I’m 18, a university student and part time admin assistant.
I was sitting in my very first psychologist’s office, staring blankly at a wall, trying to ignore the sense of impending doom in my chest. We’d been discussing life, and I’d decided that it wasn’t a thing I wanted to do anymore.
“I think you have anxiety” she said, possibly out of nowhere. It might not have been, I was avoiding thinking about things at that point, counting down the minutes until I could leave, have a cry, grab a coffee, then pretend the last hour hadn’t happened.
I looked up. “No I don’t think I do, but whatever.”
(When I’m depressed and forced to talk about being depressed every second sentence ends with ‘whatever’ or ‘I don’t know’)
I can’t remember the rest of the session, but as soon as it was over I stopped thinking about anxiety due to being too depressed to care anymore.
Four days later, out of the blue, I had a panic attack and convinced myself I was dying.
Apparently, I do indeed have an anxiety disorder.
This is when my brain begins it’s pterodactyl screech of disgust. I hate words like ‘anxiety’, and I particularly hate when qualified people use those words about me. I hate it even more when they are correct.
This is also when my chest starts feeling tight and ‘I don’t have anxiety, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine’ runs through my head. This will subsequently be followed by a panic attack on most occasions. Sometimes the thought of being weak, of not being the strong person I want and need to be, is the scariest thought of all.
Two years ago now I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety and Panic Disorder. It’s strange to put it like that because now that I know that I have it, I can see that it’s left its dirty handprints all over my entire life. I think there was almost a safety in not knowing I had it, if that makes any sort of sense. It was easier to believe that this is just life, that I am fine, that everyone experiences the world through this adrenaline filter. That, therefore, I will be okay.
Over the last two years though, I’ve also found a strange comfort in knowing that this isn’t life. This isn’t what things are supposed to be like.
It will pass.
(It has to pass.)
During those terrifying moments of panic two years ago I believed with everything in me that my life was over. I had nothing left to live for if this was what my future was going to contain.
I was a mess.
I was definitely crazy.
My life didn’t end.
I was too anxious to call in sick the next day, so I dragged myself through eight hours of work. Then a two-hour lecture. I finally got home at 9 pm, washed the sedimentary layers of tears from my face, and went to bed.
A year later I had a week straight where I was either having a panic attack or recovering from one. I hardly slept. I couldn’t stop moving, if I stopped a voice in some dark part of my brain promised me bad things were going to happen. I was exhausted beyond belief. I cancelled my exam and refused to finish my college finals. I thought I was going to die.
Weeks like that aren’t uncommon now. Medication helps, CBT helps, coping skills help, but sometimes I can’t get away. I feel sick to my stomach. I’m falling falling falling. I have to run, hide, scream, it won’t stop. And then it does.
That’s where the strange comfort comes from that 18-year-old old Britts was lacking.
When something you’ve never heard begins a completely unignorable high pitched scream that everything is awfully-completely-incredibly-bad and always and forever will be, it’s hard not to believe it. Then it stops.
And comes back.
And comes back.
It always comes back, somehow it gets through the layers of anti-depressants and anti-anxieties and anti-psychotics and CBT and DBT and coping skills and common sense and reassurances. But it also always goes.
Maybe one day it will never come back. For now, it does, but I know it will end, even if only for moments, I will not die, I am not crazy, my life is not over. For that knowledge, I am more grateful than I could ever explain. I wish 18-year-old Britts, crying in terror in someone else’s bathroom, had known that.
We are okay.
We will be okay.
All my love,