So here it is, I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it grips me so strongly that I have trouble accomplishing simple tasks like taking public transportation. (Silly, I know!) The crazy thing is that I don't know where all this anxiety came from. I have a theory, but who knows if it is true.
When I was in high school and even the beginning of college I had no idea what anxiety was. I was a go-getter who talked to strangers, was in theater productions (sometimes 3 at once!), and LOVED being the center of attention. If people were watching me I felt good, simple as that. Then my parents announced they were getting divorced and my family safety net fell apart. My strong supportive family who had traveled the world together learning other languages, living in rustic villages, traveling for 15 hours on planes, driving across the US, and settling in Virginia, was no longer one unit. All of a sudden my family was divided and I didn't know how to handle it.
As a freshman in college I was busy with classes, boys, and dorm life. The news that my parents were getting divorced was pushed to the background because 'I was busy'. On top of college, I felt that between my two brothers and parents, I was the strongest one. I was the one who had to help my family get through this mess. My brothers called me, I consoled them and told them it would be ok. My parents called me individually and I did the same thing. I felt that it was my duty to be strong for everyone, so I was. In being 'strong' and 'busy' with college, I don't think I ever dealt with the imense sadness that I felt from my parents divorce.
The summer after my freshman year of college I moved to VA Beach for a photography job. That was where I experienced homesickness for the first time. I became so homesick that I left VA Beach mid-summer. I spent the drive home thinking about how much I missed my family and how upset I was that my parents were going through a divorce. My thoughts consumed me and I nearly crashed into the car in front of me when they braked for traffic. The close call with almost crashing along with my intense thoughts all happening at the same time, brought on my first panic attack.
First, my vision blurred. It blurred and then went dark. I freaked out because I was driving and I couldn't see. Luckily I had enough sense to pull over to the side of the highway. Once I pulled over, my hands cramped up. I couldn't move my hands. Then it was my whole body. I thought I was having a seizure. Panicking caused my breathing to speed up and I started to hyperventilate. So here I am sitting in my car on the side of the highway, I can't move a single muscle in my body, I can't see, and I am breathing so fast that I can't catch a good breath. I truly thought I was dying. Luckily, someone pulled over, saw me, and called 911. The ambulance came, loaded me in, gave me oxygen and took me to the nearest hospital.
Once in the hospital ER, they checked me out while they waited for my breathing to regulate. When I started breathing regularly my vision and feeling came back. The doctor asked me a few questions and then calmly explained to me that I had just experienced a panic attack. I was beyond embarrassed, so embarrassed that only a few people have ever heard this story.
After that, I experienced two more panic attacks throughout college, both while I was driving. By the third panic attack I knew what it was and was able to put my head between my legs and breath into a bag. Then a quick phone call to my dad assured me that I would be ok. They never happened again after that third time, though I continued to carry I paper bag with me for years after that, in case of panic attack and hyperventilation. Talk about paranoia!
Since college, I have done a lot of work on my anxiety and trying to get it under control. Sometimes it is worse than others, but usually it is mild. It mainly affects me when I am in front of people, or if I have to do something that I have never done before. Then there is the odd bit of anxiety that I get when walking down a new street or making a phone call to someone that I don't know, like the gas company. I recognize the anxiety, I accept it, and I try to breath through it. It sounds easy, but living with anxiety is not a fun thing. I would not wish this on anyone.