“The only way I can describe it is that everything seemed distance, and I could see people and see their mouths moving but I couldn’t seem to understand what they were saying.… I felt like something was really wrong, and would go as far as to say I felt I was dying and I just needed to get home.” – Sarah, age unknown
“I could hear blood passing through my ears—thump, thump, thump—and see my chest moving up and down under two layers of clothing. I noticed my hands trembling over the keyboard, and my vision became blurry when I looked at the computer screen…. My heart seemed to pound even faster, even harder. I tried taking a deep breath to calm myself, but my breaths were sharp and shallow. My vision got darker and narrower and looked kaleidoscopic, like when you close your eyes and press down on your eyelids to “see stars.” – Unknown, 24
“I just felt like I was trapped. Everything I was looking at started moving really fast, my head started spinning, and my eyes could not focus. My heart raced and my teeth started to jitter. There was ringing in my ears. I felt like I needed to escape. Not escape where I was now, but escape my own skin.” – Me, 20
These are all personal accounts of people suffering from anxiety attacks. But what is anxiety? Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. And anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. As demonstrated by these quotes,anxiety manifests differently in everyone. There is not a set “image” that captures what anxiety looks like in a person. This is why it is such a fragile topic; it is something that people may be unaware they suffer from due to the mere mindset that “my anxiety doesn’t look like that.” Moreover,the stigma of mental illness makes individuals refuse to admit to themselves that they are suffering. Anxiety symptoms consistently are pushed to the back burner because of the mindset that “everyone feels this way sometimes…it’ll just go away on its own.” But usually that is not the case.
Anxiety can appear in many forms such as panic disorders, phobias, social anxiety disorders, and the list continues. Common symptoms are an increased heart rate,rapid breathing, restlessness, and trouble concentrating. Additionally, there are physical symptoms such fatigue or weakness, a constant headache, nausea or upset stomach. Anxiety is something that people experience at different degrees and it’s something that should be talked about. It is a feeling that consumes the body and manifests the mind.
Today it is looked down upon to complain of anxiety, and instead people who suffer should “suck it up” or “get over it.” Anxiety is sometimes viewed simply as stress, but, there is a difference between stress and constantly living in a fear so dark that it makes you want to hide within the walls of your room rather than step one foot outside. It is like living in a constant fear of a thunderstorm even on a cloudless, blue-skied day.
Living with anxiety is not easy, but it is possible and it can be managed. The first step is admitting that there is an underlying problem to the random tears that fall down your cheeks. Once you recognize this, then you have started to take control of your mental health. Seeking help is then the next step. Whether it is within the safety net of a friend or loved one, or outside of that such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
It does not make you look weak, or a freak, or abnormal to suffer from some sort of mental health issue. It makes you strong to face it head on and ask for help.There is hope, you just have to put yourself in the right position to find it.