Once upon a time… there was a little girl
When I was 8 years old, right after my parents divorced, I was terrified of the dark. I used to watch the outside, dreading the time when the sun goes down and the darkness takes its place.
Because I knew bad things happened in the dark. Each and every night I used to experience what I called symptoms: nausea and vomiting, the feeling like I have something stuck in my throat and the overall sensation of irrational fear that something bad is happening. That it will never go away. That I will never feel okay ever again.
Nowhere was safe. The symptoms weren’t going away. In fact, they only got worse.
Shortness of breath, hyperventilation, hot flashes and that dreadful fear that every time when the sun goes down, it will never rise again.
As I entered seventh grade, something else happened. At the time, I didn’t realize exactly what. All I knew was that I suddenly didn’t want to leave my house very much. I didn’t want to go to birthday parties, sleepovers or just to hang out with friends. Whenever someone invited me, I found some excuse not to go. I dreaded going outside my class and walking through school, not even with a friend. There were too many people, too many eyes. Do I look okay? I though. Do I look weird? What are they thinking? Is she looking at me? I’m too slouched. What do others think when they see me?
I couldn’t eat or drink in front of people, I couldn’t talk with anyone besides my parents on the phone, I avoided school trips and field trips like they were the plague.
Every speech we had to do in class, every group activity, meeting new people, striking conversations, just walking in my own street was like asking me to do a bungee jump without the safety rope.
And that was what I later came to understand was Social anxiety disorder.
What started with anxiety disorder, evolved into social anxiety disorder that both eventually led to panic attacks and depression.
Hey everyone, my name Zoey.
I suffer from what’s medically called Anxiety disorder.
Anxiety, you see, has many forms. You may experience just one, you may experience several or you may experience all.
What sorts of anxiety disorders are there? There is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Specific phobia (but, hey, we all suffer from at least one phobia, don’t we? It’s only when you have more than a few phobias that really make your life miserable and controlled by it that it becomes a problem), Social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD and panic disorder.
Me? Well, it feels a little weird to tell what I “have” (It’s not a collection of books, after all ^^ ), but today I’m here to talk about myself (something I’m not very good at) and my experience. Today, I’m here to share my story with you, not only to raise awareness but also to tell those of you who find yourself saying “that’s me, it’s exactly how I feel” that you’re not alone.
*Taking a deep breath*
So, personally I’m diagnosed with having Generalized Anxiety Disorder, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and mild depression.
Other than that, I’m a perfectly normal human being with an undying love for books, writing stories and listening to music.
*back to our story*
I thought I was brave enough to manage the anxiety on my own.
And maybe I was brave, for dealing with it for 9 long years. But there comes a time when it’s all just too much. Anxiety never stays on the same level. Sometimes, you’re perfectly fine and have no anxiety whatsoever and other times you’re so full of anxiety, you retreat into your shell and never want to come back out.
After experiencing one of my worst panic attacks yet – a panic attack so serve I honestly thought I was done for – I had no choice but to go see a psychiatrist to subscribe me anti-depressant.
Did I want to take the medicine?
No, I really-really didn’t.
I was terrified of taking a foreign substance into my body, of experiencing side effects.
I mean, when someone tells you there is something wrong with your serotonin production and not enough serotonin gets to your brain, which means you have to take some pills to stop some natural process in your body so that more of the serotonin can go up to you brain, you are like: “Ah… no, thank you?”
Thing is, there are many (many) types of anxiety\depression medicines. And each and every one of them affects each and every one of us in a completely different way. Not every type of medicine is the right fit for everyone.
And so, when I started taking the medicine (called Fluoxetine, from the SSRI family), it has been only four days before I started experiencing some major side effects. I was so dizzy, so tired and couldn’t focus on anything whatsoever. I couldn’t read! Can you imagine? I felt like the words weren’t grounded to the pages. Obviously, it was very-very scary and I could not take it. I had to stop taking it.
It was only a year afterwards, when I had yet another serve panic attack, that I had to try again with another type of medicine. As scared as I was of having terrifying side effects, I reached a point where my anxiety was too much to bear.
This time, I took Lustral (from the SSRI family). Lustral is known for being more gentle for those who are very sensitive to medicine.
And it really was. Did I have some side effects? Hardly, and they were mild and passed after my body got used to the Lustral. A medicine without side effects whatsoever is, unfortunately, not something that exists at the moment. In the future? I really hope so.
Does it means I don’t have panic attacks\anxiety\depression and that I am now a perfectly functioning human being?
Ha! No… sorry. This is not a magical medicine. I really wish it was, but it’s not. Don’t’ get me wrong, it helps me a great deal and really does help me stand on my own two feet. And I’m so very thankful for it.
But anxiety is much more complicated than that. It never really goes away. Not even when you suppress it with medicine.
It helps bring the anxiety down, it helps for having less panic
attacks\depression. What it doesn’t do is make it go away.
Dealing with it after taking medicine is my job. I need to do whatever it takes to make my dreams come true, despite my ever present luggage. Because it’s my dream, and I’ll be dammed if I let the anxiety win.
Thank you, everyone, for reading my story. Was I scared of sharing this with the world? You bet I was.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned is to not be afraid to tell the world who you are. Don’t be afraid to speak your thoughts, don’t be afraid to share your story and certainly don’t be afraid to say “I have a mental health issue” to the world. Just know that the right people – the true people – will stick by your side no matter what.
I do realize the irony of someone with anxiety saying “don’t be afraid”, but even though anxiety still rules my life, there is that tiny-tiny part inside of me the anxiety cannot ever reach.
And that part is what gets me through it, step by step.
I’ll always have dark times. I’ll always have times when I want to give up, curl into a ball and cry. I’ll feel hopeless and like nothing will ever be okay ever again.
But then… the sun will shine. You just have to get through the night. Because if there is one thing you need to believe in is that the sun will always rise.
If there is one thing books taught me is to never give up. And so I owe it to them to do just that.
A huge thank you to Zoey for sharing her story! I love the last two sentences, especially you saying never give up. It’s true, no matter where you learn it from…never give up. If you have learned to never give up, where/how did you learn to keep pushing through?