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Words by Rebecca Rice
I can’t tell you exactly when the anxiety started to manifest in me but I can tell you when it started impacting my life in a serious way. I now know that I had been struggling with it for years without anyone noticing or highlighting that this was a problem I kept facing. There were early signs but I could always explain them away, to myself and others.
SETTING THE STAGE
I was transferring from my community college where I got my Associate’s degree to a state school to finish my Bachelor’s. The week before classes started I was in Ireland with my sister and best friends. Periodically over the week I would get chest pains. At times it felt like a pile of flat stones were being piled on my chest. Other times it was a tightness around my ribs. My friends suggested anxiety about starting a new school. I told myself it was my new bra. I was continually fidgeting with my bra and would undo it if we were driving, but it didn’t work. However, I was convinced that my problem was the bra and not the impending transition. I even convinced my sister who has a larger rib cage than me to trade bras for the flight home. I was in complete denial.
Our first day back I had to be on campus for orientation and class. After an hour speed orientation I found I didn’t have the login information I needed to sign up for classes. A dean firmly told me without the information I wouldn’t be able to register, and that I only had an hour and a half to get everything done. My heart started whomping in my ears. I went to the bathroom to call my mom and have her look in my room for the information. When she said she couldn’t find it I was hit with a crippling panic attack. I found myself on a college bathroom floor struggling to breathe. All I could say was “I need it” over and over again.
Later that day after the panic attack subsided, I was able to create a new password and sign up for classes. My first class that should’ve been that day was cancelled due to a snowstorm. My sister picked me up. She asked me how it went. I cried and told her what had happened. A dean of the school had not been understanding of my situation and in some ways was the spark that ignited the ready pile of debris that was my anxiety and panic attack. It didn’t sit well with my sister that this woman had treated me this way and she decided to report her. She got out of the car, and I had another panic attack. Again I struggled to breathe, I became incredibly hot, and felt like I was being constrained to my seat. I tried calling but her phone was on mute. I kept repeating “I need to leave.”
I haven’t had a day that bad since. Yes, I have had panic attacks, anxiety, shortness of breath, repeated phrases running through my head, and tears, lots of tears. However, I have learned coping tactics. For a while I made sure I carried a bottle of ignatia, which is homeopathic anxiety relief. A few years later I started seeing a counselor. I practice breathing from my diaphragm to slow down my breathing and heart. I pray. And I try to acknowledge the warning signs. Being aware of what might trigger my anxiety and being proactive is the best way I’ve found to keep myself healthy.
Now, that day is a reminder for me of how bad things can get if I don’t acknowledge and deal with them. I am prone to anxiety but I don’t have to be ruled by it.
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Rebecca is a die-hard romantic who fell in love with stories and has never quite recovered. Exploring femininity and womanhood are lifelong passions of hers. You can find her writing over at https://thehydrangeaproject.com/. She volunteers as the blog manager for Love True, a local non-profit set on ending human trafficking in our lifetime. And in her spare time, she tries to perfect her baking, badminton game, and being the best aunt to her nieces and nephew she can be.