WeWorry reader Brittany has requested that I share her story with you. She’s certainly been through a lot, and we can all learn a lot from her experiences with anxiety and depression.
I don’t know when it started, or if there was a starting point at all. As far back as I can remember, anxiety and panic attacks have been my constant companion. As a child, when my mother was a minute late coming home from work, I couldn’t breathe. I knew she was dead. I was scared to be the last person awake in the house. Convinced that when I watched Unsolved Mysteries the murderers and kidnappers were watching me watch the show and as soon as I went to bed they would snatch me. I slept on my mother’s floor till I was eleven years old. I was scared to answer the phone because I was so socially anxious. And when my babysitter asked me to wake up my best friend in the mornings, I worried that my babysitter would hate me if I couldn’t complete the task. There was nothing in this world that I didn’t worry about.
I don’t know the main cause of my anxiety but there are probably several reasons. My grandmother has some anxiety, and my mother suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. My mother had just moved to St. Louis and was living with my very abusive father when she was pregnant with me, and high stress pregnancies have shown to correlate with anxious children. And lastly, as aforementioned, my father was an abusive to me as a child and I could never do anything right or win his approval. This gave me more self-esteem issues than I could count, but I’m better now. Let us just say I got my anxiety honest.
I joke a lot about my anxiety, and there are times I do find it funny. I can do this because there is that voice in my head that tells me what I’m worrying about is irrational. But then I worry about worrying about irrational things. It is a never ending cycle. I can find the humor in almost anything, and if you don’t laugh about what ails you, you’ll cry. But just because I do laugh at myself, it doesn’t mean that things aren’t overwhelming to me sometimes. Things that don’t even register to most people are uphill battles for me.
I used to spend a lot of time trying to hide my anxiety from people. It was so hard, and really that was anxiety inducing in itself. Now that I am in a better place, I can say to friends and family, “You know I don’t know why this worries me, but it does.”
I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder when I was sixteen. This was after I had developed a crippling addiction to Tylenol PM. I could never sleep, because my thoughts were always racing. I would go days with only 1-2 hours of sleep every night, if I even got that. People will tell you that it is impossible to stay awake that long, but they are wrong. And when you never sleep, you feel like you are slowly losing your mind. Tylenol PM was the only thing that allowed me to sleep. Soon I was taking 8 every night, and then 8 during the day to take naps. I never wanted to be awake, it was too hard.
My diagnosis also came after I had stopped attending school, because I was too nervous to face the outside world. I mainly didn’t go to school because I worried about doing something stupid at school, or in front my friends. I also was afraid a teacher would call on me in class and I wouldn’t know the answer. Ironically, that was actually a self-fulfilling prophecy because I wasn’t attending class, so I never had any clue what was going on in class. I technically failed that school year even though my grades were good. My attendance was so poor that I couldn’t pass.
When I found out that I failed, I was so exhausted and tired of life. At sixteen, I knew I had nothing left to live for. I took a shower, did my hair, and swallowed over 100 capsules of Tylenol. Luckily, I had a change of heart pretty quickly. One of the most embarrassing moments in my entire life was lying on a hospital bed, having charcoal pumped into my stomach, and vomiting all over myself in front of so many people. It may sound weird to say but trying to kill myself was probably one of the better things I’ve done in my life. For two main reasons: I realized I did want to live, and I finally got help.
I began therapy soon after that, and started on a medicine that would drastically change my quality of life. The diagnosis was such a relief, I finally knew I wasn’t alone or losing my mind. By the way, after my therapist talked to my school, I was able to gain all my credits back, and I graduated on time. Then I went on to graduate college, with only a few bumps along the way.
I am more equipped to deal with my anxiety now, but it is always there. Tonight I got lost trying to pick my fiance up from work (I’ve never done that before), and I ended up on the freeway, surrounded by 18 wheelers, and driving over bridges. I don’t like driving in general, and I’m terrified of bridges, freeways, and 18 wheelers. But I always do what I have to do. I ended up on the side of the road, having one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in years. I was sobbing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I was trembling.
However unlike in the past, I was eventually able to calm myself down, take many deep breathes, send up a prayer, and figure out what I needed to do. And I did it. I stared down those 18 wheelers, went over those bridges, and finally found him. I had faced my worst case scenario fear about driving in L.A., and I had gotten through it.
There is something liberating about knowing that the girl who was once too scared to step out her front door, may still panic and freak out, but when everything goes wrong, she can pull it together and GET PAST IT.
You can read more from Brittany at her blog.