I’ve shared a little, very little, of how I have a history of anxiety. I don’t like to talk about it much, for fear it could bring my anxiety back. But lately, I’ve seen more and more people writing about their experiences, and I feel compelled to share mine. Not because I want you to visualize me rocking back and forth in a corner. But I want the shame that is associated with it to go away. There shouldn’t be any embarrassment, or stigmas attached to people who suffer from anxiety disorders.
My anxiety started shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001. I was a flight attendant at the time for Delta Airlines. And soon after September 11, I was having a hard time getting in the car to drive to the airport for my scheduled flights. I started having heart palpitations, shaking, shortness of breath, and sheer panic on a weekly basis. When Delta offered the voluntary leave, I was the first to accept the time off.
I thought the time off would make these new symptoms go away. But instead, things got progressively worse. It wasn’t until someone suggested that I might be having an “anxiety attack” that anxiety even crossed my mind as a possibility. My anxiety was bad. It was getting to the point where I would rarely leave my home. I was constantly wondering if, and when, the next attack would come on. I was trying everything and anything to understand why this was happening and how I could get it to stop. Ultimately, it was medication that helped me get control of my life.
It’s been almost seven years since I’ve stopped taking my anxiety medication. Just when we decided we wanted to have kids. However, I’d be lying if I said I was completely free of anxiety now. In fact, there are days were I can feel it coming on so quickly, I have to find a way to get control before I get to my point-of-no-return. I still have a hard time getting in the car and drive to the mall by myself. Even when I know I need the alone time. It took years for me to realize that “alone” was not an ugly word. That I was not going to die. Even at my worst moments.
That photo above? That was one of the best nights I have had with my husband. We had a wonderful evening in Napa, staying at one of the best Bed & Breakfasts around, and had just come back from an amazing dinner. Little did I know, just a few hours after that photo was taken, I’d have the worst anxiety attack of my life. For no reason. There was nothing my husband could do, but helplessly sit and wait it out with me. So we waited for it to pass, because they always do. But I realized, I could no longer allow it to sneak up on me, and get the best of me. I would do whatever I needed to do to get better. My fix didn’t happen over night. I still have days that I struggle with anxiety creeping back toward me. I don’t ignore it anymore, and I don’t let it get the best of me. I stare it right in the face.
Anxiety is horrible. Feeling shame because you experience it is wrong. I’m not ashamed as I once was, maybe that’s why I can handle myself better than the thirty-something me did. The forty-something me says, I don’t care who knows. Chances are, the person sitting next to you might be anxious today too.
If you are suffering from anxiety, don’t be ashamed. Talk about it. I’m no expert, but I do know the more you talk about it, the more help you have around you, the less you’ll feel alone.
A huge thank you to Emelia for sharing her story. It’s because of her, that I had the courage to share my story.