What is it like finding out you are living with anxiety? My first anxiety attack happened out of nowhere.
Let me preface this post by saying that it has taken a lot for me to overcome my fears and manage my anxiety to the point that I am at now. I have been humbled, I have been brought down to my lowest point, I have been scared…..I have also been strong, resilient, and proud of myself and who I am now that I have seen myself through the worst of my anxiety.
It has taken me until these past few years to be able to now look back and feel thankful for the hardest time in my life and know I am better for having gone through it. It has also taken me these last few years to be thankful that I had the chance to learn so much about myself and overcome something that was truly the most challenging thing I have faced thus far in my life.
I remember the first time I realized that there was something wrong with me and I couldn’t control what was happening to my body. It was 2014 and I was driving one morning the hour long trip from my then fiancée, but now my husbands’ house. I did this a lot since getting to see him mid-week was great, when I could manage it, since we lived an hour away from each other. I would often stay the night during the week to have every extra moment I could with him even if it meant leaving at the crack of dawn to get home for work the next morning.
It was 5:15 AM in the morning and I was making my typical drive up I-95 from Rocky Mount, North Carolina to Cary, North Carolina. I remember thinking about our wedding coming up in 5 months and everything there was to do. I was going through a mental check list of things to be done and things that had already been done. I remember going through my checklist for my work day (at the time I was a Marketing and Sales Director of a Hotel company in Cary- a high stress but high reward job).
I remember thinking about how crappy (man is that an understatement) it was being 6 hours away from my parents, specifically my mom, who had just been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I had a lot on my mind and on my plate, but at the time I had never not been able to handle everything life threw at me gracefully; so I just kept going through my thoughts not paying any mind to them. I was a tad overconfident and proud of the fact that I could always handle anything thrown my way, and in fact this was something I treasured about my personality, that I could handle what others’ struggled with.
I was halfway through the drive when my heart started racing, my ears started ringing, my legs went numb, and I felt like I could pass out. Terrified I called Chris, my then fiancée and now husband, and told him that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I told him I felt like I could be having a heart attack. Not just a figure of speech people…I legitimately thought I was having an actual heart attack. I was shaking and terrified and didn’t know what was happening, let alone what to do. I told him I needed him to help me someway. I was alone and afraid. I had never had problems before with anxiety, or more accurately, I had never noticed that my intense, passionate, high strung, high achieving, worrisome, analytical, fearless, perfectionist personality had a tendency for anxiety all my life. I had never noticed it as anxiety before since it had never dramatically effected my life until this moment.
Chris is my polar opposite. He is calm, stable, and peaceful for every part of me that is over-excited, passionate, and intense. Chris told me that I was probably just having a caffeine high and it had more than likely just effected me differently since I was more sleep deprived. Chris said that it was also early, and I hadn’t eaten anything. Although I had only had a half cup of coffee that morning, I was eager to accept his excuse and tried to calm myself down. I remember thinking that had to be what was going on, right?
I sat in my car for 15 minutes on the side of the road under an exit sign and listened to my heart pound in my ears. I googled my symptoms, which only made me think there was something horrible wrong with me. I then called my mom and dad, waking both of them up, and explained what had happened. I quickly offered Chris’s excuse about it being low food intake and caffeine, and my dad told me that was more than likely right and for me to just head on home and that I would be okay.
I got into the slow lane and trudged my way the last 30 minutes to my condo. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right and that I had somehow lost control of my body. At the time, I didn’t think it could possibly be anxiety (the thought never crossed my mind). I thought maybe my sugar had dropped and/or I was having a physical health problem…never that there was a weakness of my mind. That didn’t happen to 23 year old successful, independent women, who had their crap together.
I got home a little bit after six and committed myself to go take a shower, eat breakfast, and head to work in my normal routine. I was fine…FINE…I just kept telling myself that. Although my job was high pressure and high stress, I really loved what I did and I was fortunate to have a wonderful boss. I walked into work to speak with my boss, who I had a great relationship with (she was my boss but also like my adoptive mother). Immediately she told me I looked pale and asked what was wrong. I told her I wasn’t sure if there was something wrong with me, but like I did with my parents, I explained what had happened that morning. My boss looked at me and told me that I probably was just stressed and needed some down time, and with everything going on it was natural to need a breather.
I went about my day but decided I would at least try her advice to relax, so I called the local massage parlor and got an appointment for that night. I was convinced by the end of the work day that the morning events weren’t nearly as bad as I remembered and once again I convinced myself it was a combination of stress and an imbalance of caffeine, sleep, and food. I went that night for my massage and tried to let myself relax under the ladies hands.
I kept telling myself to relax and unwind because I needed this, but instead of relaxing I got tenser so much so that that I couldn’t relax. I remember asking myself, “What is wrong with me that I can’t relax getting a massage? Why can’t I just relax like everyone else?” By the time I left the massage parlor, I told myself that everyone got wound tight sometimes, I was no different, and that it would pass with time. I didn’t piece together then but when I left my palms were sweaty, my heart was pounding faster than usual, and I was worried about the next day and what would happen. I didn’t know then, but this was the anxiety that I had been living with for most of my life. At the time, I was oblivious.
Little did I know I was fixing to hit my lowest of lows in the months to come, question what I knew about myself, have to trust and relay on others A LOT more than I wanted to, and wonder if I was ever going to be okay again. Of course now, 4 years later, I have learned to grow strong through my anxiety, learned myself through and through (even though I didn’t love some of what I saw), and I became not just “okay” but back to being my fabulous old self but improved.
In the coming posts, I plan to walk through my journey from this first panic attack mentioned above that I had while driving, to the months and years that followed which were tremendously challenging.
These post are difficult for me to write. It is hard to be so open and raw about my life with all you reading. However, I remember praying and saying that if God would see me through this and help me just be to be okay again (which he did and then some) that I would share what I went through. Many times throughout this journey I wondered if I was crazy and if anyone else was going through what I was going through. The answer is most certainly a big old YES but in the moment it doesn’t feel that way. In the moment I felt alone, scared, misunderstood, and less than I actually was. No one talks about this subject openly with others, which is shame because it can do so much good to just talk and feel understood. I feel as though this is my calling. To share and chronicle how scary and hard my journey was when I discovered that was indeed living with anxiety.
Stay tuned for next weeks post.
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.