Personal Column: Overcoming anxiety

Franklin Mejia, Staff Writer

Franklin Mejia, Staff Writer

I’ve lived with anxiety since I can remember. If you were to ask what led me to suffer from crippling panic attacks and constant worry, I would have a list prepared for you, some items including my dad dying when I was young, friends committing suicide, and bullying. These events made my mind a very hyperactive place; I tend to obsess a lot, whether it’s feeling bad about the way I’ve said something to someone, or entertaining a really awful thought and then torturing myself with it. 

The main overriding fear I have is about my health; being under constant stress and overthinking every little detail in my everyday life. It could be something as simple as accidentally bumping into someone, to having my voice crack mid-conversation that could end up with me losing sleep for days at a time. Lots of people say, nonchalantly: ‘oh stop being so paranoid.’ Well I can tell you, when you have anxiety there is nothing to be paranoid about. It entirely consumes you, and makes everyday living extremely hard. No matter what happens, you always fixate on the worst possible outcome. It’s exhausting to say the least, and often times I feel like an idiot.

I’ve always been seen as the strong one in my family and friends, the one who keeps it together, so it was something that I hid from everyone and downplayed it for fear that people would think less of me, that I wasn’t as strong. In fact, years ago when I opened up about it to a few people it was either met with confusion or a ‘walk it off’ attitude.

I think the best thing I have ever done was let my friends see me have a panic attack. I was with friends at a simple get-together at one of their houses when all of a sudden I could feel fear and worry bubble up inside of me. Normally, I would make some excuse and step out until it subsided, but before I could I started tearing up, which just scared me more. I freaked out and started anticipating insults and teasing from my friends, instead I was greeted with concern and worry. I couldn’t really form a clear sentences and rather than running away, I just let the panic run its course, all the while my friends were scared because they didn’t know what was going on. (It’s actually funny now when I remember their faces.)

From there I found it easier to be open with them about what I was feeling and why I thought I was feeling it. Their concern towards me made me think a little a differently and I explained to them what was going on, and surprisingly the more open I was, the less frightening my feelings began to seem.  In fact a lot of people opened up about their anxieties, which made me feel less different. I’m seeing a counselor, who’s helping me to see that the feelings I have are understandable given what’s happened along the way. She is teaching me to be kinder to myself and say hey, it’s ok to feel like that it doesn’t make you any less of a strong person. 

Once I spoke to my friends, they became a main support for me, and since then, they have always done anything they could to help. While some of my other acquaintances don’t really understand, and though sometimes it’s hard to ignore the people that think I’m being pathetic or lazy when I’ve taken time off, I’m hoping I can work to change those kind of attitudes. 
I think what I’ve learned is that when you get into that dark place the only way out is to talk, even if you really don’t want to. Depression and anxiety don’t like talking: they want you to be silent, to be alone in your spiraling thoughts, to think that you’re a burden to everyone and that they are sick of hearing your voice. That is absolutely not true. Think about it, if your friend came to you and said they were feeling this way, you wouldn’t say: “oh I’m not interested.”

There are people who will stand by you, and not leave until you want to talk (no matter how much you try to push them away or tell them that ‘you’re fine’). Sometimes these people aren’t easy to see at first, but if you start talking, they’ll soon appear. I know this because I have experienced it, I’ve still got a long way to go, but we all just need to keep each other talking. The more we talk the less scared we’ll be.