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Advice from a Anxiety Sufferer
Seven years ago I was diagnosed with G.A.D (general anxiety disorder), when one day I was getting ready for school and had my very first panic attack. My mind raced with the thoughts of getting on that smoggy, crowded school bus, which I rode for an hour everyone morning. My breathing became fast, my heart basically pounding out of my chest. I felt dizzy, and couldn’t stand up right. My legs felt like rubber, and my chest started to tighten. Not only did I have anxious thoughts about the school bus, but now I was worried I was dying. My throat seemed to close up tighter and tighter, and I felt like I was going to vomit. I never did get on the school bus that morning, and my mother made a doctor’s appointment for that day. My mother and I had no clue what was going on with me, and neither did my doctor. We did many tests, blood work, MRI’s, Cat Scans, Halter Monitors, and every other test humanly possible. They all came back normal, if not perfect.
We were confused on what was going on with my body, because the first thing a person with anxiety thinks is that there is something physically wrong with them. When in reality most cases, there is nothing to be found wrong with your body. It is your brain reacting to feeling scared, confused and fearful, therefore sending triggers to your body to prepare it for the uncertain event. For example: the thought of me getting on that crowded school bus with no where to go, no where to run, caused my brain to get my body ready for when that moment came when I sat down on the school bus.
We started to search more into the mental aspect of the situation then physical, when my doctor brought up the idea of anxiety. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel, but only it was a beginning of years of learning to cope with the disease. I was diagnosed with G.A.D.
My doctor prescribed me medication, which I am not going to share because one cure, does not work for all. Finding what works for you is only part of the coping process. I was lucky the first medication we tried, succeeded. I was panic attack free for years. I would occasionally get anxious with certain events like, riding in cars, being in crowded rooms, elevators, and anywhere I didn’t feel safe, or couldn’t escape from. I would get the lighter symptoms including, sweating, and fast heartbeat, but it was nothing compared to my first panic attack.
I went many years, five or so without thinking twice about my anxiety, I felt so convinced that I had beaten my disease that I didn’t need my medication anymore. Which was a very huge medical mistake. Many anxiety sufferers feel that if that go on medication and not have had any symptoms or signs that they are some how “cured” from their anxiety, which in some cases people do over come the disease and no longer need medications. On the other hand for the more extreme cases, going off your medication can be the worse thing an anxiety sufferer can do. Most of the time the symptoms come back, not as they were, but more severe, and intolerable. With my limited knowledge of this I persisted to my doctor that I felt that I had passed my anxiety stage, and was stable emotionally enough to contain it by myself without the help of medication.
I was off of my medication no longer then six months when the worst day of my life occurred. It was my nineteenth birthday and I was having shortness of breath. Nothing major, just worried me, which caused me to scare my brain into thinking something was seriously wrong. Most anxiety sufferers I later found out, don’t even have to have a bad experience, thought, recollection to initiate a panic attack. In most cases anxiety will bloom after a scary event, having a bad dream, thinking awful thoughts, but half the time, nothing physically or mentally occurs for you to experience an attack, just like in my case. Basically, my shortness of breath caused from a cold caused me to tell myself “I’m dying” or “I’m having a heart attack”. After that the other symptoms happened: sweating, nausea, dizziness, confusion, fear, difficult breathing, etc… I didn’t know what was happening because I haven’t experienced anxiety for over half a decade, and it never as a cause for my symptoms crossed my mind. I ended up spending three hours in the Emergency Room, reflecting back on the true culprit.
I felt emotionally and physically drained when I came home. I knew that I would be making a doctor’s appointment and going to be taking medication again. I felt so confused, and dumbfounded on why it came back again, after so many years of being free of it’s demonic manner. I held off going to the doctor for a few weeks still being stubborn and thinking I could beat it by myself, that was the second biggest mistake I made. After having my second more severe panic attack, I feared having another one every minute of everyday, which of course, from having a bad recollection, caused me to just have more panic attacks. My anxiety had progressed so much, that I wasn’t leaving the house anymore, and sleeping twenty out of the twenty-four hours of the day, so I didn’t have to feel the anxiety.
I finally swallowed my pride, and made an appointment. I went back on my previous medication and within three weeks I was back to being anxiety free, and continuing on with my life.
The reason I am writing this article is simple. During my anxiety attacks, and trying to pass the time when I was housebound, I researched anxiety. Mostly on the Internet, and a few books. While my searching, I mostly came across articles, and stories and experiences from doctors, and psychologists basically passing on the information that their patients had told them. I didn’t want that, I wanted a real story, or article of a person who has experienced anxiety and suffered the issues I have. I wanted to read and feel the emotions that a real life anxiety sufferer felt. I wanted to know that what I was feeling wasn’t something a doctor concocted in his studies.
I have G.A.D, have had it for years, and most likely will have it for the rest of my life, and will probably be on medication for the duration of that time. I want people with anxiety to know that what they are feeling is not “fake” or “made up” in their own mind. Many people who have never touched base on anxiety or never have felt it personally usually tend to think anxiety sufferers are making it up, trying to get attention, or are mentally ill. Anxiety and it’s symptoms are very real, and very crippling if not treated. The symptoms itself are felt everyday and the emotional drain is experienced constantly.
Another issue is treating it. I opted to take medication because it worked for me, and has worked for many, but I’m not trying to say that is the only way. Many have tried Behavior Therapy, diet change, relaxation sessions and meditation, which has seceded very well. I had the trouble accepting that I needed medication to cope with it, and most anxiety sufferers will never initiative to make an appointment and give it a try. Some medications are trial and error, and some will work better then others. Don’t quit because anxiety is overpowering and can basically overrun your life, and keep you from succeeding from your full potential.
Anxiety is not something to be ashamed of, and should be discussed openly with everyone that you love. They can help support you and overcome the disease as they did me.
I have produced a list of major points you must think about when you feel you have anxiety or have been diagnosed with it.
Recognize the symptoms described as above, and tell yourself its anxiety, it will pass.
You can NOT die from anxiety, their symptoms are scary, but you can NEVER end up dying from them.
Believe your doctor when he/she tells you that everything is physically healthy with you and there are no signs of a medical problem. Most people will go through numerous tests, just to assure themselves they are physically O.K. This advice will save you time, and money, if used.
Don’t be ashamed to be on medication, millions of American’s are on some type of medication, just because they are for physical conditions doesn’t make it any more demeaning then anxiety medication.
If one treatment doesn’t work for you, don’t give up, keep trying. Something will “fix” or help you.
Join a support group, on line, or in your community, discuss openly about your disease. People just like me, are looking for more information and will use it towards their own recovery.
Don’t, unless discussed with your doctor and you have medical reasons, ever quit your medication if its working for you, or feel you can stop taking your medicine and beat it cold turkey. It can turn into worse case scenario.
Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s all in your head, or make you believe your crazy. Your not, anxiety is as real as any other disease out there.
Don’t be afraid to discuss everything and anything with your doctor, and if your doctor seems to act as if your “making it up” or “faking it”, find another provider, you entrust your medical care into them, don’t feel you can’t open up to your doctor.
You will have your good days, and then you will have your bad, treat those bad days as just another step towards recovery.
I wish that someone, a personal advocate of anxiety disorder, would have written their story, and given me their advice, so I knew I wasn’t alone, and that I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did. My story and my experiences will vary with other peoples, but the general idea is the same. Anxiety is treatable, there is hope, never give up and trust your treatment. You will find most if not all of the advice, and personal experience in other articles, books, and stories, but in sharing my own personal experience, maybe you it will help you in reading it from an actual anxiety sufferer instead of a doctor, or a study and somehow make your recovery easier.