My Anxiety Story:
For years and years I suffered in silence thinking I was one of the rare ones living with anxiety.
I began having panic attacks several times per day after my anxiety was caused by smoking marijuana. I know what some of you are thinking, “Hey! Marijuana is barely even a drug.” Well, for me – I trip balls.
There is actually a term called marijuana induced psychosis. So,when I was “tripping balls” I was, in fact, experiencing things like hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. I was always the one in my group of friends who was able to get higher than everyone else and sometimes people thought I was faking it. I wasn’t. Marijuana use can actually be a catalyst for anyone prone to mental health issues.
I never experienced anything until the night I finally went over the edge. My boyfriend and I smoked a joint together and the next thing I knew I was riding in an ambulance believing I had a heart attack or was near death. I remember thinking I could taste blood in my mouth and it was somehow pumping out of my heart into my throat.
My parents arrived at the hospital and I scared them with the things I was saying. I fully believed I was having a near death experience and was seeing white lights. I swore there were other people in the room and I was singing gospel hymns to all the nurses who came into my room.
What I didn’t know was I was very much alive, yet this would be the start for a lifelong battle with anxiety.
For the next two days I remember sleeping and not much else. I was so tired. My body was weak and I could barely speak. I remember at one point, around 24 hours after getting home from the hospital, I had a major panic attack coupled with more hallucinations. I looked out my back bedroom window and thought I saw a massive forest fire in my backyard. I couldn’t breathe and felt like I had a ton of bricks on my chest or like my heart was going to explode. I thought I could smell smoke. The whole sky was orange. I passed out.
It took me about two weeks to get my energy levels back to normal. No one really asked me any questions about how I was doing, and I was surprised there weren’t any rumours flying around my high school about what happened to me. It seemed everything was swept under the rug and talking about it was just embarrassing for everyone involved.
At first I didn’t understand what was happening to me when I would have a panic attack. I was completely convinced I was dying in these moments. I was going to suffocate, my windpipe was swollen, I was having a heart attack (this is a major one for me), my lungs were collapsing, obviously that headache was an aneurysm and I was going to die quietly at my school desk surrounded by my peers.
Night times were the worst. I would lie in bed and wait for my heart to finally give out. Instead of dying I would eventually fall asleep and wake up the next day exhausted, yet relieved.
Sometimes my panic attacks were indescribable. There would be no physical symptoms like the crushing weight on my chest, instead I would have an overwhelming sense of dread. I felt like I needed to scream, but if I screamed to hard I would shatter.
Eventually all of this undiagnosed anxiety and worry spiraled into depression. I was only 17 years old, yet I lived with this for almost a whole year before I asked my Dad to make me a doctor’s appointment. I was either dying of something that I wanted to get checked, or I wasn’t and I wanted to know why I felt this way.
The most difficult question the doctor and my Dad asked me was, “Well, what are you so anxious about?”
I had no idea. It was everything and nothing all at once.
I couldn’t even articulate what my panic attacks felt like other than like I was dying, had a weight in my chest and couldn’t breathe or my heart was going to explode. Yet, in the middle of a panic attack these feelings don’t necessarily feel so concrete. There are almost no words to help someone fully comprehend what a panic attack feels like. It is such an internal struggle, someone who doesn’t experience them can’t really understand what they are like.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety. I was told hallucinogens are not my friend (as if I ever wanted to touch drugs ever again at that moment) and I was given medication for anxiety and depression and also a prescription for sleeping pills. At the time I thought this would solve all of my problems, but it turns out popping pills doesn’t help me too much.
After a couple of months of taking these medications I knew I still didn’t feel right. I went to a different doctor who told me I was highly over medicated. At 17 years old I was taking sleeping pills and two different types of anti depressant and anti anxiety meds – both of which are very strong. This new doctor decided to take a more holistic approach and gave me advice for different vitamins and minerals to take.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant at age 18 that suddenly I was able to focus on something else other than my anxiety. The anxiety had literally been on my mind every waking hour of my day for almost two years. During my pregnancy I stopped having panic attacks. It was a break for me, but it was not the end of my struggles.
I have found myself on and off medication a few times, actually. I have tried lower dosages, different brands/types of anti anxiety and anti depressants, but what has kept my anxiety at bay the most has been physical activity and healthy eating.
I had no idea how good I could feel until I took care of myself physically. This is why my bootcamp classes are such an important part of my life. My mental health depends on them for a distraction, the endorphins, the socialization I get to experience and so many other things.
Once in a while I will have a panic attack. I have found that working through them with mindful breathing, massaging pressure points and meditative practice helps more than if there was a person beside me trying to comfort me. In fact, my husband knows to leave me be when he sees one coming on.
I still have generalized anxiety, but I definitely also have triggers. If I procrastinate, if I take on too much responsibility, when I worry about failure – these things can all trigger my anxiety, but now I find it manifests itself with anger more so than panic attacks. I work through these moments with laughter (really, I do) and realizing I have complete control over these moments and I can change their outcomes.
I am really looking forward to our talk tomorrow. I will be live-streaming on Facebook through our facebook group: Waking up Thirty: The Wandering Tribe (click here to join) at 7pm and we will be talking about anxiety and how we can live fulfilling lives with it.
So many of us are suffering in silence and it makes no sense. If you take a look at some of the stats for anxiety in Canada, it is obvious that this mental illness affects so many of us.
It is mind blowing, isn’t it?
I hope to see you all tomorrow in the live stream! Get your questions or your discussion points ready and join in.
You are not alone if you feel you are suffering with anxiety.