Hi! My name is Samantha and I have generalized anxiety disorder. Notice how I didn’t say “suffer from”, as I don’t see it that way. I was, as you would say, “diagnosed” in 2011. I had my first anxiety attack the day before my road test exam for driving. I still remember the night very clearly!
Although I had never experienced anxiety before, a few friends of mine were familiar with the feeling. So, I texted a close friend saying “I think I just had an anxiety attack”, and within seconds I received a call from her.
After that day, they started to come more frequently: during tests, while public speaking, at night time when I couldn’t sleep, etc. Then came college – a major transition for me. I hated change! So, I took it upon myself to seek out a school counselor. She was super nice and referred me to a psychologist. Throughout my entire college experience, I was lucky enough to see the same psychologist who helped me tremendously. However, after my time at college was done, I knew that if I needed more help, I would have to find it elsewhere. And so, I didn’t get help right away. It took a panic attack for me to realize that my anxiety had not magically disappeared, and that I really needed to speak to someone to stay on a good path.
It’s important to distinguish between panic attacks and anxiety attacks – they’re extremely different. In the midst of a panic attack, you literally feel like you’re dying or the world is coming to an end. During my first one, I felt like my heart was just going to stop. I was sitting down at a local restaurant near my house and everything was fine. We had just ordered food and suddenly, my heart started beating really quickly. I decided to excuse myself and went to the bathroom. That didn’t help. I then went outside for some fresh air, but that was no use either. My mom and her friend knew there was something wrong, so they joined me outside and told me “We know exactly what you’re having right now! You’re having a panic attack”. I vividly remember repeating that I felt like my heart was going to stop, and hearing my mom’s reassurances that that wouldn’t happen to a healthy 18-year-old. But I couldn’t convince myself out of it! I told my mom I wanted to go to the hospital, so she took me, no questions asked, because she knew it would ease my mind. The entire incident made me realize that my anxiety was still very present, and that I needed more help. I contacted the CLSC and within 2 weeks I was paired up with a psychologist. I got lucky because some people wait months to see one!
My point here is that you should never feel ashamed to seek help. At one point, I did, and where did that get me? No where! In reality, I should have been getting the help I needed. Although my anxiety is still around and will be for the rest of my life, I don’t see it as a bad thing anymore. I’ve learned that it’s my body’s protection mechanism when it feels danger, and that’s a good thing. Obviously, anxiety is not something you want to have, but I have it and there’s nothing I can do to change that. So, instead of changing it, I’m discovering different ways to manage and cope with it. This way, I can help myself whenever I have an anxiety attack.
I’ve learned that no matter what mental illness you have, it’s not something you cure, it’s something you manage. So please please please, if there’s one thing you take from reading this, it’s to never be ashamed to ask for help.
You are not alone – keep fighting,