I suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
According to the Anxiety Disorder Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common “mental illness” in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults. That’s 18% of the American population. Although it’s highly treatable, only one-third of those affected actually receive treatment. I am one of the 18%.
I put “mental illness” in quotes because of the way people use and react to this term. Often I’ve heard “mentally ill” used as an insult. I’ve heard way too many times “are you mentally ill?” thrown around carelessly. Then when I hear that something that’s plagued me my entire life is a mental illness, I can’t help but feel like something is seriously wrong or that what I suffer from is so looked down upon in society. Little did I know that I was not alone in the struggle.
It started when I was about six years old. I had gone to bed just like any other night, but when I woke up a few hours later, I was gasping for air and my mind was racing. I felt like I was dying. I was too young and innocent to understand what my brain was doing to me. Panic attacks like this would continue on and off, occasionally sending me to the hospital, for years. It was in 8th grade that the panic attacks escalated and the symptoms grew from shortness of breath to nausea and dizziness. I quickly developed claustrophobia and the anxiety worsened. Going to school or any public place was not an option. A year later, my anxiety became worse causing me to almost drop out of high school. I had no tools or aid in dealing with the stress from the anxiety and I felt stuck in an awful place. Leaving school felt like the best option but I was encouraged by my parents to figure out what was causing it and overcome it.
I began to see a therapist and take medication to calm the anxiety. I learned different techniques on fighting off any signs of an attack. I began working at Pulsation Yoga and wasted no time in starting yoga classes. I often attended Kathy’s 5:15pm Restorative/Therapeutics class. The studio has always been the perfect place to put aside my issues, relax my mind, and empower myself to fight the issue when it came time to face it. Through yoga I also learned that everyone struggled with something and trying to conceal my own issues only heightened them. Though it was difficult at first, I persevered in my mission to get better and take back control of my life. I learned breathing techniques for when I felt stressed or overwhelmed and I was taught therapeutic poses to relax my body and center my mind. I even went on to become a certified yoga instructor and began teaching classes to teens. At first I sought control of myself, but was quickly inspired by my own success with my “mental illness” and sought to help others that struggled as well.
By opening myself up to others and learning that we’re all up against something, it sparked some bravery in me to be able to talk about it more and inspire others that dealt with the same issues I did. While I don’t regret taking medication and I wouldn’t say that the medication was me cowering away, it weakened me to rely on something I know deep down I truly didn’t need. It helped me find a little stability to actually grasp what was going on and how I could survive without being medicated in the future. We all have fighters inside of us and sometimes it takes a little help in finding that person and letting them out.
I still don’t know what the cause of my anxiety is and I probably will never know. It isn’t something that is going to go away. It’s here with me always but it’s never going to control me again. You can’t tell someone to just get over their anxiety. It’s not something so easily overcome and while it’s “all in my head,” it’s not so easy to get out.
Click here and here to learn more about anxiety disorders and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Click here for more info on Pulsation Yoga.
— MR: April of 2016