Stigma Fighters: Phil S.

“This too shall pass.” – Anonymous

When most people think of anxiety, they think of being nervous on a first date, or seeing someone for the first time in five years. Not me. When I think anxiety, I think waking up every single day for the past fifteen years absolutely terrified for no apparent reason. I even think having such violent panic attacks that I lose my hearing and vision. Most people even go as far as to call that crazy. Fifteen years later, I realize that I was at no point crazy, but rather living with anxiety – a bad case of it.

My name is Phil. I’m a twenty-year-old-college student from West Virginia. My mission is to teach others about anxiety from what I, myself, have experienced for most of my life. I have been diagnosed with just about every anxiety disorder under the sun. I have been made of fun of and I have been called crazy. But at the end of the day, I’m thankful for my anxiety, as it has made me into the strong person that I am today.

My anxiety started when I was about five years old. I remember being so nervous for my first day of preschool that I felt like I was going to throw up. The feeling stayed with me even when I got to school. I would cry my eyes out when they separated me from my mother. At the age of only five, I was put on Zoloft, an antidepressant. It helped my separation anxiety, but turned me into a child-zombie. I was often so zoned out from the meds that I would quietly sit in the corner while the other kids played.

As I progressed into elementary school, I noticed that my anxiety got even worse. My separation anxiety skyrocketed for my first year of kindergarten, and then eventually disappeared. My anxiety shifted into a more generalized, unnoticeable state, and I began to constantly overeat. By the time I was in first grade, I was nearly one hundred pounds. My friends didn’t even recognize me and even made fun of me for being so overweight. I would remain being overweight for the next thirteen years because of my anxiety. I didn’t even understand that my anxiety was causing me to be hungry all the time. By the time I got to fifth grade, my anxiety had slowly decreased.
When I finished fifth grade, my parents relocated me to a local public school and I immediately had to rebuild my life. I became very nervous and awkward around others because I was so shy. It took me the entire year to make myself comfortable around the other kids. I became quite comfortable in middle school and even became fairly popular. However, like elementary school, this was short-lived.

Upon entering high school, my anxiety became pretty bad initially. I attended a boarding school in Massachusetts, and this was my very first time being away from home. I missed home a lot, but, luckily, one of my friends from back home ended up attending the same school. As I adapted to boarding school, I loved it. I became popular, had tons of friends, hung out with all kinds of people, and even had my first serious relationship. It was a dream-come-true, and I thought it was the end of my anxiety. Wrong. My parents ended up moving me to another school after only a year of being in boarding school. I hated my new school. There wasn’t anyone there that I really enjoyed hanging out with and my girlfriend was back at my old school as well as all of my friends. Eventually, I became so distraught that I stopped going to classes. My parents withdrew me and put me back at my old school. I was ecstatic. The next two years of my life were nearly free of anxiety and I made friends and memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Surprisingly, I didn’t end up graduating. A situation arose in my family that required me to come home. Being a big “family person,” I went home without hesitation. What I didn’t know at the time was that this split in my path would lead to the roughest period of my life. I remained home for two years and spent most of those two years playing video games, writing music, and watching TV. I barely had anyone to hang out with. I would even Skype with my friends from my old school just to socialize with someone. When I went to a concert with a friend during this time, I experienced my first panic attack. I wasn’t even aware of what it was and thought it was a one-time thing.
As I got ready to go to college, I was confident and felt great. I quickly found out that I was anything but. I went from being by myself to being surrounded by fourteen thousand other students. The first day of being there taught me that it would be the biggest struggle of my life. Daily panic attacks became routine for me and it got so bad that I would skip class and isolate myself. This went on for my entire first semester. Eventually, I overcame my anxiety, ended up joining a social fraternity, and had the best time of my life.

How did I do it? Meditation and The Linden Method were two of the biggest contributors to my success. Tai chi (recommended in The Linden Method), yoga, and pilates also worked wonders for me. These exercises involve a lot of breathing and are awesome for getting tons of oxygen to the brain. Recent studies have proven that not getting enough oxygen to the brain can result in terrible anxiety. For those who don’t have the time or space to do tai chi or other exercises, meditation works wonders. Meditation is extremely effective because it not only lowers your heart rate, but increases the amount of GABA, an important calming agent, in your brain. Meditation is also extremely simple to get into and Youtube has loads of amazing meditation videos. The Linden Method introduced me to many of these methods. The Linden Method is an anxiety relief program developed by Charles Linden, who suffered from severe anxiety himself, in 2007. It works by offering many instant methods to relieve anxiety, while, on the other hand, reprogramming your brain and attacking the source of your anxiety, neutralizing it. This program has changed my life and tens of thousands of others’ forever. You can find a detailed review of The Linden Method on my blog, Getting Over Anxiety.

It took me nearly fifteen years to realize that going to the doctor was the worst choice I had ever made. Doctors teach us to live with our “illness” or “condition,” when, in fact, we never had one. Don’t make the mistake of believing that you are living with some incurable “disease.” Don’t believe that you are crazy. In fact, remember that to feel crazy is sane. Anxiety is a normal subconscious reaction to traumatic events that we have experienced. We often end up focusing on this so much, that even though our anxiety is gone, we develop anxiety over the initial anxiety.

Motivation is key. You don’t deserve this and you can and will overcome this. Remember that anxiety is terrified of someone who is ready to stand up and take control of their life. Believe in yourself – it’s your greatest weapon.

image

About Me: My name is Phil. I’m a twenty-one-year-old college student from West Virginia. I love blogging, writing and listening to music, my two dogs – Zeus and Penny, and, of course, my family and friends. Anxiety has dominated my entire life until the past few years, and I refuse for it to ever do so again. Be sure to follow me on my website, Getting Over Anxiety, where I post daily content about tips and tricks that led me to success.

My blog: http://gettingoveranxiety.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GOAnxiety_Phil

  • http://www.IndigoBridges.com/ Catherine Simmons

    Hey Phil, after reading your post this line summed up your experience for me…’Anxiety is a normal subconscious reaction to traumatic events that we have experienced’. Too true! We also vary in our inherent sensitivity to those events. More listening and social support and less clinical ‘band aids’ seems appropriate. You’re a great example to young folks out there.. Thanks for sharing 🙂