My First Ever New Year’s Resolution:
I never really believed in “New Year’s Resolutions”. What’s the point? I’d ask myself. Whether it’s going to the gym, eating healthier, or vowing to be a happier person, no one seemed to follow through on their promise. I didn’t want to hold myself up to that standard. The thought of failing terrified me.
Well, this year, I have a “resolution” that’s weighing heavy on my mind. Maybe I’m not quite brave enough yet, so I’ll call it a “goal” for myself. It’s not something that’s necessarily concrete. I can’t hold it or measure it, really.
In 2018, I want to be a fearless writer. Or maybe a writer that isn’t so fearful. I created this blog to encompass myself: the fun, silly kid, the fashionable dreamer, the emotional, vulnerable young woman.
2017 left me feeling apprehensive. Whenever I wrote, I couldn’t reveal myself fully.
In one of my upper-level English classes, my favorite professor discussed with us about the importance of authenticity. She looked us all in the eyes and asked, “What’s stopping you from writing what you feel?” Many people mentioned the opinions of others, the fact that loved ones might be embarrassed, or that the world would make fun of them.
Throughout college, I did my best to write as authentically as possible. When I graduated though, it was like all of my progress began to diminish. Even as I draft this, I’m petrified of what will happen once I hit “publish”. But I have to at least try, right?
I’m still going to talk about the things that I love. After all, this blog is about all aspects my life. But it’s time to write about what scares me, too.
So let’s start now. We’re going to talk about my anxiety.
What is anxiety?
WebMD defines anxiety disorders as “a group of mental illnesses. The distress they cause can keep you from carrying on with your life normally. For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling.”
According to futurity.org via a study done by the University of Queensland, “Globally, 1 in 13 people suffers from anxiety.“ Further, the ADAA states on their website that “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”
I felt relief when I was finally diagnosed with anxiety.
“You have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is a particular type of anxiety disorder that affects two or more aspects of your life” my kindhearted counselor at the time said gently. “The best way I can describe it is a snowball effect. There’s a problem in your life and the snowball gets bigger and bigger until it’s too much.”
She gave me an example about failing a test. “Some might just let it go. Unfortunately, when you suffer from anxiety, you think about what happens after you fail the test. Will you fail out of the class next? What about high school, are you going to flunk out because of failing the class? How will you get into college? Are you consequently not going to be able to to get a job? Will you ultimately end up homeless?”
I remember sobbing with relief. No one had put into words before what I had been going through. No one really seemed to understand. I was only 18 at the time but suspected that I had been experiencing symptoms of anxiety since I was 15-years-old.
When the still undiagnosed anxiety first became noticeable, I never felt so torn and alone. One vivid memory I have is of a dear loved one being admitted to the hospital. I was feeling unwell myself and decided to check my symptoms online. Of course, Dr. Google gave me a chilling verdict and told me the worst. My heart dropped and I felt the walls closing in on me. I scrolled on Google for hours until my mom found me on my bedroom floor searching frantically through various health-boards. She tried to ask me what was wrong but I couldn’t bring myself to speak as tears streamed down my face.
My anxiety stayed mostly quiet for a couple of years. That is, until it exploded again at 18.
College applications overwhelmed me. My friends mostly applied to a few colleges here and there. On the other hand, I applied to 12 universities out of fear. I didn’t think that I’d get into any of them. Eventually the stress of school and applications got to me. My mom had to take me to our GP after I experienced a coughing fit in the middle of the night. I could barely breathe and even fainted in my bathroom the next morning.
My family physician diagnosed me with Walking Pneumonia and told me it’d take a few weeks to get over. She also suspected that I had an anxiety disorder and wanted me to speak to one of the clinic’s counselors. Eventually, the intense physical symptoms passed but others remained. I was constantly dizzy, my heart rate went up, I lost a lot of weight, experienced fatigue and nausea, and I felt unwell overall. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong and finally took a traumatizing trip to the hospital. I was already visiting my counselor but the doctor confirmed that I definitely had anxiety. I still cringe thinking about being at the hospital that day and can barely talk about it, much less write about the experience.
Anxiety unfortunately comes with a lot of physical symptoms.
Here are just a few listed on anxietycentre.com:
- Numbness and tingling
- Chest pain
- Neck tension
- Stomach upset, nervous stomach
- Pulsing in the ear
- Burning skin
- Fear of impending doom
- Shortness of breath
- Electric shock feeling
- Shooting pains in the face
- Heart palpitations
- Weakness in legs
- Feeling like you are going crazy
- Inability to rest
- Sleep problems
Aside from the physical symptoms, the worst part was feeling like a former shell of myself. I began to distance myself from loved ones, cried alone in my room, lied awake at night thinking, “What will I become in the future? Will I ever be happy?” I felt like I was losing myself. One day just after class ended, I went to visit my favorite English teacher and told her what I was going through. “I don’t even know who I am anymore,” I explained, fighting back tears.
What has anxiety taught me throughout the years?
Little did I know that my anxiety would get worse, until it got better. Then it would get worse again and again. Anxiety never quite leaves, but you do become more equipped at dealing with the horrifying symptoms. My counselor taught me breathing tricks, the importance of distraction and doing things you love; she gave me goals and weekly lessons that helped me find myself again. I ended up graduating high school, even college. I’m in a committed relationship and trying to find myself in terms of my career.
But I would be lying to you if I said my anxiety has stopped telling me that I’m a failure. Or that I’m doing everything wrong. A lot of times, I feel ashamed of my fears knowing that there are homeless people in the cold right now, people who are suffering, individuals who have lost everything or that never had loved ones to begin with.
I stop myself though and think of what my boyfriend always tells me, “the worst thing you can do is compare yourself to others.”
I’m reminded of my counselor’s encouraging words, and how important she thought it was to express oneself.
Please Don’t Ever Think You’re Alone:
There are so many people struggling with mental illness but unfortunately, we rarely talk about it.
I want to tell you that if you’re fighting anxiety, depression, etc. please don’t think you’re alone. Don’t ever give into those negative thoughts that say you’re strange or less than everyone else. You are absolutely, perfectly wonderful as you are.
Most importantly, you are loved. And you deserve to feel at peace with yourself.
I hope that my story has encouraged you in some way. I plan on writing about tips for self-care soon as a supplement to this post. 🙂
This particular topic isn’t easy to discuss, but I just want to help people through my writing. Whether it’s distracting them from a hard day, making them laugh or smile, connecting with them on a personal level, making people feel better…this is why I write.
So, Here’s to 2018.
May my writing be fearless. May I touch you with my writing somehow. And may we all help in making this world a better place to live in, despite any negativity that we face.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my genuine thoughts and stories <3 It means more than I could ever express.
Lots of Love xoxo