I can remember my first anxiety attack as if it was yesterday. I was 11 years old and I was getting trouble a lot in school. I was a very smart kid. I knew all the answers, I just lacked the motivation to succeed. As a result my grades suffered.
I remember studying for a test, and I was worried I was going to get a bad grade. My mom started screaming at me because she was in a bad mood. I couldn’t focus. I started to worry that I won’t have enough time to prepare for this test. Then, I worried that I would forget everything and fail the test. The pressure built, and I begin to worry about my health. It all became too much. I started to break down and cry. I cried for 10 minutes straight. I cried so much that I started to hyperventilate. I went to the bathroom to tried to catch my breath, but I fell to the floor and passed out. My mom heard me fall and yelled at me to get off the floor. When I didn’t respond or even move, she finally calmed down enough to try to help me get up. She wasn’t angry anymore…at least not for a few more hours. This may have been the first time I passed from having an anxiety attack, but it certainly would not be the last.
June 2010 was the lowest point in my life thus far. I was 16 years old and I had suicidal thoughts for about two months. My grandma (who basically raised me until the age of seven) had just died. It was the most devastating thing that ever happened to me. I felt like I lost my mother. It was my senior year of high school and I was so overwhelmed with everything that was going on. I graduated a year early so it was triple the amount of stress that a normal graduating senior goes through. Getting through that time in my life was the hardest thing I ever had to overcome, but because I did I am stronger now than I ever was before.
I wasn’t bullied in the traditional sense, because that would require actual interactions with kids from school. I had no friends. I was invisible. This was much worse than being tormented. I would have preferred that to being treated like I didn’t even exist. At one point, several people bumped into me and kept on going without a sorry or even an acknowledgement that I was in their way. I spent lunch sitting alone doing homework, not eating because at the time I was also struggling with anorexia. The only people who signed my yearbook were my teachers. I have good days and bad months. It feels like I’ve been depressed for 5 years with a few good days in between. I had several small mental breakdowns all leading up to my graduation day, but in the end I pushed through and I made it.
Even though currently my depression isn’t as bad as it once was, I still have problems that come with my anxiety and have also started having problems with panic attacks. It has gotten to the point where it affects my daily life and it wasn’t until last year that I started seeing a counselor to talk about it. I have never taken any kind of medication and that may be partly why I continue to have problems. It’s just not something I want to do at this point. Maybe in the future I will consider it. I believe that I can overcome my issues with coping mechanisms, relaxation, exercise, and meditation. All of those things have helped me out tremendously; more than I would have ever imagined. I took the summer off of school because I was starting to get burnt out, and just being able to relax and not have to worry about a million things at once worked wonders for me. My depression, anxiety, and anger levels dropped dramatically over the course of a few months. Instead of stressing out because of my constant negative thoughts, I was able to (for once in my life) relax for more than an hour.
I honestly think that I put all this pressure on myself. No one has expected me to be perfect except me. I’m my own worst critic and I always feel like I could do better. I feel like if my plate is full that I’m not doing as much as I could, but sometimes I overestimate how heavy the plate can get.
I am a firm believer in “not taking no for an answer.” I also know when to say “this is too much.” Unfortunately, that was a lesson that took me a long time to learn. It was after succumbing to pressure (and almost losing myself in the process) that I found the courage to say “this is all too much for me to handle.”
I am strong young woman, but I didn’t become like this overnight. It took years of feeling sorry for myself, gallons of tears, and so many sleepless nights to get to where I am today. Now I try my best to help others find the courage to stand up to their fears and achieve their dreams. I know what it’s like to cry yourself to sleep because you feel like no one else will ever understand what you’re going through. The truth is: you’re not alone. There are millions of people on the earth who feel exactly the way you and I do, but they are too afraid or can’t ask for help. We all have a choice in this life to do good things or do bad things.
I don’t ever want anyone to feel the way I did: alone, scared, and ready to give up. I know it’s hard to see the light and the end of the tunnel, but it’s worth it to keep moving forward.
Kelly M. is a 21 year old college student studying Psychology, and runs a support account on Twitter for people with depression/anxiety (@Inspire100lives) She also has a tumblr account where she blogs about uplifting and positive messages and images and sometimes opens up about personal experiences. (inspire100lives.tumblr.com)