I’m a 22 year young woman living in Croatia, classical guitar player and teacher, passionate nature, music, art and life lover, giving my best to feel comfortable and happy in every aspect of my life so basically a huge hedonist. Oh yes, I was also diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and have panic attacks from time to time.
The reason why I mentioned my anxiety issue last is that I absolutely HATE to be known for having anxiety! It has nothing to do with shame or being afraid, I simply know that there is so much about me, so many things that make me who I am and anxiety is just one little negative part of me that I am trying to completely delete.
Now when I look back, I see traces of anxiety since I was a child. I remember my first panic attack when I was 4 years old when I had to go take a blood test. A few years after, when I was 7, I was bullied in elementary school and I would feel sick and nauseous every single morning before going to school. In this period I even got asthma which I never related to the bullying until a few years ago.
It all resulted with my parents sending me to another school. From that point on I had no traces of anxiety anymore, except during exams, playing concerts in the music school that I attended or traveling (which I love but it still does make me feel anxious).
I of course had problems, both emotional and mental, but they didn’t make my life harder in any way, I would feel anxious, push the feeling somewhere deep down inside me and continue walking through life like that.
This changed in 2013. I went through a terrible break up with my ex fiancé, I had to move to a place which I hated to make some money. I didn’t manage to get into the university which I really wanted to study in. This all resulted with a lot of tension in my family. The worst thing was I didn’t escape from the town I hated living and working in. Instead I had to return there defeated.
As hard as I tried to push these feelings under a rug, I simply couldn’t. One day in August I was sitting with my best friend in a café when I felt sick, I couldn’t breathe properly, my head was pounding and I fainted. After that I started having anxiety and panic attacks every single day.
I was afraid to leave my house, I couldn’t go out with my friends at all because I was afraid of feeling like that night and fainting again, I feared the day when the school year started and I would have to move to the awful town again to work as a teacher…
I don’t know how did I managed to go through every day and not tell anyone about my fears. To be honest, I didn’t even know what anxiety was and I didn’t think of the possibility of having it myself. I just thought I was going insane and I hoped it would stop by itself.
From August 2013 till now, I had two extremely bad anxiety and panic attack periods. The first was in September 2013 when I did move to the town again. I was lying on my couch, thinking about how I hated being there and how I hated how my life turned out. My whole body started shaking, I couldn’t breathe or move. My heart was pounding so hard that I was sure I’m going to have a heart attack. These sensations lasted for a few hours. I had one panic attack after another. Finally I fell asleep from all the exhaustion.
The next morning I didn’t feel any better so my mum had to travel 150 kilometers to pick me up and bring me home. I remember being so tired and fed up with everything that I didn’t even care about losing my job, going to a mental institution or whatever, I just wanted it all to stop no matter what it takes.
My parents didn’t take me to any institution and I didn’t lose my job, but I did get on my feet again and decided to fight every single day until I got a better job that would, as I thought, make everything related with anxiety go away.
That did happen after a few months, but moving back to my hometown and starting a new job after winter vacation made me feel the same way as I did in September. When I refused to leave my apartment for 2 weeks, I realized that my anxiety wasn’t triggered only by me hating my job.
I had my dream job now. I was living in the city where I wanted to live but I was still unable to do anything!
This is when I realized I had to change something drastically. I realized I had anxiety. I started writing my blog and got in touch with many people dealing with the same problem. I realized that my doctor wouldn’t help me because she claimed it all being an adolescent phase and that I just had to learn how to deal with problems. So I tried homeopathy, and what I found most helpful was practicing mindfulness. I still work hard on it every day, on focusing on “The Now,” breathing, meditating etc. I find that changing my mindset towards mindfulness changed my life completely for the better.
Today I am unfortunately unemployed (it had nothing to do with anxiety issues though), but I would be happy to work again. I still fight anxiety on a daily basis but I swore not to let it control my life. Yes, I do feel awful when I have to go out and do something important, but I don’t care- I make myself do it no matter how bad I feel and eventually I catch myself being really happy!
I also paid a visit to a CBT therapist a couple of weeks ago and she gave me a huge kick to make even faster progress when she explained a lot of my physical symptoms to me. I realized that I would be even better now if I had the courage to ask for professional help earlier!
I unfortunately live in a country where no one openly talks about mental issues. They are still covered up and a lot of stigma is around it. Well, I was always a rebel and trouble maker, so I decided to be one when it comes to mental health too- I have no fear of telling anyone who I meet about my anxiety and explaining what anxiety is. I want everyone to realize that we have to open up to educate people on mental health issues. We need to let them know that we’re not crazy. We just have a problem that we’re dealing with and that doesn’t make us unreliable or not trustworthy in any way!
Maja was born in Zagreb, Croatia, educated to be a professional classical guitar player. She is currently unemployed but worked as a guitar teacher for two years and is hoping for doing it again. You can read everything about her fighting with anxiety disorder and other life situations on her blog, www.myownchallengeblog.