Friday, July 15, 2016

Anxiety, I win today!

I've never hid the fact that I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, but I've also never really delved too far into the subject either. After years of battling an exhausting battle and discovering how many people actually suffer just like me, I'm done down playing the toll it takes on me mentally and physically. I'm ready to bare all and in doing so hope I can move toward beating this invisible monster.

I had my first panic attack at 18. Having no idea what a panic attack was I thought I was dying. The world slipped away from me, tilting and fogging, my heart pounded against my chest harder and faster than it ever had before, and no matter how hard I tried to calm down, I couldn't. I lost control and as a control freak I had never been so scared in my life. My life changed from that moment on. The daredevil teenager I once was now was scared of her own shadow. Everything scared me and I think mainly because I was terrified of going through another episode and losing control of my mind and my body.

For years, I have struggled with overcoming the power my anxiety has on me and sometimes I'm successful. I can go months without feeling anxious, without feeling fear with every step I take, and I consider that a win, but then there are other times I simply lose. And when I lose to anxiety, it becomes an all out battle to do the simplest things. I shouldn't have to spend an entire day telling myself it'll be okay just to meet up with my girlfriends for dinner. My heart shouldn't beat uncontrollably every time the phone rings and it's someone who doesn't call often. My mind shouldn't automatically assume the worst in every situation. I shouldn't live in fear to walk around my block alone because what if I have an attack and I pass out and there's no one there. (Keep in mind I have never passed out in my life, but this is a very real fear for me and for no reason other than my anxiety tells me it is.) I shouldn't think every ache and pain is something far worse than a simple ache or pain. I shouldn't have to wake my fiance up in the middle of the night because my anxiety wakes me up from a sound sleep gasping for air and freaking out. I shouldn't have to plan around my anxiety. I shouldn't have to walk out on my friends because when an attack hits and fight or flight takes over I always chose flight. I should be able to do what I want to do without being scared.

People that have never suffered from a panic attack or anxiety always say to me, "Just let it go." Don't you think if it were that easy I would? Do you honestly think I like feeling like this? Do you really think that I want to spend my life avoiding situations that I once adored out of fear I'll have an attack? No. Of course I don't. I want to say screw it and say yes to all the things and live an adventurous life, but I can't because I'm not in control. See, my anxiety controls every single thing that I do. It's tiring and it's depressing and if I could flip a switch and turn it off I would. Believe me I would do it in a heartbeat. I don't have that option. It's not as cut and dry as you think it is. If it was, my life would be much easier. Every day tasks wouldn't fill me with fear and panic.

Last year, I hurt my back and I hurt it pretty badly. The doctor basically told me he had never seen such a severe back injury in someone my age. I have two herniated discs in my lower lumbar that are pressing against the nerves and sack of my spinal cord. Awesome, right? This injury has only fueled my anxiety. My physical therapist warned me against going to the beach because it is not a stable environment for my back and told me if I was lucky I maybe could get back to mountain biking in a year. I've been suffering back pain since I was 16 and just accepted it as part of my life. I dealt with it. But that July day in 2015, that pain that brought me to my knees and held me hostage until I was able to crawl to a phone for help, scarred me. It added a new layer to my anxiety because I was terrified of doing something that would cause that knee buckling pain again. I never want to feel that ever again.

Before I was hit with my first anxiety attack I was as adventurous as they came. I was the first in line for a roller coaster, I dreamed about sky diving and white water rafting. I wanted to travel the world and see all the things. Anxiety stripped those dreams away from me. It stripped me of all the pleasures I found in going places and experiencing new things. Instead of looking forward to new adventures I fear not being able to get through it without freaking out. I fear ruining the experience for the people I'm with. And you know what? I am sick and tired of letting anxiety control me. I know I can't flip a switch and turn it off and I know that it is a part of me. I've accepted that. But what I don't accept is letting it control me. Letting it decide how I'm going to live my life. That should be my decision. So I'm taking a stand. I'm ready to kick anxiety's ass! It's not going to be easy and I know there will be days when I fail miserably, but I need to try. I can't sit back anymore and let it call the shots.

So I've decided that once a week I'm going to do something that scares me. Something that would set my anxiety off and send me spiraling into a panic attack. Whether it be something as simple as going for a walk by myself or going somewhere new with friends. I'm going to do it. I'm ready to fight back.

I'm going to document my progress on Instagram with the hashtag #AnxietyIwintoday and I welcome everyone who suffers with anxiety to take part. It is an uphill battle, but I'm willing to fight now. If you're willing, I'll be delighted to stand beside you and cheer you on! You don't have to do it alone.

I lost my life to anxiety but I'm going to get it back. No matter how long it takes, one step at a time, I will get it back.