By: Meagan Hardesty
Do you have moments where you cannot think straight due to your calendar overflowing with events? Do you ever feel so stressed that it makes you want to cry, scream, or hide from the world? If you experience these feelings, you could have a high level of anxiety. Anxiety is not brought on only by being busy; it has many other outlets into your life, and sometimes you do not even realize what caused all of the stress and worry. Since I was a young girl, I have been a very anxious and nervous individual. When I got older, I have learned that these feelings are from my anxiety. I am not alone in my fight, although I always feel like I am. After speaking with several other students, I have learned that I am not the only one struggling, but the effects of anxiety can be extremely different for each individual. I want to share a few stories about how others and I handle our anxiety.
As a freshman in high school, I began experiencing dizziness at school and during my cheerleading practices. My mom referred to these episodes as my “dizzy spells.” I wanted answers about what was happening to me, so we sought a professional’s help. On the way to the neurologist, I couldn’t help but think something was wrong with my brain. So many questions swirled around in my head.
What is wrong with me?
Is it curable?
Will this ever end?
After speaking with the doctor, they informed me that I needed to get an electroencephalogram (EEG) test. An EEG test consists of small metal disks attached to your scalp by thin colored wires connected to a machine located around my waist. You have to wear this contraption around your waist for a specific duration of time to monitor your brain waves. This test is used to check for in-normalities in your brain activity. I walked around feeling like a robot for 24 hours, and worried about what people were saying about me and how I looked.
After the 24 hours were up, I got the machine taken off and received my results. Everything was normal. A sigh of relief overcame my body. I asked the doctor, “What is wrong with me then?” She looked at me with a neutral expression, not worried or excited. She deduced my attacks to be panic related. Puzzled, I stared at her.
“Panic attack?” I said
Then I thought to myself, “I am not panicking about anything.”
She pointed out to my mother that I could not sit still. I was constantly fidgeting. My legs swinging from the chair, looking around, and fiddling my fingers. The doctor suggested I try an anxiety medication to help me, but I wanted to handle the problem on my own.
Now I am a senior in college, and my anxiety is just as bad if not worse. My control is slipping through my fingers, and I do not know what to do sometimes. I do not like to talk about it because I feel like society views anxiety as a setback. I still get dizzy spells, go through periods of depression, second-guess every choice I make, and the list could go on, forever. The effects of the anxiety on my physical and mental well-being are very clear to people close to me, but not for people who do not know me well. Everyone sees me as a happy, go lucky spirit willing to shoot for the stars. I have built a barrier around myself and do not show my struggles in a public setting. I have found outlets to focus on to decrease my anxiety such as coloring, crafting, baking. Anxiety is my struggle, but it pushes me to work even harder to accomplish my dreams.
A junior in college, Katie battles with her own form of anxiety. Katie’s friends describe her as a bright and funny woman, who can make anyone smile on their darkest day. She is a shoulder to cry on for many, but this is only on the outside. Katie and I have a similar coping mechanism; we both hide our anxiety.
Katie talked about how she has suffered with anxiety since a young age. The anxiety has transformed into depression. The weight that is put on you when you are dealing with anxiety can sometimes feel unbearable. Katie said, “It comes in waves and would affect me really severely.” She pointed out that when her anxiety hits a low period she finds it hard to sleep. Her mind wanders in the silence of the night and causes her anxiety and depression to worsen, while she over analyses every aspect of her world.
Katie has found that lists to keep organized helps to take stress out of her life and relieve some of her anxiety. “I have found that it is not helpful to suppress the anxiety; I am allowed to cry and feel emotions,” she said. Katie suggests letting people in to help you with your anxiety; anxiety doesn’t just hurt you, but it hurts the people who care about you. “You miss out on life when you let you anxiety rule your life; think about the people around you, who love and support you,” Katie said.
After researching the different types of anxiety, I found that the University of Maryland Medical Center gives a list of Anxiety Disorders which include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Phobic disorders, such as agoraphobia and social phobia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
To me these seem like separate disorders, but I and other students experience several of them in our lives. If you are facing similar situations, don’t be afraid to reach out to love ones or professionals. Sydney, a junior in college, says, “You’re not alone. More people suffer from anxiety than you realize.”
Words of Wisdom
Here are a few words of wisdom that some students would like to offer others living with anxiety.
Brooke: “If you need help, ask for it; No one will magically know that you need help if you do not ask.”
Emma: “If your anxiety seems unmanageable, speak to your primary care doctor about it.”
Taylor: “Do whatever makes you feel comfortable; never be embarrassed by your anxiety, and not every method will work, but when you find the one that works for you then your life will feel normal again.”
Sydney: “Anxiety is a chemical imbalance, and it is not your fault.”
Anxiety is not something that will change overnight, but it is something that will get easier to handle over time. When you seek help, no matter in what form, you can conquer your anxiety. Be yourself and do what is the best for you. Always remember this quote:
“Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.” – Unknown
Attached are two websites that may help you with managing your depression or find help.