By Abigail A. | Featured Contributor
Anxiety. One word, four syllables—but carries such a heavy load for millions of people across the globe. Anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.” As a young girl, I have always known that something didn’t feel quite right when: a) I felt faint whenever it came to public speaking, b) I hated the thought of confrontation, and c) I always felt nervous when it came to being around a group of people, etc. I never knew what it was until 20 something years later when my doctor diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, aka GAD & SAD. I finally had a name for what I was feeling all these years as a child/teenager and into adulthood. Numerous factors contributed to me developing anxiety. However, in my early twenties, I battled severe depression, and If I ever lost all hope in life, it was those 5 years because those were my darkest mental days. As the saying goes, I wish that on no one because it was a very scary place to be in.
A Daily Battle for Mental Health
The vicious cycle of depression left me reclusive, isolated, scared, angry, conflicted, irritable, and just sad all the time. I was fighting a mental battle every day and to be honest, depression was kicking my ass. I stopped going out with friends, I didn’t want to talk to anyone or be around people. During this battle, l lost my grandmother and that broke me, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t even go to her funeral. Day in and day out, I was struggling to get through most days, I was fighting a silent battle, and no one knew because I was great at hiding it. Whenever I was around other people, I was my jolly self, except, I wasn’t feeling jolly, I was almost always fighting back tears. I was tired.
My mind was racing every day, and on top of struggling mentally, I started developing physical symptoms. In case you didn’t know, anxiety can and will manifest in your body if it becomes a disorder and starts interfering with your daily life. The lymph nodes on either side of my neck were constantly stiff and would swell and harden, I developed chronic body pain, constant headaches, always tired, losing my grip on reality sometimes, feeling like I’m losing control or going crazy (this one was not fun at all). Heart palpitations, always feeling nervous or tense, insomnia, feeling weak, low concentration, no appetite, forgetfulness, and always feeling like danger was around the corner. Take a moment and try to imagine what it feels like experiencing all of the above every single day. It was exhausting, to say the least. This went on year after year. I should also note that I was in an emotionally toxic and taxing relationship as well, which exacerbated my depression.
Pain and Panic
In late 2017, I had my first panic attack, and at that moment I thought I was having a heart attack which caused me to panic even more. A cousin of mine passed away, and it hit me hard, and on top of that, I was still in that emotionally draining relationship. I remember sitting on my bed, looking out the window, and all of a sudden feeling a sharp pain in my chest, right near my heart. The pain was so hot, I doubled over and my heart immediately started racing. My vision went a bit blurry, my throat felt like it was closing up, I started sweating, having heart palpitations, feeling lightheaded, and the room started spinning. As I said, I thought I was having a heart attack and that’s when the fear started kicking in. Now, if you’re having a panic attack, the best thing you can do is to breathe, but I didn’t know that and because of that lack of knowledge, I started panicking even more because I couldn’t breathe, making it even harder for me to breathe. To this day, I’m not sure what prompted me to breathe, but I remember telling myself “breathe Abi, breathe!” That helped me calm down a bit, but I still thought I was having a heart attack and took myself to the hospital to be sure.
Once I saw the doctor, I had already calmed down some more, but after asking me some questions, he told me I had my first panic attack and was prescribed lorazepam. It is the world’s tiniest tablet that you place under your tongue whenever you feel anxious and/or having a panic attack. I took my first one that night and slept for about 17 hours. That was some of the best sleep I’d had in a long time.
Fighting to Take Back Life
Fast forward to 2018 on my 28th birthday, I remember my pastor prophesying to me and then saying to me, “Be happy.’“ At that very moment, I felt something shift, like a weight fell off my shoulders. I left church that day feeling renewed and ran with that one statement: “Be happy.” That day I decided to take my life back and start bettering myself and my mental health. I started doing the things I loved again, started taking better care of myself and honestly just living and enjoying my life. But, the devil truly comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he tried me again, in the form of that emotionally taxing relationship I was still in.
Long story short, I became bogged down again and started looking like a shell of my former self, with clothes no longer fitting. I think that was the smallest I’d ever been, which led my doctor to tell me I was severely underweight for my age (under 100lbs). I fell back into depression again but if it’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, is that I am a fighter, even though I was knocked down to what seemed like my last peg. In December of that same year, I found what little courage I had left and walked away from that draining mess of a relationship and started rebuilding myself day by day.
By the time spring of 2019 rolled around, I was better than before, simply because I’d already had that foundation of “Be happy” ingrained in me. This time, I set intentions for myself and my life, as well as what I desired in my next relationship. I spoke life over my life and every aspect of it, but most importantly, I believed that things would get better. I let go of all inhibitions and started getting closer to God again. I can wholeheartedly say, that was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. I prayed and kept praying and still pray to this day.
Pressing Forward with Joy and Faith
In the first 5 months of 2021, I battled with anxiety and mild depression again, and although I’ve had many sleepless nights, cried an ocean of tears, and struggled with not giving up, I persevered! I thank God for the beautiful people he has placed in my life and for the best future husband a woman could ask for. They rallied beside me, spoke life into me, helped me, was a listening ear, and just encouraged me through those trying times. I had to pick the pieces up again, but I did it and I am now in a much better place than before. I honestly have to give God all the praise for keeping me sane throughout all the downs I’ve been through.
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