This might be the most difficult and challenging post I’ll write. First of all because it concerns myself, my private sphere and it’s something not many people know about me. Secondly, because it’s a delicate topic, which a lot of people don’t understand the importance of. And I’m also not ready to talk about it, nor I’ll ever will be, and this makes me anxious. Of course.
I don’t have the presumption of being able to make the topic of anxiety easy and understandable for everyone, but it has become important for me to make people aware that the “problem” exists and that it is more common as one might think. For those who suffer from anxiety as I do: just know that you’re not alone and that you’re perfectly normal, as I am.
I started feeling bad around 3 years ago, when I started my master’s degree at a new university and moved to another city. I started having depressed thoughts, being sad, crying every other night for no reason at all, I was nervous, irritable and worried about my life. I also couldn’t stay in crowded places. I assumed my anxiety – my feelings – was just from the transition to this new kind of life.
But even after some time, these feelings weren’t changing. I wasn’t feeling any better: on the contrary, it all became worse. I was lucky enough to have a person near me who understood me and supported me no matter what. Nonetheless, I felt like my life was a complete failure.
Time passed and I managed to take some exams, but I got nervous when I had to take them. I understood I needed help when I first cried during a whole oral exam. Luckily my teacher was comprehensive enough and let me take the exam anyways, which I passed, but this episode made me aware that I was in desperate need of help. I thought the problem was university, therefore I met a counselor, who helped me organizing my study sessions. It went well for a while, but when I had to face my most feared exam I had one of my first panic attacks. Another one followed when I once was at the supermarket and couldn’t find carrots…
I was constantly on edge, sometimes shaking, heavy breathing… I was unhappy with almost everything, I felt worthless, purposeless, and I had an irritable mood. Also my heart would beat fast or have an irregular pulsation. I also gained weight in a couple of months.
This is why I decided to see a psychologist and get some serious advice. I learned some relaxation exercises, how to boost my self-confidence and some basic things, such as saying “no” if I don’t want to do something, but also to try and do things to find out if I like them.
The most frustrating thing about anxiety is that while you’re freaking out you know that there’s no reason to be freaked out. But you can’t just shut your emotions down.
I didn’t want many people to know that I suffer from anxiety mainly because I feared their reaction. I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I’m not weak: in fact, until anxiety made me think otherwise, I considered myself one of the most strong people I know. I am still strong, I just need some more time than before when it gets to making decisions or adjusting to changes. I also didn’t want people to misunderstand what I was going through. I never took medications (some people might, but that wasn’t my case) but I saw a psychologist when I needed help and some people don’t understand how helpful it can be. Many people just think that this is not a big deal, that you can just “stop worrying”. They don’t seem to understand that this is precisely the problem: you can’t stop worrying. Moreover, I didn’t want to be treated differently, like someone who has a problem. I am a normal person. I might struggle a little in certain aspects of life, but I’m a human being as you are. I just need one thing: some patience!
I’m ashamed that I was afraid to be myself because of what people might think of me. I’m ashamed because I still am afraid of what people might think! But this is the first step for me to just be myself and to raise awareness about this topic.
How am I feeling now? Well, I’ve got my shit together. There are some times when my negative thoughts come knocking at my door, or when I still feel nervous or anxious. But it hasn’t been as bad as it has been during those years when I didn’t know what to do. Now I do know how to control it and it has helped a lot.
If you suffer from anxiety or you think you might benefit from some professional help, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Don’t pretend everything is fine, or that it isn’t a big deal, because it IS! If it is for you, then it’s more than enough to seek help. You deserve to feel good. And you’re certainly not alone.