Panic Attacks 101.

Here are a few things that have thrown me into an ugly panic tornado:

  1. Confronting someone about something I feel passionate about.
  2. When I’m about to text or call someone new in my life.
  3. Calling the pizza guy.
  4. When I’m meeting friends, and have to show up alone.
  5. Waiting for anyone and they are even a tiny bit late.
  6. When I’m misunderstood in regard to my feelings.
  7. When someone disagrees with me.
  8. When I need to present in front of my company and someone asks a follow-up question.
  9. When someone looks at their phone when they’re talking to me.
  10. When I’m laying in bed at night, going over the day’s events.
  11. Recalling an awkward or humiliating event from XX years ago.
  12. When I don’t wear makeup in public.
  13. Shopping alone and everyone is judging me for it.
  14. When someone doesn’t return my text or call or email.
  15. When I do something somewhat embarrassing – like I mispronounce a word.
  16. When I do something really embarrassing – like my skirt flips up in public.
  17. When I think that maybe the facial expression I have had while talking to someone is really ugly or not appropriate and now I need to change my facial expression, but I am not sure how my face is supposed to look.
  18. Making a typo in an email.
  19. When I have no direction when starting a new project (usually work-related).
  20. Doing math.
  21. When I need to talk to an authoritative figure.
  22. When store clerks try to talk to me.
  23. When store clerks ignore me when I need help.
  24. When my alarm goes off and I have to go to work.

There may or may not be other triggers (read: there are definitely other triggers).

I’d say the worst trigger is, well, not a trigger at all. It’s when I’m just hanging out and anxiety creeps in like a shadow.

What is it like for me?

Before I know it, I can feel my chest tightening, and I get a sick feeling in the back of my throat. I start to look for ways out – physical exits. I need privacy and I need to get away from wherever I am. Immediately.

It may or may not turn into a full blown attack. If I am somehow able to get myself under control, then it basically ends there. I still feel that feeling of dread and tightness in my chest, but it doesn’t escalate.

If it does, though, things get really yucky.

My breathing quickens. I may begin to hyperventilate. I break into a cold sweat. My senses dull. I can’t hear properly, and I can’t see properly. Sometimes I get tunnel vision and I begin to black out.

I cry.

That might be one of the worst symptoms, because you can’t hide tears when you’re in public. And drawing attention when you just want to disappear just makes everything worse.

Not just the feelings, but the anxiety attack itself. It is immediately amplified if I know that people I don’t know or trust can see it happening.

I mean, that’s one of my real triggers – being judged by people. So when I am literally in my most vulnerable state, and people are watching me, things are officially over for me.

I’ve passed out in big crowds because of this. Sometimes I feel like my response is to pass out because then people won’t know it’s a panic attack, and might instead suspect it’s a medical emergency of some sort.

People don’t understand invisible illness, of course. It’s only natural that humans believe that people around them should be experiencing and reacting to situations the same way they are. I don’t even blame them.

I have a wish list when it comes to other people who witness someone having a panic attack:

  • If you know the person, be there for them. Ask them before assuming they need something. Bring the person a glass of water, a tissue. Depending on your relationship, give them a hug, rub their back, or hold their hand. Say nice things. If the person doesn’t want you there, they will tell you.
  • If you do not know the person, but they are alone, offer your support. It would get weird if you started stroking their hair, but you can help them not feel so stressed and awkward. See if you can move them to a more private place. Empathize if you can. Don’t overstay your welcome.
  • If you’re uncomfortable (we get it), don’t watch the person like they’re a side-show. Have some respect. Move your group elsewhere if you can, don’t talk about the person or ask them stupid questions. I’ve seen randos looking at me with this disgusted, judgy face. Exercise a little restraint. giphy
  • Don’t tell the person to calm down. Fuck off.
  • Do remind them that this will pass. It’s temporary.
  • Breathe with them. Help them to catch that rhythm with you. You may not be aware of anxiety-expert-approved breathing exercises, but you can certainly figure out something. A friend of mine once said “let’s do pregnancy breathing!” It was the best thing she could come up with, and it helped a lot.
  • Above all, just be accepting of what’s happening, and convey that. If you think it’s going on longer than you thing it should, keep your mouth shut. They’re already overwhelmed and very self-aware, and making them feel like they’re abnormal or that you don’t approve is going to ruin any progress they’ve made.
  • Follow up. If you’re pals, send a text, stop by their office, or give them a call that night. I’ve had friends send me funny memes the next day to show their support. A simple “how are you doing?” can mean the world to someone. If they get sketchy and embarrassed, just smile and leave it at that. They know.
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K thx.

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Job Opportunity.

There is a really great job opportunity being posted on a couple of websites in my city right now. It’s the same job title I currently have, along with all of the same types of tasks. It looks like it was written for me.

Oh wait. It is written for me. Except it’s not.

My employer has placed an ad for my job.

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&#$*%!

Of course, the moment I saw it, my heart dropped. It was not like I was entirely surprised by this; to be honest, I’d been searching my work’s company name on various career websites to see if they’d ever post some kind of ad like this. So on some level, I knew and expected it.

But I certainly was not actually prepared for this. I felt a panic attack coming on. I felt sick to my stomach and my mind began to race. I can recognize it as my Ego saying “THEY WANT TO REPLACE YOU, THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU, AND THEY ARE TRYING TO WEED YOU OUT.” Yes, my Ego talks in all-caps.

But that’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking. That they want me out.

I immediately texted my Work BFF with the link. She is often the one who actually posts job ads for our company, but she had no idea this had been posted. It must have been my boss who did it himself.

As I walked downstairs to tell Boyfriend, I tried really, really hard to remember what my psychologist had told me. She’d gotten me to write down some simple steps in my phone about what to do when I felt a panic attack coming on, or basically whenever I felt I was going to combat.

But the problem is, when I’m defence mode, I am not able to contemplate much else. I was already vaguely aware of other reasons why my boss might have posted the job, but it didn’t matter. My anxiety was telling me it was because they want me out, and it didn’t want to consider any other reasons.

Boyfriend calmed me down. He made sure I could see that maybe my boss has other innocent reasons for posting the ad. They need to replace me because I have a big job. They legally cannot deny me my job when I am ready to return (although they could fire me and offer a severance I guess), because I am on medical leave. It’s not like I quit.

This helped a little. But I was still struggling to find that rational thought process my therapist had gone over with me. I wanted to put that plan into action and try to make it work.

But I was at a loss – not only was it not really ingrained in my memory, but my Ego was so hell bent on being right about them wanting me out, that my Ego was arguing my side instead of trying to take a step back and look at things objectively.

I went back upstairs, and Work BFF called me to talk it over. She offered very similar advice, and after we chatted for a while, I did start to feel better. She suggested that I write my boss an email setting out a plan. He has no idea where my head is at, and the fact that he is not approaching me about things, although it totally sucks, doesn’t mean he is not supportive or doesn’t care. He probably sees me as fragile and is not comfortable with it.

So I did pen an email. I tried to make it as honest and real as possible. I did not write as though I were a computer (I tend to be very formal and use, as Work BFF puts it, ‘big words’ in my letters and emails) so that I would come off as a person. I had her review it, and I am going to send it to him on Monday morning so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Meanwhile, I am studying my little cheat sheet for how to handle my panic attacks. It is difficult work. It’s not easy.

Here is an overview of what I need to do. I haven’t really gotten down to business yet. After I wrote the email, I went into hibernation and napped for a couple of hours, then continued to avoid everything until now. Since writing is one of the best ways I can express myself, and really explore things, I may as well do it here and now.

***

  • Ask myself: how can I see this differently? What am I blind to?

This should slow things down, and shift my focus. The goal is to look at things from a bigger place. But I find it near impossible when my Ego has made up my mind and things feel black & white.

But in this situation – My Ego is blind to any other result except the one he’s come up with. I could see things differently by looking at it from my boss’ perspective, or really, any outsider’s point of view.

  • What feelings are here?

My next step is to recognize my feelings as things that are not a part of me – they are just something that I am experiencing. That’s also really hard to do when you are all revved up. My therapist said it’s important not to say “I am sad,” for example, but rather “I am feeling sad” or “sadness is here.” This way, it’s easier to think of the feelings as passing clouds. They aren’t me.

Today, I was experiencing fear. Fear was telling me that I wasn’t wanted, that I was out of options, that I was not in control.

  • Is what Fear says true?

I need to think about whether Fear is really all-powerful and right about everything. It’s Fear that is doing the talking and making the decisions (along with my unwanted BFF Anxiety). But does Fear really know the absolute truth?

No, not necessarily. I have no way of knowing for certain, but I can say it’s possible that Fear is wrong. Or, at a minimum, it’s only half-true.

Perhaps my boss does want me out. Maybe he doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter: I still have control over how I react and what my next steps are. I still have options, I am still a great employee, and there are 100s of other job opportunities out there for me.

  • What IS true?

It’s important to keep my Ego in check.

This is just a circumstance. The opposite of fear, in this case, is honesty, safety, and most of all Trust.

  • If I look at things from the feeling of Trust, what would I be thinking? Feeling? Doing?

This is to help me realize that there are certainly other viewpoints, and those viewpoints are not coming from scary, pessimistic, negative places.

If I felt safe and trusting, I would be thinking that my boss is just covering his butt. He needs to solve the short-term problem of needing more support in the office while I am away. And if Trust really has an opinion, it’s that he has recognized that I needed help (I had, after all, asked for an assistant in our department in the past). Maybe he can finally see the gap I left, and needed to fill it, and also realizes that if I get hit by a bus, they need someone who can take over. They need someone who can take over even if I’m just on vacation, honestly. Maybe this person isn’t a replacement, but rather an addition.

  • Finally, I need to remember the following. The Self is the one who needs to be doing the talking.

I trust myself. I belong, and I’m wanted. I’m a good employee and I’m useful.

Those make me feel confident, open, and receptive. I feel more physically relaxed when I am experiencing those feelings of openness. I can take my time, and I have a choice.

***

I am still struggling with truly feelings the feelings of safety and trust. On paper, it makes sense. I can write all of that out and it doesn’t really have any holes in it. But it’s difficult to truly realign myself to that thought process.

I think that next time something similar happens, I am going to take out a sheet of paper and write things out. If I do this over and over, even for the small stuff, I will be better at it, and can turn it into an automatic response over time.

Hopefully, I will learn to quiet my Ego and think with my Self.

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Learning Curve.

I’ve been trying for years to attack my anxiety, instead of it attacking me, without a whole lot of success.

The success I have had is linked to calming myself during a panic attack and not allowing it to completely take over. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m quite good at keeping things together, but that’s because I’ve had two decades of practice.

When panic starts to boil, I know the things I need to do to not pass out or totally lose my shit. I need to be alone, and I need to breathe. Those are the two main objectives, and they aren’t too overwhelming. I can remember those. They’ve become second nature. I can stamp out attacks before they come full tilt, which is very, very helpful in leading a regular adult life.

So I’m pretty okay when it comes to like 60% of my attacks.

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See? I’m fine.

The remaining 40% of my attacks? I fall victim to them. And since I still have attacks despite medicine and my past therapy sessions, it means I do need to work on myself.

I need to figure my shit out.

In the past, I’ve spent time with more run-of-the-mill, scientific psychologists. They tend to remind me that anxiety is a caveman response, which I do believe. Our minds have not changed as quickly and as drastically as we have – our evolution has not kept up with our discoveries. Nowadays, we are at the top of the food chain and rarely need to run away from hungry predators or defend our homes the way we did thousands of years ago. Back then, we needed that response to escape, say, a hungry bear. Our adrenaline rushed, our heart beat fast, we zeroed in and focussed on the object of our stress, and either ran or fought. Even our digestion slowed because we needed that energy elsewhere. It saved us.

We needed the fight or flight response, we used it, and then when it was over, it disappeared. The danger was gone, and it’s in part because our response did its job. But the society we’ve created and scientific achievements have eliminated a true need for the fight or flight response. Now, it turns into a disorder.

When we feel unsafe, even for stupid present day reasons (like having to meet new people), our fight or flight response is still hardwired into our brains and comes into play. Even though it’s not exactly that useful. That tunnel vision and racing heart aren’t helping us, it’s making us worse. There’s no where for that energy to go, especially when you’re strapped to a desk, or in the grocery store, or anywhere in public. We can’t run and we can’t fight. It’s all in our heads.

But I know all of this. I understand that my reactions are just evolutionary responses. I know my triggers. I know where my anxiety came from. I have all of the answers.

I needed to see someone who could give me a new approach. And I think I’ve found her.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist who is a little more progressive when it comes to dealing with panic and anxiety.  She has her PhD, so I trust her, and she’s not suggesting that I try and deal with my issues with crystals and Himalayan salt lamps.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those avenues, but they just aren’t for me.

But she’s got some really good ways of dealing with my own mind, and that’s by shifting my Ego out of the way. My Ego, I’ve discovered, is taking centre stage and ruining everything. Because I let him do it.

The single most important thing I’ve learned so far is to detach myself from my anxiety. It’s been kind of a game changer for me. Anxiety is not ME. It’s like a really bad accessory to my Self.

Yes, that’s a capital S “Self”. I’m getting into that Buddhist, yoga, meditation-y kinda stuff. But it makes so much sense. And it’s so beautiful.

My Ego and my Self are very different. My Ego is a maniac who thinks everything is black and white. Good or bad. He’s an extremist. He is the one who chatters on and on in my brain about all of the worst case scenarios, and can’t just BE. He is the worst.

My Self is my conscious self. She is my awareness. She just chills and observes and I equate her with love. She is Me.

Think about it for a moment.

Say something in your head. Say “I can’t shut up”. Say those words in your mind.

You ‘heard’ it, didn’t you? That was your Ego. It wasn’t you. You are the one who heard it, so you aren’t the one who said it.

The first step to realizing this stuff is just to listen and become aware of that chattering voice in your head. Your Ego is the one who responds to ev-er-y-thing out there, and makes flip-flopping judgments in regard to pretty much everything. He’s full of opinions and responses. Just listen to him rattle on:

“Okay, John didn’t text me back. He must be angry with him. I know he’s probably just busy, but, no, I mean he looked at me kind of funny yesterday so many he’s pissed. He’s definitely angry. It must have been something I said… what was it, what was it…. Who knows. John is like everyone else in my life. He doesn’t truly love me anyway, so I shouldn’t even care because….”

I mean, isn’t that how our minds tend to go when you’re anxious and come to the worst conclusions?

The key to starting on this journey is to just notice it. Don’t do anything, don’t try anything, and don’t think too much into it. Just notice that voice rambling on about everything. You’ll start to notice, like I have, that it’s there. And he just has a stupid opinion on everything. It’s almost never true – it’s almost always a distorted perception. A leap to conclusions based on almost no facts.

I am by no means an expert on this stuff. I am a beginner. But I do strongly believe that this might be a major step in the right direction for me. Maybe it’s the key to getting better, and to handling stress better in the future.

My learning will be ongoing. I don’t think it will ever end. I don’t think I’ll turn into the Dalai Lama any time soon, or ever. But I think I might be able to tap into a few things that just might help me perceive life a little differently.

Hopefully my ENORMOUS fan base won’t mind reading about it from time to time 😉

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Breaking the Habit.

I cancelled plans I’d made today, and it’s not the first time I’ve done it.

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The struggle is real.

I tend to do it. I hate to type this, but if I’m 100% honest, I do it often.

I’m that guy.

And it’s a personality trait I am not proud of.

Sometimes, my anxiety will just not allow me to follow through with plans I have made or agreed to. It might even cause me to avoid making plans in the first place by making up silly excuses. And it’s hard because it makes me seem unreliable (because I am) and flakey (because I am) and as though I may be hiding something (because I am).

I don’t want to be suspicious and untrustworthy. But anxiety and depression just don’t let me be who I want to be. Anxiety decides that today, I am going into hiding.

It doesn’t even let me be honest about it. Anxiety opens my email and types things like “I’ve been up all night sick” even when I’m perfectly well. It hides my phone under a pillow when a family member is calling me to confirm our plans, even though I’m totally capable of answering it. It texts my friends “Oh I didn’t get this text until it was too late!” hours after I’ve read and ignored the message.

Anxiety is the reason I am sitting in my bed today, instead of volunteering at a local shelter the way I promised. I picked up my phone, opened my Gmail, and wrote the director that I had hurt my back and wasn’t able to help out after all. I have many other opportunities to volunteer my time, but that’s not the point. Anxiety took the wheel, yet again, and stopped me from following through. I didn’t write that email, anxiety did.

I feel like I’m not taking responsibility for my actions today. But sometimes it really doesn’t feel like it’s me who’s ultimately in charge of what I do. I feel like anxiety strips away the say I have in my own life. It makes decisions for me, and I don’t even know it’s happening. Sometimes it happens so fast that I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

Trust me, I do not want to be the flakey friend. I want to make plans, and follow through with them. I want to go about my day like a normal person does. I want to get up, do stuff, see people, achieve things. I want to come home after a day of participating in life and make dinner, tackle a chore, work in my yard.

I don’t do that kind of stuff too often.

I spend a lot of time hiding in my bed after cancelling plans, and going over feelings of disappointment in myself over and over. I wonder to myself how anyone could believe my paltry excuses, especially those who’ve had to listen to them more than once. People must see right though me, and think I don’t give a fuck about anything or anyone. That I’m selfish. Who in their right mind would want to spend time with me? It’s the same old story when it comes to me.

I wish there was a way I could gain more control over myself. Some way I could break the cycle. I haven’t discovered how, not yet. And I know this is a problem many people with panic/anxiety/depression disorders function. I’ve seen it and I’ve been on the receiving end.

Is there hope for us?

I’m hoping this is something I can figure out with my therapist, who I am seeing tomorrow. I hope she can help me disengage that anxious, depressive knee-jerk reaction to run away and hide from being a part of the world. My response is only making things worse – and I can’t even imagine how hard it will make it for me to eventually return to work in a few weeks. It’s like a bad habit I need to deal with once and for all.

My bed is soft and cozy, warm and safe. But it’s not where I belong – not every day.

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Tinfoil.

There is a reason I have tinfoil as my backdrop on my page. It’s not my attempt at conveying my love for 90s kitsch design.

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Fun prank: tell a friend this is a Magic Eye picture and watch them struggle with it for 10 minutes.

Although, forgive me, it is a symbol for something, and that is just as lamenting.

I’ve mentioned that I have a wonderful, compassionate partner in life: Boyfriend. We’re not married (yet – we’ll get around to it one day), but we live together. We’ve built a home and life together and are truly committed to one another. His love for me includes all of my flaws – including my anxiety and depression. He is my best person. 

It wasn’t like I revealed everything about myself on day one of our relationship. I managed to keep my crazy in check for months and months, actually, and it was a long time before I felt comfortable enough to share this side of me with him. Mental health isn’t something people tend to talk about in general. It can take a long time to gauge whether or a person is someone you can trust and rely on. Whether they are wired with that element of sympathy or empathy that’s required of something to be lean-on-able is not always obvious.

Realizing someone has the capacity to be your “rock” doesn’t happen in a snap, either. It is a series of learning, of reading your feelings and emotions in symphony with their actions. You just kind of slowly discover that yes, this person is a good one. You can share your secrets with him or her, and you are safe. This person is a cornerstone. Your counterpart.

When I first explained to him that I had an anxiety disorder (admitting to multiple disorders seems like a lot to swallow, so I like to start with just one), I was able to recite to him a brief canned address that allows most people to understand anxiety on a beginner level. I never expect much of a response, or even many questions. It’s just something for them to digest. He digested it well.

Like most decent people, his response was positive and supportive. It was a good first step to handling the unhinged bag of loose screws I can sometimes be. It provided him a bit of a warning that I could, at any given moment really, have a full fledged panic attack.

Which did eventually happen, of course.

The first time I had a panic attack near him, he was the supportive person I’d hoped he would be. I couldn’t have asked for better. That doesn’t mean he 100% understood what was going on. After I had calmed down, I did my best to guide him through what it really feels like to have a panic attack.

The best way I was able to explain the epicentre of my anxiety attacks is to think of the heart as being made of tinfoil. It keeps you alive by pumping blood through it effortlessly and rhythmically. It is reliable and steadfast. But it needs to be handled with care: in reality, it is vulnerable, delicate, and intricate.

Now imagine that your fragile tinfoil heart is physically being squeezed.

It takes literally no effort to crush that tinfoil into a hard, compact little ball. All of the life is squashed out of it. It cannot function properly in this state. It feels tight and tense and tiny. It hurts.

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It feels irreparable.

And the rest of your body is useless when that feeling takes place. Every sense is affected: your vision seemed darkened and blurry, your hearing is muffled. You are shaking and sweating. Your breathing quickens. Your mind is out of control.

The only thing you can really concentrate on is the fact that your heart, once open and light, is now dense and solid. Nothing passes though it with ease. The heart centre you’d thought of as your axis of stability isn’t there. This stupid little crushed ball has taken its place.

That’s what an anxiety attack feels like to me. Like my heart is made of tinfoil, and it’s being crushed. It’s kind of hard to un-crush a ball of tinfoil.

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Background Part III.

Ah, meds.

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This has become a very controversial subject according to the interwebMDs.

I am going to share my thoughts on the matter,  because my choice to be medicated is legitimately the difference between being able to participate in the outside world, and developing what I know would have been a pretty decent case of agoraphobia.

In Part II of my story, I shared my inability to do anything alone. I also mentioned that I still struggle with that. But I am no where near as bad as I used to be.

When I wrote that I couldn’t go to the mall alone, I mean it. It’s not that I’d be there and something happened so that I never returned. Nothing bad ever happened that prevented me from wanting to return. It was the thought of going out on my own that cloaked me in so much fear, that it just wasn’t something I could do.

I avoided it completely. It was not an option for me.

It was a flashback scenario. PTSD-style. Being seen alone brought me back to the times I had to spend alone in front of my entire high school every single day for months.

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Fun Fact: Public toilets don’t tend to have lids.

Remember this scene from the movie Mean Girls? This was me for a while in high school. For most people, it’s kind of entertaining. But for someone who lived that – it hits the nail on the fucking head. I make an awkward scrunched-up face during this scene.

I spent nearly every lunch hour alone, hiding in an aisle in the school library. I would pretend to do homework, but since I had more than enough time to complete that stuff, I’d actually just be reading Sweet Valley High books.

But our library forbade food and drink, so I always needed to eat my lunch before going in there. A bathroom stall was the natural choice. It was the only place that offered any sort of privacy.

The underlying reason for all of this was not simply that I had nothing to do during my spare time. My goal was to disappear. I would consistently bump into old friends who knew I was on my own, and it was humiliating to be seen. This flooded past just the ones I knew closely. For me, every single person at that school knew I was a loner and a total loser for it.

This intense feeling followed me. I did eventually make new friends, but things were never quite the same for me. Instead of being the outgoing one with all of the ideas, I became reclusive. I hung back. I went along with everyone else’s suggestions. I hoped simply to be invited along for the ride. It meant I just had someone to stand with at school.

It is nearly impossible to go about daily life successfully as an adult if you are in that world. We routinely need to go to the bank, go to job interviews, buy groceries, attend doctor’s appointments. My issues with doing things alone didn’t truly fuck up my life until I was an adult with responsibilities.

There was no thought process behind my inability to do stuff. I never thought to myself “I cannot go shopping, because I am very anxious, and my anxiety is preventing me from doing it!” It was moreso that if no one was available to go with me, it just was not a consideration to go at all. I wasn’t going to go someplace I’d be judged and watched. Would you walk into a flaming building? No. You don’t make that decision though a step-by-step, well thought-out process. Your knee-jerk reaction is “fire. Hot,” and you stay away naturally. You don’t need to think about anything except the results.

For me, going to the mall was like going into a flaming building. It was just obvious that I could not do that.

Anxiety rarely presents itself as anxiety, especially when you have just begun dealing with it. It is just your reality. It’s just how things are.

When I began university, I also began taking anti-anxiety medication. I quickly graduated to the highest dosage allowable, and it was then that I discovered I was capable of doing things.

Just doing things.

It did not happen overnight. It took a while to adjust to the medication. I got over a woozy feeling it gave me that lasted a few days, and recognized quickly that forgetting to take it on time would make me feel nauseous. But aside from that, I was lucky that I have never encountered many side-effects on this particular drug.

Side Note: I have tried several other drugs over the years, all of which I did not continue using because of the intense side-effects I experienced. For anyone considering trying an anti-anxiety med, you can’t expect the first one to be The One. I’m not even 100% sure that the first one I tried is the one that worked for me long-term. But I do consider myself very lucky that I was able to find a drug that does not make me sick or loopy or more anxious than before. It is a tricky business.

The magic that did occur, however, was that over time, I realized that I was doing things the way a normal adult would. I had started, for instance, going to the mall alone, and without even realizing it. My mind no longer considered the mall to be a dangerous burning building. It was just a regular place. My reality had changed.

For me, medication stopped those feelings of being overwhelmed. It wasn’t that there was a medication that went BOOM and I was brave and thought “I know what I’m gonna do today! I’m gonna go to the mall! I am not anxious about it!” It was simply an absence of the feelings that would have prevented me from even considering it in the past.

Anxiety meds taught me that with their help, I can do normal, everyday activities, and that nothing bad happens. That’s all – I can just do stuff.

Stuff like going back to school, building a career that I’m proud of, talking to a cute dude, and creating a life for myself. I did those things.

DOING STUFF IS AMAZING.

🙂

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