It was shortly after my 21st birthday and into the wee hours of the morning when it first happened.
Shooting to sit up straight in the center of my bed, suddenly I found myself overwhelmed with the sense of immense pressure pain that took over the left side of my chest and arm. The more I tried to figure out what was happening under the light of the red glow from my alarm clock that read 3:02AM, the harder it was for me to catch my breath.
Jesus, am I dying?? Falling under demon possession? It is technically “The Witching Hour“.
This is why you shouldn’t watch Horror films before bed, kids.
The only thing in that moment that made sense was to get up and begin pacing the room harder than James Brown at the Boston Garden. BIG mistake.
The feeling only intensified and left me running in blind panic to my grandfather’s room and announce that I was having a heart attack. Known to be
slightly overdramatic a little quick to conclusions at that age, my gramps decided to give me the benefit of the doubt. And a Bayer, because “that’s what people his age do” in moments of this crisis. Nothing. After ugly crying through describing more symptoms, I was then rushed to the hospital where after countless questions, breathing techniques and medication I learned I had a full-blown anxiety attack.
While majority of anxiety issues can be situational, the cause of my abrupt attack was similar and a slow build. I was coming up on the one year death anniversary of my grandmother who raised me, working in a toxic environment with even more toxic friends to match outside the workplace, under financial pressure to help with extended family and eating and drinking like garbage to cope with it all. Roll it up into one, big, ugly ball of panic and SURPRISE!
You feel the worst. You think the worst. And you are, well: at your worst. My occasional outbursts prior to this night began to make more sense. Being released from my discovery at the hospital, I was sent home with fresh papers and a prescription for anxiety medication. All should have been right in the land of medicinal world but I soon went from normal to girl, interrupted to Stepford wife realness. My wanted schedule consisted of sleep, sleep, and more sleep. I couldn’t carry on a conversation and didn’t care on doing so. This immediate effect went on for a little over a month before it was decided after consulting my doctor this medication wasn’t for me and eventually just to deal with things the best to my natural abilities before taking other prescription measures.
After making adjustments to my friends, my work, my health, and being open to the idea of therapy my anxiety overall took a backseat in my life where that bitch belonged and all was okay in my mental world.
Craziest thing about anxiety is that is never truly goes away and sometimes like to bring its’ friend along, depression. Affecting over 350 MILLION worldwide, it could be anything to trigger this companion. Loss of a passion. Loss of a loved one. Loss of a relationship. Loss of job. In my case, it was a pinch of everything but sugar and spice. Sometimes, it could be nothing wrong at all from the outside. We humans are made up of so many chemicals and beings our bodies more times than not are a mystery and at moments are worst enemies. And when it comes down to this, things can get crippling and downright scary. Where do you turn when the source of the problem is in your own head? Whatever the source, it’s never one to be ignored and severely dangerous. This year alone, the suicide rate is at its’ highest it’s been in 30 years.
It’s not just cheesy lyrics to some 80s teamwork song, communication literally makes the world go round. And the start to everything. Get out and talk to someone–whether it’s your doctor, a friend, a family member, a therapist, the nice lady at the Popeye’s window, or even a complete stranger. Opening up to someone you don’t know in everyday life about your thoughts and feelings are sometimes easier, and lifelines like the National Suicide Prevention (1-800-273-8255) are open 24/7 and free. However, not always easy to get a hold right away. Thankfully, most states have local crisis lines available that are less congested and hold support meetings in the area if needed.
YOU FEEL ANYTHING BUT, UNDERSTAND YOUR NORMAL
Agreeing to take medication to help deal with anxiety and/or depression or both makes you none the less fabulous than the rest. If anything, it makes you real, And honorable, for knowing there is a problem and to get help accordingly. Finding the right prescription can initially be trial and error, but crucial. Personally coming from an African-American household, mental disorders aren’t a thing that’s openly addressed or supported outside “just praying about it” and giving it to religion.
You are not crazy, weak, or going against anyone for deciding otherwise.
TURN DISORDER INTO TRIUMPH
Medication or not, taking the driver’s seat of your situation is key. Assess the cause of the issue and adjust accordingly. Toxic friends that are terrible more than a treat? Bye Felicia. More eye rolls than the zeros on your check of workplace you feel miserable at? Time to get on the job hunt.
And the primary key to feeling good on the outside? Feeling great on the inside. Join a fitness club. Go for more runs and watch the sunset. Eat more green things and less sugar. Have regular chats with someone wiser than you. Hell in the era of YouTube, even WATCH regular chats with someone wiser than you. Changing up your routine will do wonders for your mindset.
All in all, no situation is forever. Bad times don’t last, and they’ll always undermine to the good ones. And yes, it does get better. Anxiety/Depression don’t go away but they’re controllable in more ways than one and at the end of the day, you hold the power to how it’s going to go.
And remember: If Britney can make it through her worst, so can you.