The first time I had an anxiety attack I thought I was dying. I couldn’t breathe, my tongue felt tingly, my hands felt like pins and needles, my ears were ringing, and everything was going black. I started to freak out. I was in full panic. The ironic thing is I had been pretty suicidal up to this point. I was 15 and wanted to die. At this point I was still religious though so killing myself wasn’t an option if I wanted to go to heaven; but now here I was thinking I was dying and begging not to.
My mom took me to the hospital because she had no clue what was going on. She called 911 in fact and they came and got me and took me to a hospital where they did an EKG and ran tests. Turns out I was just an anxious kid and had so much on my mind that I broke it, not broke but it needed a rest.
This specific event changed my life because now I had to live with this. I never knew where they were coming from or how long they would last or when they would happen. The worst part was I never knew where I would be when it happened. They happened often that year and each time I would hide it and go off into a bathroom or somewhere alone and just freak out until it was gone; not sure if I was having a heart attack or an anxiety attack until it went away.
Eventually I learned to deal with them and I could breathe my way out, even if I was in public. I also started drinking heavily and doing drugs at this point, so I think a combination of that made my mind wander in other ways. I gained a lot of fake confidence and started telling myself I was this incredible person that everyone needed to know. How embarrassing is that? I believed it too. I was so full of shit back then, but at 16 and 17, you don’t really have the foresight to see how equally important everyone other than you is.
This point in my life was pivotal because it really molded who I became as an adult. I got my partying and drinking out of the way so early that by the time I was 21 it was old. It was just old going out and getting fucked up and then trying to find a way home or a place to sleep. I lost a lot of friends because of that. Little did they know, and little did I know at this point, that anxiety was turning me into a recluse. Th more I stayed home and said no, the more comfortable I got being private and introverted -the more going out looked scary. It was too much to deal with.
Losing all those friends and seeing that no one was there to stick by me -even my closest friends- was hard. It was why I left Colorado. I was silently screaming for help and no one heard me. I don’t blame them. I didn’t know what I was doing at that age. I’m still learning. We who suffer from mental illness always think everything is so noticeable and people are just ignoring us. That wasn’t true though. I should have been vocal. I should have asked. That was my fault and I wish I would have known that then. I know at least one of my friends would have been there. I don’t know though. I wonder now, if they read this, if they would have known what to say or if they would have just told me to look on the bright side and try to stay positive and that I needed to force myself to go out. My real ones stuck around anyway even though they didn’t know how to deal with me.
That happens so often with mental illness. We don’t understand it, so we tell people to stay positive and to just make ourselves do things. It works, and it doesn’t. You appreciate the attention and the support but its always short lived because eventually people get sick of dealing with your mood and they tend to disappear. Not everyone, but a lot of them. You have to just move on and move up because those people weren’t meant to help you in that moment.
You’ll learn from this blog how much I hate clichés like, “look on the bright side.” It might be my most hated saying. It’s so easy for people to say to you when they don’t know how to deal with what’s going on. It’s lazy. Its said by people who don’t care to try and understand and offer any actual support. It’s a thing people say so they can feel like they tried and because that’s what works for them. We aren’t all the same though. We are all different.
We are all different, but we are not unique. I say that a lot these days.