Anxiety disorder is not scary
This post is a first-hand account of the experience of suffering from anxiety disorder. It has been shared to help be self-aware and spread awareness of how anxiety can feel like, how it is often not diagnosed, and that there is help and therapy available to live a fulfilled life. The purpose is to understand and accept while removing the associated fear, myths, and stigma.
Slowly, I also found the root cause of my anxiety.
- Parental divorce in my childhood
- Long-term separation from parents
- Extreme internal insecurity
- Easily anxious
- A failed marriage
- The shadow of divorce
- Work pressure
- Perfectionist personality
A series of reasons led to my long-term depression and excessive psychological stress.
My emotions were not well ventilated, and I finally suffered from anxiety disorder after a slight cold.
Before I had anxiety disorder, I scoffed when I saw words like anxiety disorder or depression. I always thought it was sick and trivial. Like me, I’m sure many of you have only heard of anxiety or depression but don’t know much about it.
Suppose you have friends or relatives who are unfortunately suffering from this disease. In that case, I hope that my story can make you understand more about their pains to help them get out of the gloom as soon as possible.
I seem to be sick, but I don’t seem to be sick.
One night in December 2018, I was reading a book at home after work as usual when I suddenly and inexplicably felt my heart racing. I felt my heart thumping as if the whole heart was about to jump out.
My heart was beating faster, followed by rapid breathing, and slowly I felt like I couldn’t breathe. At the same time, my hands and feet were also numb and shaking, palms sweating. The whole body was weak, and a strong sense of imminent death came to face. It was as if I had fallen into an abyss, and I wanted someone to save me.
I was in a state of panic. I rushed to call the emergency number and gave my address. I was soon taken by ambulance to the emergency room, and I ran a series of tests. About three hours later, the full lab results came back.
But to my surprise, the doctor told me, “Your labs show everything is normal, just a little cold. You don’t have any life-threatening condition! You can go home now. If you are unsure, you can stay in our observation room overnight for observation.”
I asked the doctor why I was like this, and he couldn’t answer. After I followed the doctor’s advice and spent the night in the observation room with no abnormalities, the doctor gave me a box of medicines for a cold, and I went home. After a night of tossing and turning, it turned out to be a false alarm.
Although all the tests were acceptable, I still felt uncomfortable. I was often feeling dizzy and had headaches, chest tightness, and panic attacks. I was also feeling tired and restless. I was afraid that I would still have the same symptoms as last time and faint or die. This uncomfortable feeling lasted for more than six months and made me toss and turn.
I was so scared to go into the elevator that I had to talk to my friend on the voice phone before I dared to go into the elevator. Even when I went to the bathroom to shower, I checked in with my friend because I was afraid I would faint!
To find the cause, I went to the hospital for various tests: blood tests, electrocardiogram, Doppler ultrasound, videonystagmography, MRI of the cervical spine, and so on. But all the tests showed that I was not sick.
The doctor’s diagnosis was that there were no substantial lesions in the organs. It was considered a plant nerve dysfunction caused by excessive stress. I was advised to relax and strengthen my physical exercise to enhance my physical fitness.
Everyone has fear, but people don’t know where it comes from, and that’s what’s scary. Thus, I worked hard during the day with great mental pain and often cried at night.
When I was desperate, I thought about giving up my life and dying. But I was afraid that my family and friends who loved me would be upset, so I persevered. I know I seem to be sick, but I don’t seem to be sick. What is wrong with me?
I was finally diagnosed with anxiety disorder
At the end of September 2019, I had another panic attack on my way to work. My heart was beating fast while I felt like I was having trouble breathing and about to suffocate.
I was taken to the emergency room by ambulance just like the first time. After a series of tests that still showed everything was normal. Everything was as expected. The difference was that this time I had my mother with me and was no longer alone.
Although the tests were acceptable, I knew my condition was severe. It was the National Day holiday, and my sister-in-law asked us to go out for a get-together. I suddenly found myself afraid to go out, and the only way I felt safe was to stay at home.
I was afraid of crowds, cars, and all the sounds of the outside world. So I cautiously said to my mother, “Mom, why don’t we go see a psychiatrist tomorrow!” When my mother saw the dazed look on my face, she also realized the seriousness of my condition and said to me, “Don’t wait until tomorrow. We’ll go to the psychiatrist this afternoon.”
After lunch, I walked out of the house accompanied by my mother. As I walked down the street and saw the hustle and bustle of people and listened to the passing sirens, I felt dizzy and panicked to the extreme.
I took my mother’s arm and took a taxi to the city’s specialist psychiatric hospital. The doctor listened to the description of my condition and sent me for a series of psychological tests and vegetative function tests. The doctor soon confirmed the diagnosis.
The doctor said my illness is anxiety disorder. The two previous episodes were called “panic attacks” in medical terms. I asked the doctor why I had anxiety disorder.
The doctor said that there are many causes of anxiety disorders. Some patients are anxious. And if they suffer a major emotional trauma, such as the death of a loved one, a failed marriage, or work stress, which can easily trigger anxiety disorders.
Generally, the patient is in a state of high tension for a long time before the onset of the disease or in the form of long-term internal repression. The emotions are not reasonably ventilated over time, leading to the outbreak of anxiety disorders.
This anxiety is not a simple emotion, but a long time with obvious physical body symptoms, such as dizziness, chest tightness, panic, insomnia, etc. And the patient always fears that something impossible will happen.
In severe cases, panic attacks may even occur. Anxiety disorder is a psychological disorder where no actual pathology occurs in the organs and is neurosis. It is one of the highly prevalent psychological disorders at present.
It was the first time I understood what anxiety was. It also made me understand the origin of my fear. It turned out that I was sick.
Start taking medicine
The doctor recommended that I should be hospitalized for systematic treatment. Still, because of financial problems, I asked if I could start with medication. The doctor said that if I couldn’t be hospitalized, I could only take medication first.
The effect of the medication was immediate. Within a week of taking the drug, my sleep improved a lot. Before it was difficult to fall asleep, I usually lay down for one or two hours to fall asleep.
Also, my sleep was light, and I woke up quickly. After taking the medication, I fell asleep very quickly, and the quality of sleep was much better than before.
Although I still fear anxiety attacks, I am not as overwhelmed as I used to be because I know it is anxiety disorder.
I would make profound breathing adjustments, drink some hot water, relax my muscles, and give myself positive mental cues: relax, it’s okay. Twenty minutes later, the anxiety would relieve itself.
And so, I slowly accepted the disease and learned to live with it peacefully. I no longer feared its arrival, and I told myself it would not endanger my life. With the dual effect of medication intervention and psychological adjustment, my body felt more relaxed than ever.
Luckily, I hardly felt any side effects from the medication.
From October 2019 to September 2020, I took my medication every day on time and in the exact amount prescribed by my doctor without a single day of interruption.
My condition is also slowly improving and stabilizing, and my physical somatic symptoms are slowly disappearing. The headache and dizziness were very much relieved, and the chest tightness and panic attacks disappeared.
In September 2020, I stopped taking the drug altogether. The withdrawal reaction was not significant, which meant that I could gradually regain my health without relying on drugs and self-psychological regulation in the future.
Face the fears and learn to self-regulate
During my illness, I searched for a lot of information about anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorder is a psychological disorder. Some people are strong inside who can be treated without medication. They heal themselves simply through psychological regulation.
Suppose your condition has seriously affected your work and life. In that case, I still recommend seeking medical help from a professional hospital promptly. Then each person should choose between medication or counseling according to their actual situation.
Medication can only play a supplementary role for a mental illness like anxiety, but more psychological regulation is needed. Use a solid heart to face the fear and overcome it. In addition, exercise can also help patients get rid of anxiety and depression.
It has been over a year since I stopped taking the medication in September 2020. My condition has fluctuated occasionally during that time, although my somatic condition still has not entirely disappeared.
But I have learned to face, overcome and conquer my inner fears and slowly engage in self-healing. Anxiety is not scary. We all have to believe that the gloom will always clear, and the sun shines in.
The Author Sophia Yuan, has a Master’s degree in Psychology, and has been working in the mental health field. She is associated with the platform www.sandaki.com, for people to share their stories about depression and anxiety.
The personal account above and facts are provided by Emma Keane.