when I felt I had nothing left.

Those of you who struggle with anxiety and depression remain in my thoughts. You are never alone and should never feel that way. Please go out and talk to someone if nothing else. I choose to talk of my experience solely to help others and myself gain knowledge of different experiences, struggles and joys of others who suffer from such debilitating mental illnesses. I wish each and every one of you peace and hope that you may find comfort in the midst of your struggles.

Thank you so much for allowing me to freely share my story.

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