There are many things I am proud of in my 22 years of life. Having anxiety doesn’t exactly make the top of the list, but it is what it is. Living with anxiety has been far from easy, but after 2 and a half years of battling it, I am finally comfortable enough to share my story.
I suffer from GAD – General Anxiety Disorder. While I used to be incredibly embarrassed by that fact, the more research I do, the more I realize that I’m not alone. Most people don’t see this as a big deal because it’s not life threatening, (thank goodness!) and because it can’t be “seen.”
Unfortunately there is such an unfair stigma against mental health. There’s so much more to it than what meets the eye, and I’m ready to share that without ANY shame. So, let’s dig just a little bit deeper shall we?
What Does It Mean To Have GAD?
Firstly, what does it mean to have anxiety? Well, to be honest, there’s a different definition for every sufferer out there. For me, having anxiety means chronic worrying, self-doubt, and over exhaustion of nerves. The simplest of tasks are daunting and we simply have no control over those feelings.
How Does Anxiety Start?
There’s really no concrete answer to this. Anxiety can occur at any time to anyone, for any number of reasons. Most commonly, anxiety is triggered by not producing enough serotonin in the brain (also leading to the cause of panic attacks). There’s no rhyme or reason for this. Sometimes, anxiety is genetically inherited, other times it literally just happens.
In my life, I experienced my first panic attack on my 16th birthday in Disney World. Disney freaking World….of all places! I was having a FABULOUS time and my family and I were waiting for dinner at Planet Hollywood, when all of a sudden, this overwhelming sense of terror consumed my body. At the time, I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was that I had to escape, somehow, someway. When it finally passed, I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I hoped to never experience that again.
Flash forward to February 2013 and once again, out of nowhere, I had the absolute worst panic attack of my life. It was a 2 hour ordeal and from that night forward, I was changed. What was once a rare occurrence became a daily battle. I went into hiding. I distanced myself from my family and friends. I lived in constant shame and self-loathing for having this medical condition. Anxiety was like the big bully on the playground, just lurking around every corner waiting for me. My biggest fear was people finding out what I was going through and judging me. I was way too embarrassed to ask for help, and I thought I could handle it on my own.
Unfortunately, I experienced two major tragedies in a short period of time and my anxiety became worse. It started to affect my health in ways I NEVER expected. After losing both of my grandfathers within a year of each other, juggling being a full time college student, and a large support to my family, my white blood cells began to go through the roof. I had to see a hematologist and it was by far the scariest moment of my life. After ruling out some life threatening disorders (leukemia, etc), I was terrified I had, I discovered that anxiety can raise your blood cells dramatically. And so, the time came for me to get some help and begin to heal myself. I realized by fighting against it & not helping myself, I was only going to become worse. I began to seek counseling and start medication. That moment was the best decision of my life.
For the first time in the LONGEST time, I could breathe. I could resume a normal, healthy lifestyle again. I could go out with my family and friends. I could do all of the normal things that I wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s something that doesn’t just go away overnight. However; I’ve learned to accept it. Anxiety and I are by no means friends, but we are no longer enemies either. There’s so much more I could say about this illness, but each and every person experiences it differently. I will say this though; the journey I’m on is unique. Anxiety will always be a part of it, but I know I can overcome it. I know I can survive it. This is MY life and my anxiety can’t have it anymore.
Thank you, Allison for being so brave and sharing your story! Mental health is such a big issue, yet hardly discussed - especially on social media. Every person is affected by their illnesses differently and each journey is unique. The more we talk about this and share our experiences the more informed people will be. We can also learn how to support and uplift those who have these disorders. We know Allison is not alone in her struggles, and we would love to hear more from our Be Bonafide community about your personal journeys with mental health and any other storm you've learned and grown from. You are not alone, no matter what you are dealing with. Love yourselves, because we already do!
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