For as long as my memory can reach, I have been incredibly anxious. Anxious to the point of where I could make myself vomit out of fear. To me and my family, it was a “quirk”. I thought everyone experienced that anxiety. No one could guess it, I hid it pretty well: I was heavily involved in theatre and choir and was a very good student. I was bubbly and quick-witted. I only realized that Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) was abnormal in my Psychology course my Junior year of high school, and that I was experiencing the symptoms.
Then, the summer before my Senior year hit. One night, I had the worst panic attack I’d ever experienced. I shook uncontrollably and my breathing was rapid. My heart was pounding and I felt sick. This lasted for weeks. When I wasn’t feeling this, I was depressed. I stopped caring about everything I once held dear. I couldn’t sleep or eat; I lost several pounds in a few weeks. I began showing symptoms of agoraphobia and OCD, cleaning my shower faucet constantly and having feelings of panic when even thinking about leaving my house.
I couldn’t turn on the TV, go online, or read, and my sweet cat suddenly just seemed like a dumb animal that wandered around my house. My dad didn’t ever really notice. My sister told me to suck it up. My mom noticed my weight loss and thought I was becoming anorexic and was concerned about my overall personality shift. I couldn’t articulate the pain and fear I felt, and felt an incredible loss for the person I once was. I began to contemplate suicide.
I thought of jumping from the upstairs balcony to the hardwood below in my house. I thought of turning my car into oncoming traffic while driving. I thought about sticking a paper clip into the electrical outlet in my room. I just wanted it all to stop. Suddenly, I had a pang of a different kind of sadness; I thought of how much my death would devastate my mother, possibly to the point of her feeling this or contemplating death.
I slowly walked up to her in her bathroom one morning. I took a deep breath and told her: “Mom, I’m suicidal and I think I really need some help.” She slowly turned to me and said: “When do you want to go to the doctor?” “Today,” I said. “Right now. Mama, I don’t want to leave you.” We went to the doctor that same day, where I was diagnosed and prescribed antidepressants and panic inhibitors.
I told my dad and sister the same night, after swallowing my first pill. They were surprised and saddened that they hadn’t noticed how much pain I was in. But they supported me, after many tears and hugs. I was truly nervous at how they would respond; they were always people who believed feelings of any sort could be overcome by mental will, and I had, too. I was ashamed that I wan’t strong enough to do it myself.
But I realized I had a disease. Who could expect someone with diabetes or cancer to just “will the disease away”? I was ashamed for a while, but I never will be again.
Today, it’s been months since my last panic attack or suicidal thought. I still feel depressed sometimes, but never to the degree or length I did. I love my cat and family again, and have made new friends and rekindled old friendships. I’m an honors student and going to college in the fall. I’ve overcome my agoraphobia to the degree that I’m going to Europe in a week! I’ve regained weight, got a new haircut, and rediscovered my religion. I’m incredibly happy.
I’ve never found the person I used to be, but that’s okay, because now I’ve become someone even better.