Life isn’t easy and I doubt if anyone who has been around a while doesn’t know this. For those of us who suffer with anxiety, we especially know what it is like to struggle and often times find ourselves in emotional pain over the fact that our fear seems to stand in the way of success.
We who have experienced either rational or irrational fear, often see ourselves knocked down and often wonder if we can manage to rise above the obstacles that we ourselves may seem to create. While not purposely creating friction for ourselves, it often times seems as if we are standing in our own way. At times we may even feel stripped of our pride; feeling unable to do simple tasks in life due to our anxiety taking over.
For those of you who suffer from anxiety there may come a time in your life where you are in a situation that you can’t really get out of and that might make you feel anxious. When I was in New York for a Model UN conference we weren’t allowed to leave the room during voting procedures and that made me really anxious and nervous, because my first thought was “What if I have a panic attack? I can’t leave.” I was only a little bit anxious before that because of the huge crowd in the room in addition to feeling extremely socially awkward, but that thought really increased my anxiety levels. I had to help myself remain calm though, because there comes a time where you can’t remove yourself from a situation no matter how much you would like to sometimes. When I get into these situations I try to take my focus off of how anxious I am, even if it’s really hard, I try to focus on something else. In this case I was lucky enough to be sitting with someone who was
hilarious, she made a joke out everything and that really took my focus off of how anxious I was. It can be focusing on something as small as a fly buzzing around, music, or a movie if you can, focus on anything but the thing that seems to make you anxious and the anxiety itself.
There are times, however, where we need to get better and fast. There are times when we must summon all our strength to pull through the dark clouds of worry. This can be hard when our minds so deviously seem to convince our bodies that we have physical ailments, even though we are actually quite strong. So how do we do this? While we may have supportive friends and family, there will be times we will need to depend solely on ourselves. In fact, most of the time we need to depend on ourselves. What do we do? What do we do when we are so afraid that all we feel we can do is cry and hope that somehow this draining of tears will make us stronger?
We remember our times of success, we remember we are strong and that we are just giving into the symptoms of anxiety, and we find the strength to carry on. We focus on our goals, on plans. We think about TV shows or movies; playing them out in our mind. We try to focus on work or on school. Most importantly, we try
to focus on what we are doing and not on our feelings of fear. This is not always easy but giving up is not an option.
Sometimes you have to face your fears, the things you know in the bottom of your heart that will most likely make you panic, there might come a day where you’ll have to face it. If you have such extreme anxiety to the point of being unable to leave your house, that’s definitely something you have to face. If you never face fears that are stopping you from doing things, that’s no way to live a life, in my opinion at least. I’m afraid of public restrooms that are just like the single person rooms, to the point where I have to have someone else check it for me first, but I’m not going to pee my pants because I’m afraid of the bathroom. I’m also afraid of flying but I remain calm on every flight I go on, I put in my headphone, pull out a book, and pretend I’m in the car. I’m not about to let my anxiety stop me from seeing the world and I don’t think anyone should. For me if I plan everything to a tee, it takes away a lot of anxiety for me, there’s not much
unknown then. I have one life, and I’m not going to let my brain stop me from doing everything I want to do, and if everyone has that view I think the barrier will become a little smaller. There may be times when it doesn’t work out and you freak, but the times you don’t will be so rewarding.
If you experience panic attacks often you might try to pinpoint what triggers the worst of them. For me I find crowds a huge one, however that doesn’t mean every time I’m in a crowd I have a panic attack and it also doesn’t mean the only time I have a panic attack is in a crowd. I thought for a while if I can avoid my triggers I can avoid a panic attack, well that doesn’t work very well because sometime triggers are unavoidable and are tricky to pin point. For a while there was a time that every time I went to church I would feel incredibly anxious and sometimes I would have a small panic attack, but I couldn’t not go to church even though I thought it was a trigger. Triggers can be hard to pinpoint and even harder to avoid the most of the time. At least in my own experience after trying to find these only cause me to stress out way more than I should about it, which also causes me to have more anxiety, the opposite of what I’m trying to accomplish.
While it may be helpful to know what your triggers are, it might not be worth the struggle to try and identify.
With how many people suffer from anxiety it is likely that sometime in your lifetime you will encounter someone suffering from a panic attack and this is a piece of advice that anyone can take away from this post, help them. Don’t let them be or ignore them, ask them if they need anything. Sit next to them wait for them to say something. Unless they stop breathing or pass out, you really don’t need to worry, what they need is a calm person, so stay calm. It is so crucial that you stay calm so that they know that everything is okay, if you start panicking it will not help them at all. Get them what they ask for, if they need water get them water, if they need a tissue, get them a tissue. Find them what they need and they will start to calm down. It might be weird to you at school or at a restaurant that someone is experiencing a panic attack, well it’s probably common for them but they still might need some help. A lot of times someone suffering from a
panic attack can’t get out of the situation, and in this case, please never look at them like they’re crazy because chances are they already feel that way. If you’re at a restaurant and someone is sitting on the floor do not stare, in case you were unaware social anxiety comes from being out and about and people staring at you, it’s only going to make things worse. Offer to help them if you look at them and if you don’t want to help them again DO NOT STARE. If someone is in the hall at school (a common stress for many) offer to help. They are your peer, and they aren’t weird or crazy, they’re anxious. Chances are you’ve probably been anxious in school to, school is a stressful place and even more so for someone who has anxiety and then again even more if they suffer social anxiety. Don’t assume someone else will help them, don’t think that a teacher will stop because they might not, you can actually make someone’s day if you help them out. Most
people are not pretending to have a panic attack for attention, and if you do that screw you, never ever “want” anxiety because it’s “cool” it’s not at all trust me, I know. Most people are genuinely having a panic attack and need help, don’t just pass it off because you think they’re looking for attention. Chances are they aren’t. Panic attacks may seem like they last a really long time but I’m pretty sure that I’ve read the longest they can last is 20 minutes, so if you have to sit with a stranger for 20 minutes I don’t think it will kill you. And you might be helping someone out a lot more than you think you are.
Anxiety shouldn’t be taken as a joke ever. It’s a mental illness (even though I hate saying that) and thousands of people suffer from it, some more extreme than others. While everyone experiences day to day anxieties such as work stress, homework, finals, money problems, people who suffer from anxiety deal with all of that plus more. They may feel anxious by doing something as easy as driving, going to the grocery store, or even out to eat with friends. I don’t take it lightly whatsoever when people joke about anxiety because they have no idea what it’s like. While most people will experience a panic attack or two in their lifetime, they will never know the pain of washing their hands at work and having to run out of the building because for what seemed like no reason, they panicked and couldn’t stop. It’s not funny and it never will be funny to make fun of someone with anxiety or even joke about anxiety. This also goes into pretending to have anxiety.
This seems to be some sort of trend now, like pretending to be depressed. Well it’s not cool and it’s kind of insulting to people who actually suffer from it. Please don’t do that, I wouldn’t wish something like this on my worst enemy and I don’t know why someone would pretend to have it.
No matter how hard it gets you really have to focus on your triumphs. There may be days that just suck, days that you think you won’t get any better and you might think that all of your days are just going to be that bad, but they aren’t because you’ve made it that far. There have definitely been times where I thought I wasn’t going to get better, times where I thought why leave the house again, talk to anyone, or do anything? But then I concentrate on all the good I’ve done so far. I missed a class once because I over slept, I could’ve caught the end of it, but I had a panic attack because I missed the start of it. I felt so bad that day, everything felt worse, but I still went to my next class and handed in my work and did a three hour lab. I knew I was through the worst part of my day so I could do the other crap too. Think about all of the times you were on the verge of a panic attack and you finally managed to talk yourself out of it.
Anxiety can be confusing. One day we can feel as if we have never faced the monster that seems to stir within us and the next it may seem as if we will never be okay again. As dramatic as this may sound to some, I think that all too many of us can relate to this statement. Some days, in fact, can be so hard that we feel as if we are defined by our anxiety; as if it is something that cannot be removed and will only continue to grow worse over time. The days described above can be cruel and they can seem to take us down with them, but the key is that we have to remind ourselves that the anxiety will pass and we will get through our anxiety.
But how? How do we get through anxiety? How do we get through the days where it seems that no matter how hard we try, fear is the one to win in the battle that tests our strength and often our confidence? For one thing, when we do have free time, we need to go out of our way to practice facing our fears. We need to take small but helpful steps; steps that we choose and that we are willing to spend time on. We need to give ourselves time to make ourselves better, to improve our lives.
The truth is that we are not powerless in the fight against anxiety and we are also not alone. Fear can be overcome; it just takes practice and patience.