My Journey with Anxiety
For me, anxiety often sits at the base of my sternum just beneath the crevice of my ribcage. It often flutters like a strange restlessness of a panicked butterfly I never intended to swallow. Like someone flipped a switch and started a strange buzz of electricity at the end of a cut wire threatening to shock me if I get too close. If I’m busy and don’t realize the start of it, it sometimes travels upwards into my chest making me feel short of breath. If it begins to get really severe I start to feel faint which then triggers the panic and adrenaline and I often feel like a shot up my spine, a cold rush from the base of my tailbone that travels up within seconds to the base of my skull creating an awful cold, clammy, and tingling sensation all over my body. At this point, I start to lose my vision and see white.
What a terrifying feeling. I remember the first few times this happened in high school. It may have happened when I was younger than that but the memories began to stick as I was older in school. I think the first few times it happened in classes like biology or our health rotations when we watched videos of surgeries or teachers had us acting out scenes from The Hot Zone. Ah, yes. It’s all rushing back now haha. Needless to say, I didn’t like gross things. I remember one such day on the second floor of my high school the teacher shut off the lights and turned on a video of a gallbladder removal. Within a minute I knew it was too late. The cold shot up my spine, my vision was already white, my head was on the desk and I was feebly asking my teacher if I could go to the nurse – a cold sweat breaking out all over my body. In an act of pure humiliation, they had to bring up a wheelchair because I couldn’t walk for fear of me passing out and hurting myself. Once wheeled out of the classroom and into the elevator I already started to feel better. The nurse was asking me what felt like silly questions of what my name was and how old I was. Yes, thank you, I still know my name, I’m not an idiot. Fifteen minutes of laying down on the nurse’s bed and I was already almost back to myself although feeling gross and sweaty. Crisis averted and all I feared now was the wildfire of talk that would pass through my small school of what happened and the embarrassment that would follow.
Now I’ll never know if this one instance was the catalyst to my future anxiety but what I do remember was I became much more aware of the sensation. Now that I had felt the worst of what would happen I was terrified that it would happen again and dreading the humiliation that came with it. So then it evolved outside of just gross things to include any time I felt off in a place or certain situation. It began that with every time I felt just the start of nerves or flutters in my chest I was panicking. Worried about where I was, can I get out, is someone there who knows how to help me. Vision white in my desk in my computer class for reasons unknown to me and I sat scared and trying to not pass out sideways – thankful for when it started to fade without me having to cause a scene. Can’t breathe in band class as a solo crept up in the score and asking the saxophone player next to me to play it as I faked continuing on even though I couldn’t see. Dizziness hitting on a bus as we pulled up for a Latin competition at an unfamiliar school feeling nervous for my performance and hoping one of my friends would stay with me to make me feel calm and get me off the bus.
Situations kept coming and coming and I felt like I was floundering just trying to keep my head above the water that was my anxiety although I hadn’t even put a name to it. But by some beautiful act of Spirit supporting me, I found meditation and breathing exercises on CD. And around that same time, my parents offered counseling with someone who had tools like haptic feedback devices that would help me learn how to recognize when my anxiety was starting and how to breathe to calm it down. In the years to follow, I’d find yoga and more meditation tools to unlock the power of the breath and finally start to feel like I could take back the power of my life and not live controlled by the fear of when my next anxiety attack would hit.
Anxiety looks different for every person who experiences it. I know there are certain places that if I go to, like movie theaters or in large crowds, that I’ll have to be on my A game keeping all of my tools at the top of my awareness to have the best experience possible. Even then sometimes I may still need to leave and that’s okay. For some, it can be triggered by sounds, smells, imagery. For others, it could be places or a lack of familiarity. Anxiety is so diverse. It can be minor and mistaken for nerves or it can be major and completely disrupt someone’s life. In any instance, it’s not something that should be ignored or brushed off. That feeling of anxiety causes stress and stress causes issues not only in our mind and emotions but in our physical body as well. It begins to create negative connections in our brain, almost training in a cause-and-effect situation that becomes harder and harder to break if we let it run loose.
No matter how it may show up for you I just want you to know this – your experience is valid. What you are feeling is okay and you aren’t alone. I see you and for what it’s worth I’m here for you. It can be terrifying and uncomfortable but it doesn’t have to be forever. There are tools like deep breathing, physical exercises, mantras, essential oils, visualizations, reiki, the list goes on and on but I just want you to know there are ways to help. And you have the power to do it, yes you. You can take back the control and make progress. If I can find ways, like breathing and reiki, that can actually heal at the deepest level the root causes of what triggers my anxiety, then I know you can too.
So I share all of this in the hope that you see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are ways to heal and create positive change. You can do this and I have full faith in you on your journey. If you’re curious to learn more about the tools and experiences I have found and how I handle my anxiety now please don’t hesitate to reach out on social or email us. I’m passionate about sharing what’s worked for me to help others in any way I can. Just know that for anyone reading this who has experienced the same difficulties, felt the same fear, and worried about whether they can go on living this way, I’m sending you love, healing, and support as you journey forward.
Love to you always,