My Struggle With Anxiety

This was me, just nervous about everything. Source: Shutterstock

This was me, just nervous about everything. Source: Shutterstock

I haven’t always been an anxious person. Some people are born with anxiety, some develop it over time and others become anxious after traumatic events. I have a combination of the latter two. Although anxiety runs in my family, it didn’t start being a problem for me until 2001. September 11, 2001 to be more specific.

Of course, 9/11 was a traumatic day for all of us. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia but my entire family is from New York. I had visited and knew exactly what the World Trade Center was while most of my classmates did not. My family was very affected by 9/11. My dad used to travel every few weeks to work there, and he easily could have been there that day. He lost countless friends and co-workers. My cousins went to school in the city at the time. My second-cousin Kevin Donnelly, a lieutenant in FDNY Ladder Company 3, was a first responder. He didn’t make it out.

Being 11 and trying to understand that event and fearing for the lives of my family members really shook me up. We flew to New York not too long after for Kevin’s memorial service, which is the first time I experienced real anxiety. I saw the National Guard at the airport with huge guns and felt panicky. I was so nervous to even get on a plane, and I was a child who absolutely loved flying. I don’t think my parents really thought anything of it. I wasn’t having a full-blown panic attack and they probably couldn’t tell what was going on. But, it was the beginning of my struggle with anxiety.

I would get overly anxious about things that other teens would just be a little nervous about, like taking tests, taking pills and storms. It was such a problem that I stopped having fun and doing what I loved. I didn’t get help my junior year of college, when a tornado hit my college town. After that, my anxiety was at an all time high and I just wasn’t able to live my life or be myself.

hannah-girls-scared

This was me for like four years. Source: flowintothecity

I had been to therapists before for various things, but I never went for anxiety. No one had ever talked to me about it so I didn’t know that’s what I was dealing with. I know people with anxiety, but everyone else’s is so different than mine. I never realized that what I was dealing with was classified as anxiety too.

So while I was in post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, I started to make connections back to things that happened to me. Everything made so much more sense, and I began to learn ways to handle my anxiety. Given that taking medicine is one of my triggers for anxiety, I didn’t want to take any prescriptions to help me deal with my anxiety issues. I know going on an anti-anxiety medication would help me a lot, but that in itself makes me panic. So my therapist taught me ways to work around it.

Part of dealing with anxiety is finding things that work specifically for you. It’s a lot of trial and error. I do a lot of breathing exercises and meditation. My therapist suggested brain-stimulating apps for me, so I play puzzle or word games on my phone. I also do certain ritual-type behaviors, which points to my OCD tendencies (another issue entirely), but I listen to the same music every morning when I get ready and when I go to and from work. Being on a crowded subway and stuck underground makes me super anxious, so I have to keep some sense of normalcy to calm me down.

For a long time, I let my anxiety control me. Now, I control it instead, and it’s made such a difference. I stopped allowing myself to be afraid to do things so I went out more, I did activities I wanted to do. Certainly, it takes a lot to break down that wall, but once I did I felt so much better.

Now when I say "I'm fine" I really mean it Source: lifeasaquirkygirl

Now when I say “I’m fine” I really mean it Source: lifeasaquirkygirl

I definitely still experience anxiety and panic, but I manage because I have techniques to deal with it. I watch myself carefully too because I know that with age, my anxiety will change and might get worse. I’ll likely have to medicate at some point, but for right now I’m doing just fine without it.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, or you feel nervous and you’re not sure why, I encourage you to talk to someone about it. Mental health has such a stigma, so everyone’s scared to bring it up. You’re not crazy or weird for having anxiety. It’s a lot more common than you probably think, so don’t be afraid to discuss it. The sooner you start talking about it, the sooner you can get help and be on your way to enjoying stuff!

Do you struggle with anxiety? Have you talked to anyone about it? Do you think you have anxiety but aren’t sure? Tell me in the comments!

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  • Sarah

    I realize that this post is a bit old, but I just found it and I want to share a brief version of my story.
    I’ve struggled with anxiety for probably my whole life. It’s gone through phases (including a phobia of germs and social anxiety disorder) that, with therapy, I’ve overcome but it’s now more generalized. During a particularly difficult term of college (last year), I was in weekly therapy but it wasn’t working too well so my therapist suggested medication. Since being on medication, life has gotten a whole lot easier for me.
    I was certainly hesitant at first to try it, because I didn’t want any crazy side-effects or addictions, but now that his been about 5 months, I have had no issues with my medication. The thing I’ve had to learn is that medication won’t change my anxious temperament – I will always have anxious tendencies. Even since starting the medication I had my first panic attack. So, it continues to be a struggle, but significantly much less so. I can now handle my schoolwork and social life without coming home every night and crying, unable to catch my breath. I’m still learning how to cope, but the more I try the stronger I get.

  • Nicole

    I have Social Anxiety Disorder, had it for my whole life. It sucks to say the least. It sucks more because nobody really understands it unless they’ve had it or have it. I’m a singer so obviously performing, going to meetings, speaking in front of groups of people is hell. But I’m slowly working through it. Reading, Praying, (I’m a Christian) understanding what I’m feeling and reminding my self why I shouldn’t feel that way. Anyways, thanks for sharing your story! God Bless.

  • ash

    I have anxiety, really bad i suffer from panic attacks and really bad tension headaches. Recently I found out my mom has cancer, so my anxiety is full blown at the moment, I feel like i am losing control of everything, eating, daily activities, etc. I am looking for tips on how to deal without meds.

  • Elisa

    I suffer from anxiety, and depression. It started when I was around 18. I didn’t know or what was going on with me at that time. I thought maybe it would go away. The anxiety didnt though. It just got worse, as I got older with marriage, having a family. I couldnt deal with it anymore. My breaking point was when I had my son. My doctor diagnosed me, with late post partum depression. That went away though. The anxiety didnt. With many doctor visits, and trying different meds. I was finally feeling like myself again. With the correct medication I was on my way to feeling better, and being able to take care of myself, and my family. I do though from time to time get an anxiety attack or panic attack, but I know it will go away. Its not like it use to be. I can deal and work through it, and so can you.