I remember being in high school and having anxiety attacks, although I didn’t know what it was at the time. I remember having such a hard time writing tests, essays, even just staying still for an hour and a half class. I remember leaving class out of nowhere, screaming/crying, hearing screams in my head, shaking. I can still picture me hiding in the corner of the front foyer, hoping no one would come up to me and start talking. I wish I knew what was going on at the time, wish I knew that the teachers knew, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so trapped and maybe my teachers wouldn’t have thought I was crazy.
When I went to the doctors in the middle grade 11, I got diagnosed with anxiety. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but looking back, it makes sense. After my diagnosis, the staff at the school was a bit more accommodating and understanding. But it still wasn’t great. Even though I never struggled in school academically, I struggled to get to the end emotionally. Thankfully, I had a great support system.
As I left high school and started college, I became more independent. Not only in the school setting, but in general. I feel free. All the rules in high school made me anxious. Having educational assistants with me all the time made me even more anxious. I felt too pressured. Like I was going to explode. It caused too much anxiety to act on someone else’s terms. Now I can do my own thing and not be told what to do, not be pressured while doing assignments, no unreasonable restrictions. I love it and am way more productive this way.
Since I started college, I have my own life. I am in charge of everything and have my own priorities. Before I was not allowed to go out or take bus by myself, but now I have more freedom. No one telling me what I can or can’t do. No one triggering my anxiety by making me feel trapped. There’s a difference between natural anxiety and anxiety due to someone else causing it. No one causes me anxiety anymore so therefore I don’t act out, explode, and yell at them. Nowadays, my anxiety is out of anyone’s control. I’m less tense, less angry, less pressured. I can’t explain how much better I feel nowadays.
Well maybe better isn’t the right word. But now that I know for a fact that I have anxiety and the fact that I am older, I know what triggers it, why I’m having an attack, what to do, what to avoid etc. And now that I know that, it’s not completely out of control. I recently started an anxiety workbook. It has activities in there that help me learn more about MY anxiety. Activities include writing down: triggers, variables, physical sensations, thoughts during an anxious situation, things I avoid, safety behaviours, other thoughts that trigger anxiety, and other difficulties I have besides my anxiety. The book goes on to explain some techniques I can use to calm myself and get over fears but I haven’t got that far in the book yet.
Why is it important to know these things? That’s exactly what I thought before doing these activities. Anxiety is anxiety. But as soon as I finished the first couple questions, I felt good. I have a way better understanding of my anxiety because I narrowed down every specific thing that causes me to have anxiety. It’s no longer “I’m having a random anxiety attack for no good reason because I’m crazy”, it’s “I’m having an anxiety attack because of ________ and I can fix it/calm down by doing ________”. I wrote down everything that causes me to have an anxiety attack. No matter how silly they may seem. And what I can do to prevent my anxiety or calm myself down.
- Situations where escape is difficult
- Being anywhere in my manual wheelchair – use motorized chair whenever possible
- Being alone in an usually busy space (ex: empty halls) – be quick in these places
- Being alone at night
- Waiting – find shortest line, avoid getting places early
- Being around nuts/seeing nut item wrapper – wipe tables, put my food/pop caps on top of something else that is mine, avoid eating at events
- Recent bad news stories
- Thunder – stay away from windows
- Tests – make sure I have enough time, do easy stuff first, find out what’s on it before
- New people
- Writing in public – write in quiet rooms or in corner where no one can see my screen
- Seeing people I’m in a conflict with – avoid talking/looking at them
- Elevator doors – stand right near elevator door so I can get out first
- Tight deadlines – do work right away
- Unusual pain – get pain checked out
- Time, anything to do with time
- Worry about friends – always be talking to them/checking in on them
- Worry about friends being mad at me/losing them – always ask for reassurance that they’re not mad at me and still love me
- Certain guys – being alone with any guy
- Crowd of people walking my way – avoid busy halls/aisles
- Other people’s houses – hang out at my house or somewhere else instead
- Crossing the street – crossing less streets as possible, not crossing a street with no light
Fortunately, there are other ways to deal with anxiety besides avoiding a situation. Avoidance may seem like a good way to go. But when it gets to a point where it effects your life or an aspect of your life, avoidance can become your worst enemy. For example: some people fear getting in a car so they rarely go anywhere, or some people fear meeting new people so they turn down/miss opportunities/experiences. Below there are links to my blog posts about different techniques that might be help. All of these don’t work for everyone and they won’t work right away. They all take time and practice. Be patient. Just click on one to find out more!