There were definitely periods of time when I was younger when I had a tough time adjusting. I struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my life, and I had a few issues with OCD from ages 12-14. Unfortunately, at that time I did not know what OCD was, so I did not get proper help for it. From 16-18 I had bouts of depression. Although it is hard to pinpoint an exact time at which my anxiety problems began, the most difficult part started around age 18, when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
The first time I had a panic attack I was about 18. I felt like I was “going crazy.” I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it because I was ashamed, and I thought no one would understand. Then I started having several panic attacks a day. I decided at that point that I needed to talk to someone. I found a psychologist, and, luckily, my insurance covered the visit. He gave me great news: “You’re not crazy. All you have is anxiety.” He helped me cope with my anxiety and other issues I was dealing with at the time. Eventually, I got well enough to where I did not need to see him.
A few years went by and my mental health seemed to be in great shape. Unfortunately that changed when I lost someone close to suicide. It is hard to lose someone you love, but suicide is especially painful for those of us left here. We are left with so many questions and so much guilt. No matter how things transpire, we will always ask ourselves if there is anything that we could have done to prevent it. This took a toll on my mental health.
I began having panic attacks again. The problem was that this time they were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I was having crippling physical symptoms, like tachycardia and hyperventilation. It got to the point where I couldn’t enjoy my life anymore. I didn’t recognize it as anxiety, so I went to many medical doctors who could not figure out what was wrong. Finally, I decided to look into a psychologist to see if that would help. I found someone who actually specialized in anxiety disorders and conducted cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is the type of therapy that is most effective in treating anxiety. She explained to me that anxiety can come with a lot of physical symptoms. She taught me breathing exercises and techniques to alleviate my anxiety. Now, even though it is something that I still have with me, I am significantly better than I was before. I can enjoy things and cope with things in a much healthier way.
For me, it was very important to find help from a professional psychologist. Even now that I feel better, continuing to go to therapy is important to keep things in check. Thanks to therapy, I am now more aware of the things that help or exacerbate my anxiety, which I believe is crucial for recovery. I have also developed hobbies that help keep me grounded. More importantly, I have learned how to talk to those close to me about my illness. It’s invaluable to have someone who understands and is there for you. I am very lucky that my partner has been very supportive throughout my struggles. Even though there are things I have to educate her about and let her know about certain things that exacerbate my anxiety, she is very willing to learn and just be there for me.
I still have to cope with my anxiety every day. I now know that caffeine makes me feel worse, having a good night sleep is important, and staying well organized is key. These are some things that help me manage my anxiety. However, these are all things that are very doable. Anxiety no longer consumes my life now that I know how to manage it. I will also say that experiencing mental illness has made me a more compassionate and understanding person, and anxiety has also helped me be more organized and efficient. I have learned to find the blessings in it.
If I could give advice to anyone going through a similar problem, I would say to find someone to talk to about it. There is a very good chance that someone else is going through something similar or has experienced it in the past and can help you. There are organizations out there that can get you in touch with people who know all about what you are experiencing and can help you get through it. The vast majority of people who seek help for mental health issues are able to find successful treatment. I would also say to remember that these struggles are temporary. There is nothing permanent in life, and you can and will feel better again.