My First Experience with Anxiety

One Evening, My Life Changed Forever

What comes to your mind when I say anxiety disorder? What about diabetes or heart disease? I am not an expert on diabetes or heart disease but from what I understand, when you have diabetes, your pancreas is not functioning properly.  Obviously, heart disease affects your heart and circulatory system.  What about an anxiety disorder?  Does it just mean you get nervous?  Absolutely not! Just like any disease, something in your body isn’t doing what it supposed to do.  When you have an anxiety disorder, part of your brain isn’t functioning correctly.  Have you ever known anyone with diabetes or heart disease that kept their medical issue hidden from others because someone might think they’re crazy?  How about anxiety, panic disorder, depression, or bi-polar disorder? Do you often hear people openly talk about having any of these conditions? In my personal experience, I could count the number of people that have told me they have a mental disorder on one hand.  Why is that? I hear numerous people talk about other health issues on a daily basis.  I am not proud to say that  I was no different, until now. I have hidden my condition for years, only telling my family and close friends what I have gone through since I was a little girl.  I have felt ashamed, “weird”, and like people will think I’m “crazy” if I tell them.  I am ready to talk about this because I know many of you go through the same thing, and have similar feelings of fear and shame, that I have experienced.  I have lived with this condition for nearly 40 years.  I consider myself an expert on this subject and now I want to help others!  I would be surprised if someone told me an experience they have had with this disease that I wasn’t familiar with or had not experienced myself.

I Began Having Symptoms When I Was About 5 or 6 Years Old

I wasn’t diagnosed with an anxiety or panic disorder until I was in my early twenties.   I began having symptoms when I was about five or six years old.  I sometimes wonder if my symptoms as a child were brought on early because of the tragedy we experienced as a family when I was only two years old.  We lost my 9 month old brother to complications from a heart defect.  I learned about death at a very early age and being a sensitive child, I didn’t take it well.  I used to worry about other family members being taken away from me.  When you are a young child, your family is all you know.  All I knew was one day my brother was with us, and one day he was just gone, and I would never see him again.  How is a child supposed to comprehend this? All I knew was my mom, dad and older brother were with me now, but who knows about tomorrow.  At the age of five, I worried and made myself panic about them leaving me and never coming back.  It got worse at night.  I would scream in terror because I thought they were going to die and leave me like my little brother did.  Thinking back now, and knowing the agony my parents were going through, how could I have done that to them? That had to have made their grieving process so much more difficult.  As I grew, my anxiety lessened but never went away completely.  I would say I was a very normal teenager and my anxiety didn’t affect me much at that time.

I was married the summer before I turned 19 and got pregnant with my first child a few months later.  Although, these are all life changes I welcomed, it was a huge adjustment and I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed.  Then one evening, my life changed forever.

I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I decided I was going to go to the grocery store to pick out a roast and bake it with some carrots, onions, and potatoes.  I was going to surprise my husband with a big meal and I was even going to make dessert.  The roast was prepared so I put it in the oven and started working on my dessert.  As I opened the bag of chocolate chips, a feeling of panic struck my entire body, almost like I was struck by lightning.  I started shaking uncontrollably and as my chest tightened, I felt as I was struggling for each breath.  I was able to organize my thoughts enough to pull a kitchen chair out to the living room and sat down as I dialed for help.  I got a hold of my mom and I told her something was wrong with me, and to come over quickly.  The adrenaline was rushing through my body so I just rocked back and forth because I had nowhere to go.  If someone didn’t get here quick and get me to the hospital, I figured I was going to die.  My mom came in and tried to calm me down.  I think she knew I was okay, but there was no convincing me that I wasn’t dying.  We headed to the walk-in medical clinic.  Everything checked out okay and the doctor told me I was having a panic attack.  Because I was pregnant, he did not offer any medication to calm me down.  I asked if there was anything to help because this terror I was feeling wasn’t going away. He gave me a shot of a medication similar to Benedryl.  It calmed me down instantly and I knew I was going to be okay.  I finally felt normal again….until I started worrying about this happening to me again.

What was your first experience with anxiety, panic, or any other mental disorder? How did you get through it?  Do you have a lot of support?






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