Sep 18, 2019
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
I started having anxiety attacks at a very young age. I can’t remember any of the details, but I distinctly remember feeling like my mind was leaving my body. Whenever I lost sight of my parents on a crowded street or in a grocery store, it suddenly felt like my limbs morphed into jelly and sank to the ground while my heart did flips in my chest.
I just went on autopilot.
Meanwhile, my mind floated far above me, watching my trembling seven-year-old self from afar. My vision blurred, my brain stopped processing, my breathing became shallow and forced, and I felt frozen and numb. I’d bite down hard on my fingers to try to bring myself back to reality, but it never worked. I couldn’t think or make decisions; I just went on autopilot. Eventually I’d find my parents again and try to forget about what had happened–partly because I wanted to file the scary feeling away forever and just hope it’d never resurface, and partly because I was ashamed.
Even though I couldn’t put words to the paralyzing fear, I knew that it wasn’t normal and that my parents wouldn’t understand.
These episodes continued throughout my childhood and teenage years, and with each passing year, they penetrated into new areas of my life and became more angry and consuming. My “grocery store paralysis” quickly transformed into a vehement and voracious beast that abruptly emerged during exams, followed me on first dates, and kept me ruminating at night.
Eventually, the beast controlled every thought, every decision, every movement, every breath. It fed off its own success and took up more brain space after each win until this vicious cycle became almost all that I was– all that was left of me.
I feel like I’ve continued to lose myself to the beast.
In my sophomore year of high school, I auditioned for the school musical, and after countless hours of anxiety-driven over rehearsing, I completely flopped on stage and forgot the very first note of the song that I had prepared, and then all of the lyrics that followed. I couldn’t catch my breath, let alone try to slow down my zooming thoughts and recollect myself. I was terrified that
I couldn’t stop myself from shaking underneath the blazing spotlight, but more than anything, I felt defeated. I knew that I had lost yet another battle to the beast.
Theatre–which had been my stress release, one of the only things I felt good at, one of the only things that still made me feel like myself–was no longer mine.
Since then, I feel like I’ve continued to lose myself to the beast.
It’s really difficult to remember my joyful, fun moments; I feel like I’m losing my memory and all I ever remember now is how anxious I am. The number of songs I can listen to without feeling anxious keeps getting smaller, because almost every song in my phone gives me flashbacks.
I don’t know who I am anymore.
I’m so irritable and moody all of the time and get frustrated by any unexpected noise or set of plans. I’m scared of driving and having a panic attack on the road. I’m scared of trying anything new, but I find it increasingly difficult to do the things I enjoy, because I fear that my anxiety is going to ruin them forever. I’m more scared of spending time with the people I’m close to than meeting new people because I don’t want the people I love to see how much I’ve deteriorated.
I’m permanently destroying my own body by biting my fingers until there chunks of skin missing and scratching my arms until I draw blood in desperate attempts to not feel frozen, empty, numb. I think obsessively about school and ruminate about things that are trivial and irrelevant to make myself feel like I’m actually accomplishing something. All of my brainpower is consumed by anxiety. My brain is rotting and I am becoming more and more empty. I miss the energetic, ambitious, fearless person that I used to be and I don’t recognize who I am now.
I don’t know who I am anymore, and that might be the most terrifying feeling of all.
However, I think I am very slowly beginning to see the light. With the help of my supportive family, my loving and thoughtful friends, medication, and therapy, I am learning skills that help me deal with my anxiety. I am starting to accept that the beast might always be a part of my life, but by developing healthy coping skills instead of fighting it, I can avoid more suffering and, instead, free myself from its greedy grasp.
I hope that I can start trying new things, taking risks, and reconnecting with myself again.