It’s been a while since I have discussed my anxiety because my anxiety has improved so much since I began my medication and healthy habits. I still deal with it daily, but it doesn’t seem as tremendous as it used to feel. So, I’ve been able to focus more on my daily life, travels, and events. I feel guilty though, because I started this blog to bring more awareness to anxiety and mental illness, and I have left it to the wayside lately.
The tragedy in Boston today reminded me of the anxiety and panic attacks I faced as a child. As an adult my panic attacks occur when I am compulsively thinking I am going to die of a terrible disease or when there are major scary changes happening in my life. As child though, they happened when others died and when major scary changes happened in the world.
I was an extremely sensitive child (okay fine…I’m still pretty sensitive), and I couldn’t help but put myself in everyone else’s shoes. If I heard of any tragic story…cancer, death, Oklahoma bombing, the book of Revelations, a sick dog, Princess Di, divorce, etc…I couldn’t handle it.
At night, I would dwell and dwell over the stories I overheard on the news or from the grown-ups around me. I began by crying for the people in the situation. Then, crying because I imagined myself in their position. Eventually, panicked because I had no control and no way to help anyone who was suffering.
I remember the Oklahoma bombing so clearly and I was only 10 years old. What I remember about this tragedy are the stories of the children, and the parents who lost their children. I couldn’t believe such a horrible thing could happen, and I felt heartbroken for those families because I imagined my own parents losing me. I panicked at night because I believed this would just keep happening.
When I learned about the book of Revelations in church (and through a weird brochure some radicals were handing out in the K-Mart parking lot) I had panic attacks for years. I thought the world was ending everyday. I panicked at night because I thought I’d never graduate, have a first kiss, get married, have kids, or have a chance to change the world. I had the most anxiety over my friends. I thought everyone was going to hell and it was my job to save them. At night I drove myself crazy thinking What if they don’t listen? Don’t believe? What if I can’t tell EVERYONE I know about Jesus and the end of times?! What about the kids in Africa!?!?! What about the kids who are raised Buddhist? How can I save EVERYONE!?!?! This isn’t fair.
I even stressed over much smaller things. If I saw a dog on the side of the road that had been hit by a car, I would dwell over the fact that his owners lost their pet. I would create an entire family in my mind and imagine how the little kids must feel when they find out what happened to their dog. By the time I got home, I had imagined a name for the dog, his owners, and their lives together. I now realize my compulsive thoughts started a very long time ago.
There seemed to be something tragic happening everyday and the little girl-me had a lot of trouble handling the world around her. Being extremely sensitive and sympathetic towards other people is a big reason for this, but I obviously suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for the majority of my life. Eventually I learned to deal with a lot of life’s major challenges, but more importantly I learned that I have an illness that can be helped, and I got help.
I wonder how many children in today’s society suffer with the same issues…and what kind of help is available for them.
Today, I cried. Of course. I thought about the fear the runners most have felt. Then the fear their friends and family must have felt. I put myself in their shoes and thought about them all afternoon. I have thought a lot about the people affected in Boston today, but I also carried on. I finished the day. I clapped along with DWTS, and I’ll go to sleep tonight without crying and without having a panic attack.
There is a happy medium. It is possible to be sensitive and not a mess. It is possible to have feelings, be on medication, and not be a zombie. Whatever you might be going through, remember that it can get better, you can get help, and things can improve. It is possible.