I can’t say I remember the very first time it happened, but I can remember what it felt like almost 20 years ago. Sitting in a nothing-major class at community college. Feeling suddenly like I may die. Squeezing, burning, choking, paralyzing. I remember it happening again and again those first few months of my only year in college. In math class, in biology lab.
I remember going to the doctor, being put on medication. Driving to school in the mornings and not remembering how I got there. Feeling like there was something more. Something worse no one was looking at long enough to diagnose.
I remember searching for answers. Going to doctors and getting scans and being treated like I was faking. Making it up. “I don’t see anything wrong with her.”
I remember going to work and coming home and waking up at ten at night thinking I had forgotten to do something and driving into town and double checking the office at midnight. I remember wanting to crawl under my desk. I remember walking out because it was just too much for me to handle.
I remember it going away for a while. And coming back. And going away. I can feel it right in the center of my chest right now as I type.
I remember laying in my bathroom floor before a meeting not too many years ago, maybe 8. Thinking I was surely dying. On the floor. Thinking I wasn’t enough. Not smart enough. Not strong enough. They’d see through me and abandon me and the world would fall apart.
I remember my husband. Learning about all of this while I was learning about all of this. Holding my hand. Rubbing my feet. Telling me to chill. Worrying but not leaving. Never leaving just letting me be crazy for a minute or an hour or a month.
I remember last year, last month, last week. Always dealing with it but finally dealing with it.
Finding a medical professional who looks at me as a person, not as a set symptoms. As a living, breathing mom and wife with hormones and allergies and autoimmune disease and as someone who had dealt with some heavy stuff over the years and despite it all survived and dare I say thrived. Finding an antidepressant that helped with the chemical imbalance in my brain that IS depression. Also, though teaching me other ways to calm anxiety. To breathe. To exercise when I don’t feel like it. To meditate. Breathe in for seven, hold for two, out for 5. As many times as I need to.
Finding a core group of friends, who no matter the distance between visits or texts or calls, are always there and always true. To find mentors who reach back with a hand to pull me up.
I remember always thinking it was for a reason, every single thing I’ve been through. It’s why I’m passionate about helping others. Anxiety is a beast, a thief, and a liar. It makes good days bad and bad days unbearable. But there is hope. I am proof. So many times, over the last 20 years I could have stopped. Given in. Worn my diagnoses around my neck as an excuse not to excel. But I didn’t. And I have. And I will continue to excel. Because I want you to too. I want you to always have hope and to never give up on yourself and to know it may not be good right now, but it will be soon. You just have to keep breathing. Everything else is figureoutable.
She, confident in her ability to help others, released her anxiety out into the wild.
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