I’ll never forget the feeling: my legs had gone numb, my heart was racing about a billion miles per minute, and I could barely breathe. Somehow I managed to tell my parents that I needed to go to the nearest hospital. I kept thinking this was it, that I was going to die. I didn’t, obviously—I actually had my first anxiety attack.
I wasn’t prepared for having such an extreme reaction to stress. No doctor, teacher, or family member had ever talked to me about the importance of mental health. Even though having anxiety is extremely common and I was probably exhibiting symptoms of anxiety long before my epic trip to the hospital, I never even considered that I could be suffering from it.
I felt totally shocked that something so extreme could even happen to me. When I went to the hospital, I truly believed I was dying. Whether my heart was giving out or I had some undiscovered disease that would kill me instantly, I really thought there was a medical problem. To hear that anxiety alone caused such serious symptoms was mind-blowing to me, especially since I never knew I suffered from anxiety to begin with.
I clammed up and refused to talk about it. After my trip to the hospital, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Basically, I fell into the trap of not talking about my problems hoping that they’d go away if I kept quiet about them. I hid it from the world and from my friends and from people who could have actually helped me and it only hurt me more.
I felt crazy at first until I realized the opposite was true. While the stigma surrounding mental health problems is beginning to be lifted, we still tend to have this image in our minds of people who suffer from mental illnesses. We think of straight jackets, people muttering to themselves—you know, the basic “crazy” stuff. However, I soon realized that the really crazy thing is how under-discussed these issues are given their prevalence and how few people feel comfortable enough seeking treatment for them. I didn’t want the world to know I was “crazy.”
It wasn’t just embarrassing, it was expensive. To top it off, a huge bill came in the mail for me because it hadn’t ended up being a real emergency so my insurance wouldn’t cover it. Not only was I embarrassed and in a lot of pain, I had to fork over a ton of money too. The entire incident was a disaster. On top of my pain and embarrassment, I had to fork over a lot of money too.
My boyfriend broke up with me because of it. I really thought I was dying for a while there. My legs had been numb for hours and my heart was going crazy. I remember holding my boyfriend’s hand and crying. I thought he loved me and would want to be there for me, but not too long after the hospital visit when he found out what really happened, he broke up with me. I’ve always wondered if the anxiety attack had something to do with it. Maybe he was embarrassed of me.
My self-confidence was shaken. It took me a long time to recover and get back to being myself again. I felt like my identity was stripped from me; I felt fragile, weak, and most of all, I felt confused. I was a messed up version of myself. I was quickly spiraling downhill and didn’t feel like I could stop it.
It took me a long time to actually address the problem and go see someone. The incident didn’t incite any positive action from me; in fact, it did quite the opposite. I hid from my anxiety and refused to go to the doctor because I was always afraid any legitimate symptoms I had would always be written off as anxiety, which I didn’t want to deal with. I didn’t see a professional for mental health until much later and I lost a lot of precious time.
Eventually, I learned to use my anxiety for good. The experience taught me that my mind is so powerful. It has much more amazing potential than what I was using it for before. The same energy focused on fear can be directed toward goals, toward love, and toward living a kickass life. Though the lesson was learned the hard way, I’m glad it was learned at all. I use my mind rather than letting my mind use me.
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