In recent days, I’ve seen fellow bloggers and friends share their stories and it has inspired me to share a little bit more about myself…
Now before I give my take on the issue, I would like to just preface with that I am obviously not a doctor nor am I speaking on behalf of everyone who has suffered from anxiety, I am simply sharing my story and what has worked for me (:
Ever since I was young, I’ve favored structure and set plans, very, very much. I’ve been known to overthink many situations in my life but figured I was just more of a worrier than others. But the thought of labeling that worry as a “disorder,” never crossed my mind.
5 years ago, I was beginning my first week as a college sophomore. The work load was light and all was well! I grabbed my first coffee of the school year and headed to the library. About half way through my cup, I noticed my heart rate was accelerating by the second. A few moments later, my throat felt like it was closing in, and my chest tightened. I thought, “whoa, okay maybe I’m just getting jittery because I drank too much, too fast.” Unfortunately, for the next 12 hours, I experienced this same ugly feeling. Throughout each class, I could barely hold my pen up to take notes, I had to step outside several times to get some fresh air, and my stomach was in knots! By 8PM, I was legit scared. What the hell was going on? It couldn’t have been the coffee, because coffee was my lifeline freshman year! I wasn’t stressed about school or really anything in particular so it couldn’t of been a panic attack, right? I was left so confused as I never experienced something like this.
The next day, I figured I would try a new Green Tea the café offered. And within the hour, BOOM! The same sh*t happened for hours on end! At this point I couldn’t help but to feel frustrated and wonder what this was?
For the next three days, the symptoms came in waves…3 hours here, 5 hours there. It was pure misery. I literally could not take it anymore.
I went to see a doctor and explained my symptoms and past history. Since caffeine was a common denominator in the past week, she explained that caffeine has the ability to exacerbate anxiety and other stress-related signs. The symptoms I was experiencing was in fact panic attacks but she was surprised I had never experienced one prior to this week. Since she was unsure herself why this was, she suggested I try this antidepressant medication (one, I can’t remember the name of) which, “would alleviate all of the symptoms”. If I continued to have the symptoms after two weeks of use, she suggested that I continue with it. Now I did zero research prior to going in but was so desperate to feel “normal” again, I agreed on taking it. I was so ignorant on mental health and pharmaceutical drugs I had no idea what I was in for. Those following weeks were some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.
I believe it was around day 3 when my entire mood shifted. Naturally, I am a social extrovert. Especially in school, I loved being outdoors near our beach and meeting up with friends in between classes. I remember as each day passed on this medication, I found it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. I was becoming sad and found little to no energy to go to class or work. Since mental health or antidepressants were such an unfamiliar topic to me and to be honest, taboo, (especially 5 or so years ago) I did not share what was going on with me to my friends or even my roommate. I would hide my medication and take it only while she was not home. I remember cancelling on friends with a BS excuse, all because I simply did not have the energy to get out my apartment. I had difficulty in explaining how I felt to my mom and told her I just did not feel myself. But I kept with it for a number of days after because I legit feared of having another attack.
It was day 12/14 when I woke up in the AM, to dark thoughts. I could not take it anymore. This was not me. I rushed myself to urgent care and told the doctor what I was thinking and how terribly awful I felt while on the medication. I demanded I was taken off of it and at this point did not care if an attack came on. These thoughts were not worth it to me.
She then explained how medication may not work for everyone and then suggested I try alternative methods like meditation, counseling, outdoor physical exercise, journaling, and of course, ditching caffeine altogether.
Just the very next day, I felt back to myself again. As happy as I was because of this, I was also just as upset that this mental health professional immediately prescribed me medication. As I did further research and educated myself on the matter, I found that the alternative methods the Psychiatrist suggested to me after the fact, should have been the first line of treatment.
All this to say, since then I have not experienced panic attacks to that capacity. Every few months or so, however; I do still feel an attack coming on so I will now share what I’ve learned from those few counseling sessions and what has worked for me with dealing with the constant “worry” or anxiety of the day to day.
- Cut out all caffeine: coffee, decaff coffee, green tea, iced tea, Matcha, etc.
- This one has been so hard for me, lol! I miss coffee sooo soo much but an 8 hour attack is not worth one cup of goodness.
- Meditate: In your own space, group classes, outdoors, etc.
- Briefly talk yourself out of it: May seem easier said than done, but I just talk to myself in third-person in attempts of centering myself again.
- For example: “Jasmin! You will be okay, just breathe. Relax, take a walk, you’ll be fine.”
- Spend more time outside: Going outdoors, especially in the midst of an attack, def distracts me in the moment and without realizing, the attack often goes away.
- Distract yourself: I found that by focusing all my energy and efforts into an attack, often times makes it worse. Acknowledge it but still try to move on with your day and plans.
- Realize that worrying will not change a situation: This one, of course is a work in progress for me but it is pertinent to remind yourself this.
The list can go on and on, but I wanted to highlight those that have helped me the most. I’m aware treatment is by no means, a one size fits all solution, and that I do not suffer from crippling anxiety or have even faced severe mental health issues, but my hopes are by sharing my experience, I can at least start a conversation. On a general basis, I think our society focuses so much on physical health yet the topic of mental heath still remains in the shadows. Let’s all be proactive in looking after our own mental health as well as educating ourselves on such a sensitive topic. Xo