I remember when I first deal with the symptoms of a panic attack. It was on a Tuesday afternoon in early November, and I was having a stressful day at school where I had to pile on multiple class assignments, in addition to balancing working at a newspaper and a library. After a fight with my friend a few minutes after class, I literally snapped. Tears flowed with no sign of stopping, just like the rain that poured onto the rooftop of my Honda Civic. I couldn’t control the tears, nor could I control the crushing feeling that was in the pit of my stomach.
That night, I was lucky to have a place to run to and a person that could comfort me-my good friend Kari. As I sat on the couch where she worked at the time, she embraced me and whispered words of comfort and support.
However, I knew I had a problem.
At the time, I was seeing a therapist at my college’s campus. However, I would always find a reason not to go, because whenever I did go, I constantly would hear the same things: you should take medication, you should do this, etc. I felt like there was a strategic plan, however, this plan was just a checklist, not something that was tailored to me. It made me not want to go.
I thought this problem would go away once December break came, as panic attacks came and more emotional outbursts. I couldn’t be more wrong. I was not happy-in my job, in my love life, in anything. So, I decided that it was time for me to change something.
The first thing I changed was my therapist. When I first met with her, she sat down with me and helped me come up with ideas that would benefit me to help combat my anxiety, such as rubbing lotion on my hands to help me focus on something other than whatever was making me feel that way, or allowing myself to take a break.
The second thing I changed was the job that I was working. Although it was a bit rocky at first, I decided to go from working at a library where I was constantly unhappy, to the accounting office at my campus. The change gave me a chance to work for a boss that was both understanding and drama free, but was a much more relaxed environment for me to work in.
For much of the spring semester, I still experienced panic attacks, despite seeing a reduction in my anxiety. I still saw my therapist, who was working on me to help change my thoughts patterns and methods of dealing with anxiety.
However, the real reduction of stress didn’t occur until May. At this time, I was done with school, and was able to finally get down to learning about how to truly manage my anxiety. And thanks to the support of my therapist, family, friends, my boyfriend at the time, I began to notice a true change in my anxiety, it reducing to almost nonexistence. During this time, I began to learn about myself, what works for me to calm me down, and just made changes to improve my general way of life. I further learned how to talk to myself, and worked on changing my self talk. Soon, the panic attacks became further and further apart.
A few months later, that boyfriend broke up with me, and I had resigned from that job that was giving me stress. You can say that I felt the symptoms of a panic attack brewing. However, instead of fighting them, I allowed myself to feel what I needed to feel. I knew that although right now I wasn’t happy, I would eventually find it. I also decided to do what I needed to do to find that happiness on my own. I made a playlist to listen to whenever I felt the crushing sadness, to help pull me out of that bad mood. I purchased some self help books to help me learn more about myself. And the best part of all? I told myself that I am a strong woman, practically Superwoman, who can handle almost anything.
I’m celebrating nearly two months of not having a panic attack. And the person that I have to thank is none other than myself. Anxiety has taken over my life, but I know that it’s now a losing battle. I am not the label. I can handle the symptoms, I allow myself to do what is right for me, but most importantly, I learned to love myself, and am now leading a semi happy life with people that truly are there for me. For the first time in years, I can honestly say that I am happy and content with my life.
And that’s all matters.
I’m going to leave you all with a quote I found on the Internet: “I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her.” And I fought to become this strong, confident woman. I fought to be happy, and know that I deserve it. But, most of all, I learned that anxiety is just a small part of me, and something that I will no longer let dictate my life.
I am not my anxiety. I am Natalie.
And that’s so much better, don’t you think?