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When My Boyfriend Saw Me Having a Panic Attack for the First Time

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When I first started dating my boyfriend, I disclosed to him both of my chronic illnesses, Crohn’s disease and bipolar disorder. I have incredibly low self-esteem and felt like nobody would ever love me. I thought that those who would date me would inevitably leave at the first sign of my anxious tendencies since I can be emotionally draining.

I have been with my boyfriend for three years and have been living with him for one. Last week, he witnessed one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had. He’s always been supportive, but usually my anxiety seems likes nonsense since I worry about the most minute things. This time however, I wasn’t thinking about anything specific and out of nowhere, my body decided to enter fight or flight mode.

I was laying on the couch watching a movie with my two kittens and my boyfriend when suddenly, my throat and chest began to tighten up. My nose had been itchy that day (I’m possibly allergic to our cats). I thought that perhaps I was having some allergy symptoms, so my boyfriend grabbed me some allergy medication. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was, in fact, the beginning of a panic attack. I began to panic the more I focused on what seemed to be a closing throat and stood up to walk around and take some deep breaths. My heart started to race. My boyfriend told me I looked very pale and both of my legs began to shake uncontrollably.

As the look of fear became readily apparent on my face, he came to my side and began rubbing my back and telling me everything is and would be OK. I could clearly see his look of concern and since he’s often difficult to read emotionally, I knew that he must be genuinely worried about me. I try to hide my symptoms as much as possible, but he knows when I start bouncing my legs, get quiet out of nowhere or randomly get into the shower to try to calm myself, I’m panicking about something.

I realized after that episode how lucky I am to have someone by my side that loves me, even if I feel like “damaged goods,” and someone who is not worthy of such an amazing person. There are still times when I ask him why he’s with me because I am so much to deal with emotionally. He always shakes his head and says I’m being ridiculous. He is the only man I’ve been with that I’m not afraid of leaving me because of diseases I can’t control. He’s understanding when I’m too anxious to go to a social gathering, or even if my Crohn’s is acting up and I need to be home near my own bathroom and bed. He may not ever understand what it’s like to feel trapped in your own head, having irrational thoughts that you can’t control or how silly it is that sometimes I can’t even order a pizza over the phone due to my fear of the social interaction. He may get frustrated sometimes and tell me I have more control over it than I think I do, and in turn, it may make me feel weak, even if he’s just trying to help.

For my entire life, I’ve always cringed whenever I got a compliment, but often times, actions speak louder than words with him, and I know how grateful I am to have a partner that truly accepts me for who I am. It was an incredibly stressful and upsetting situation, but I’ve realized that he’s the only person that has ever been able to help me calm down and that really means something.

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Thinkstock photo via Design Pics

 

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The Word I Wish I Had in My Vocabulary Growing Up

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I am 5 years old, running through a crowded school hallway as I search for my mom. My small body cannot hold all my worries inside — they flood out through tears. What if mommy left because she doesn’t love me? Did she leave because I did something bad? Is it my fault?  The tears fall, but the words stay in my head. The adults say I’m just sensitive. Is that what this is called? I wonder.

No, that was anxiety.

I am 8 years old, hiding in an empty stairwell. I grip the railing like a lifeline as my heart beats fast. I was sent to take a message to another classroom, but an invisible force stopped me from telling my teacher I could not run her errand. And that same force stops me now from walking calmly into the unknown classroom to deliver the message to an unknown teacher. So I hide in the stairwell. When my teacher finds out later, she says I am shy. Is that what this is called? I wonder.

No, that was anxiety.

I am 12 years old, starting my first day of school in a new town. The beating heart and sweating palms begin the moment I step on the bus. The blurred vision begins when I step off the bus into hallways so crammed with people that I can do nothing but let the crowd carry me forward. Something stops me from talking to anyone. Something stops me from being myself. And for the next four months, this feeling of panic becomes my only acquaintance. I switch to a smaller school. When I do, I overhear a teacher say I had adjustment problems. Is that what this is called? I wonder.

No, that was anxiety.

I am 13 years old, hanging out with friends. I become the center of attention as I talk nonstop, making jokes and messing around, seemingly carefree and enthusiastic. My friends don’t know that my constant chatter is my way to fill up space because I don’t know how to handle silence, and that my bubbly demeanor is nervous energy because I don’t know how to handle big groups. My friends laugh and say I’m very hyper today. Is that what this is called? I wonder.

No, that was anxiety.

I am 14 years old, answering a text. I type a response. I delete it. I try again. I delete it. After a few more tries, I give up. When my friends ask why it takes me so long to reply, I say I misplace my phone a lot. They say I’m forgetful. Is that what this is called? I wonder.

No, that was anxiety.

I am 15 years old, pacing up and down an empty hallway. I was sitting in class when the sudden onset of irrational fear hit me, the rapid heartbeat, the sweating palms. I ran out of class. Now, I pace the halls. When the bell rings, I go to apologize to my teacher. She says it must be the stress. Is that what this is called? I wonder.

No, that was anxiety.

I am 18 years old, writing this story and now I know what anxiety is. For me, anxiety had many forms over the years, and it was called many things — but underneath, it was always the same. I didn’t have a word for what I was feeling until I was 16 years old. I spent 16 years wondering what was wrong with me, 16 years believing people when they said I was shy or sensitive. But no one ever told me why I was shy and sensitive. No one ever told me it was because I had anxiety.

If there is one thing I could’ve changed about my childhood, it would’ve been adding the word “anxiety” to my vocabulary. If I could’ve had that one word to describe what I was feeling again and again, it would have let me know what I was feeling was valid, that it was a real emotion. And it would have helped me explain that feeling to adults. Instead, I heard a slew of different words to describe my anxiety, and none of them seemed to match exactly.

Whether they are intentional or inadvertent, the small excuses we make to cover up the existence of anxiety, especially in children, need to stop. Because it’s OK to have anxiety — it shouldn’t be a taboo word. And it needs to be accepted before it can be helped.

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Thinkstock photo via Archv.

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19 Things People With Phone Anxiety Need You to Understand

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In a world so connected by instant communication, making a phone call seems like no big deal. Sure, maybe talking on the phone is annoying when you could just send a text, but it’s also just another way to check-in and talk to loved ones.

But for people with phone anxiety, or a telephone phobia, this reluctance to talk on the phone isn’t just because it’s inconvenient or a hassle. It’s a real fear that can take over your life. Whether it’s the anticipation before making a phone call or the uncertainly of picking up, completing certain tasks, maintaining relationships, and even employment opportunities can be affected by this fear.

To understand what people who experience phone anxiety need others to know we asked people in our mental health community to weigh in.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I can answer a call, but some days having to make a call is incredibly hard. Don’t ask me to explain why, I don’t know the rational behind it. It’s just hard. No, I don’t think they will yell at me. No, I don’t understand it. Yes, it’s frustrating and if I could just get over it, believe me, I would.” — Mandie M.

2. “The avoidance of the phone can be highly emotional and unique even within the spectrum of those who have [phone anxiety]. If I am avoiding incoming calls, it is likely due to depression and shame. A simple question like, ‘How are you?’ can fill a depressed person with shame if they aren’t feeling well and can’t articulate why. I would rather not answer the call than lie and say ‘I’m fine’ if I’m not. If I’m avoiding making outgoing calls, it is typically due to feeling overwhelmed. If I must make a call to take care of some task, I may avoid calling because I fear making the call will not simplify my life by checking off the task but complicate it further with any potential follow-up tasks. This anxiety is especially difficult to overcome if it has been continually reinforced by past experiences that validate your fear.” — Kylie B.

3. “Making phone calls is excruciating. I can answer phone calls (usually) no problem, but making them is something I have to psych myself up for. Even texting can be too much sometimes. If I am asking/saying something personal, I may type out the message five times before deleting it altogether. If I ignore you or don’t respond in a timely manner, it’s not usually you. Either I’m not feeling up to talking to anyone or I’m trying to find the right words. Give me time or space.” — Alaura F.

4. “I hate making phone calls, so I adopt a new persona when I do. I literally go into acting mode and pretend to be someone else with my name. Sounds silly, but it works. I’m not Daisy, I’m phone Daisy!” — Daisy A.

5. “If my phone rings and it comes up as ‘unknown number’ I’m not going to answer it. Please leave a message so I know who it was and I’ll make contact with you if I can. People are better off sending me a text message, I will nearly always reply to you then.” — Ali C.

6. “Don’t tell me I’m being ridiculous or pathetic when I refuse to call someone for you, e.g my mother asking me to call a family member to say we’re running late. Sometimes I’m OK making a call, sometimes I’m not.” — Amber C.

7. “Sometimes I need to turn off my phone. Don’t get mad, I’m taking care of me for once.” — Annika A.

8. “I wish my wife would understand how uncomfortable I am talking to people on the phone. I’ve tried explaining myself, but she doesn’t understand how much anxiety it causes me. She’ll ask if I called so and so, and I say no. She gives me the look and does it herself, and I can tell she’s annoyed by it.” — Kevin L.

9. “Just because I won’t answer the phone doesn’t mean I’m idle or lazy. It’s like meeting someone for the first time — you don’t know who they are, or what they want or what they are going to say to you. I need time to mentally process it, and my mind for some reason wants to take a long time on that one. Like an old computer, it needs a moment to think, even if that’s a few days to let the cursor stop spinning.” — Erin H.

10. “When I actually answer the phone, my responses will be detached sounding. No, I’m not angry at you. No, I’m not bored with you. No, I’m not annoyed with you, I just can’t hold a conversation with you. I will give you the most basic answer I possibly can to get you off the phone. If you absolutely want to have a conversation, Skype me. That way I can see your face and read your body language. Also, don’t leave me a cryptic voicemail telling me we need to talk. I won’t call back because my brain already has 100 thoughts of what that conversation could entail, and none of them are positive.” — Kat. P

11. “Please don’t call me unless it’s an emergency. Texting gives me time to process what was sent and lets me have time to respond without pressure.” — Cassandra S.

12. “There are a million and one other things I’d rather do than making phone calls. They are energy-sucking vampires of tasks.” — Michelle M.

13. “Stop telling me making a call is not a big deal. It is to me. What if I don’t know what to say? What if I can’t explain myself properly? What if they don’t give me an answer I want? Are just a few of the ‘what ifs’ taking over my brain every time I need to make a call, and you telling me it’s not a big deal doesn’t make them magically disappear. I can’t explain why I get so anxious to myself, so I can’t explain it to you either.” — Emma H.

 

14. “Quiet space during a conversation makes me ramble.” — Tracy R.

15. “I get really nervous that I’ll mess up what I’m trying to say, so I’ll end up pausing and stumbling over words a lot to try and make sense. I just need you to be patient and understanding with me.” — Rianne R.

16. “Making a phone call can send me into a panic attack. I wish my family wouldn’t call me lazy or childish when I ask them to make a call for me.” — Skye G.

17. “My phone is my best friend and my worst enemy. The thought of having to call someone brings on anxiety attacks. I can’t see people’s faces or body language, and I panic and feel put on the spot. I also have trouble hearing and have to either constantly ask people to slow down or speak more clearly, which gets mixed results. Texting and email are so much easier because I can plan my responses and word things more carefully. If I ever have to call someone I try to write down everything I need to ask or say to help lower the stress level a little.” — Leah W.

18. “If I have to make a phone call, I have to hype myself up for a few minutes to even dial the number. I then write down everything I need to say because if I don’t I’ll forget things because I’m about to have a panic attack. I will not pick up the phone unless it is my mother or father or grandparents. And even then, I get terrified when I see their names on my phone.” — Riley S.

19. “Oh man, I really wish more people talked about this. People always look at me weird or in disbelief whenever I tell them I can’t make phone calls or ask them to call for me. One thing I have found to help though, is having close friends call or calling them myself every now and then — people whom I feel safe and comfortable with. Slowly but surely, by going through the process of calling and speaking to them through the phone, I have found myself slowly able to work up enough confidence to make phone calls to other people. (Still often takes me days, even weeks, to prepare though.)” — Hannah M.

What would you add?


19 Things People With Phone Anxiety Need You to Understand
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Anxiety Is Taking Care of My Child Today

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I took my kid to the park today. No big deal, right? We’ve been doing this since she could walk. She’s even taken quite a few spills, like falling 5 feet off a rock wall and landing directly on her back with a loud thud. She was remarkably unscathed, and continued playing after a quick hug. I think I was more hurt than she was, and I didn’t even fall. She’s collided with strangers, been pushed and scraped her knees countless times. Nevertheless, she persists, and we visit the park over and over again.

I took my kid to the park today. It’s a beautiful, sunny day where we live. It’s really windy, a little chilly, but definitely better than the cold and rainy weather we had just a few days ago. I decided an afternoon at the park was well deserved, so we buckled up, and headed to the one park I figured would be empty. That should have been a warning sign. Why was my mind searching for empty? I drove to the first park and saw a young man sitting on a bench next to the park. I felt panic rising in my throat, and I contemplated turning around. Instead, we got out and headed to the playground. There was a mother there with her two children. I was filled with dread. I got lucky though because all of the slides were still wet, and since it was a small park, it left little to do. I suggested driving to a different one, and she readily agreed. The next park was empty. Perfect. But again, why was my brain searching for solitude? Quiet? Oh well, go play.

I took my kid to the park today. While she played, I imagined every scenario that could possibly happen to cause her extreme harm. I hovered more than usual. “Be careful.” “Don’t run.” “Please don’t do that.” “Are you sure you want to climb up there? It’s really high.” My fear was only escalated by her slipping and falling several times. She crossed a bridge and slipped, and in her fall, she almost slid off the bridge itself. The chances of that happening were slim, but I saw it happen anyway, and my stomach jumped. “Slow down.” My heart was beating so fast. My palms were starting to sweat, even though my arms were cold from the wind. I felt nauseous.

She continues playing. She slips again while climbing a slide. “Are you OK? Let’s not do that again. Let me help.” She almost fell off the side of the slide. She did fall off. No, she didn’t. She didn’t. It was my imagination. She keeps playing. She wants to play hide and seek. OK. The park is empty, we’ll be fine. You hide first. “One…two…opens eyes…three…” Do I really need to count to 10? Can I pretend? I need to keep my eyes on her. It only takes two seconds to kidnap a child. “10. Ready or not, here I come.” I pretend I can’t see her sitting in the tunnel, and jokingly look around. Found you. Now it’s my turn. I don’t hide. I sit on a step and wait for her to finish counting. She also pretends she can’t see me. It’s cute.

Why am I shaking? It isn’t that cold. My stomach hurts. I need to go home. She found me. She wants to run around. Chase me mommy. She slips, but doesn’t fall. She fell and knocked a tooth out. She broke her arm. Mommy, I bet you can’t get me. I don’t run. I walk slowly and pretend to chase her. My brain is foggy. I can’t shut it down. I’m actively panicking. The world is exploding around me. Five more minutes. I hear tires screech on the main road. I’m shaking.

Anxiety took my kid to the park today. It created false realities that never happened, but it didn’t matter that they were fake, because I believed them. I saw them. I felt them. I had to come home and lay down because anxiety took my kid to the park today. We’ve been home for two hours now and my stomach still hurts. My body feels drained and exhausted. My hands are numb. She’s safe. We’re home.

Anxiety took my kid to the park today. Nothing bad happened. I still feel panicked. Something is wrong. The world is off today. Dread. Dread. Dread. These feelings will likely last until well into tomorrow. I won’t sleep because I’ll be up watching her breathing. I’ll be worrying about the incessant cough she has, even though I know the inhaler eases it, and all she needs is a couple puffs to stop. It’s not just a cough. It’s something more. It’s not. I know it’s not. I know how to ease it. I know she’ll go back to playing. I know she’ll fall back asleep. I know she’s OK.

Anxiety is taking care of my child today. I’ll hover a little more. I’ll ask her not to run. I’ll cut her dinner a bit smaller. I’ll ask her to sit and relax when she starts coughing. I’ll clean her a little longer tonight. I’ll sit in her room while she sleeps instead of going right to bed myself. I’ll worry. I’ll worry. I’ll worry.

I took my kid to the park today. I take care of my child everyday. I am her mother. I know what’s best. Anxiety does not control me.

Cough.

Stop. Breathe. Get her a drink of water. Fight the panic. Breathe. Breathe.

Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will be better.

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Thinkstock photo via Melpomenem. 

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How Demoting My Critical Voice Helped Me Regain Myself

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You’re stupid. You’re useless. You suck at everything. You’re not good enough.

Until recently, this was the daily commentary inside my head.

A few months ago, I started to see a person-centred counsellor. The anxiety disorder I have been battling on and off since the age of 5 had finally reached a point of intolerance. I would soon begin IVF treatment, and it was time I tried to work out the long-standing issues that threatened to keep me on edge throughout the process. I have tried various talking therapies in the past, but the anxiety would continue to appear, bigger and bolder, each time it was triggered, often after having laid dormant for some time.

Like many children, I was bullied in school. The insults, alienation and negative comments from my bullies became embedded into my own psyche. They became my own “critical voice,” which became my companion 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the next 25 years. The voice was initially formed as a coping mechanism. Before the bullying had started I had been reasonably confident, but that experience taught me that I wouldn’t necessarily be liked by everyone and that any flaws in me perceived by others would be ridiculed. My critical voice was formed in preparation for any possible criticism, unkind comments or hurtful insults that may come my way. It was the first to step in, making it less painful if and when someone else was to say such things. The trouble was that I believed everything it said and it became unhelpful and harmful.

Only in recent years have I started to refer to my critical voice as though it were a separate person from myself. Somehow, thinking of it in this way made my own mind, with all of its conflicting parts in constant disagreement, feel less confusing. It felt less messy. I had come to see my critical voice as something exclusively harmful and poisonous. However, it was still something I clung to, as if it was somehow keeping me in check; as if, without it, I would become arrogant and egotistical.

I genuinely believed I needed my critical voice to be there; to constantly tell me that I wasn’t good enough in order to keep my humility, like there wasn’t a difference between liking myself and being a narcissist. I felt as though the voice could never be silenced. It felt impossible to cut that tie in case I lost all sense of who I was. Yes, it was cruel, but it had been a part of me for such a long time that I wasn’t sure of who I would be without it. Surely, I thought, even if I can silence it, years of work will be required to regain “me.” I was wrong.

Enter: my counsellor. It took just one comment from him during a session of heavily discussing my critical voice to change my perspective.

“I’m not going to collude with it,” he said, “but I don’t want to tell it to get out either because it’s a part of you that once served a purpose, and that should be acknowledged. It just isn’t helpful anymore.” That was when I stopped seeing my critical voice as a bully in my own head. Instead, I saw it as a guardian which started by trying to protect me but somehow lost its way.

When I got home from that session, I laid on the sofa and addressed the critical voice directly. I thanked it for trying to protect me and acknowledged that it had been trying to help. I then asked if it could do things differently by making its criticisms more constructive and less insulting. Instantly, it became quiet and has remained that way for that past five weeks, with the exception of a random negative comment, for which it has promptly apologized.

The work on my general anxiety has continued unhindered by my critical voice, which, my therapist and I joke, has been demoted to light clerical duties.

Follow this journey on Living With Anxiety.

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What It's Like to Fall in Love When You're an Overthinker

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This piece was written by , a Thought Catalog contributor.

I overthink to an enormous extent. I let these thoughts lie heavy on my chest. I twist and turn as night encloses in on me. And all I can do is think. And think some more.

Some people might say I’m “crazy.” They might tell me to chill or to relax. But the truth is, overthinking and anxiety doesn’t have to plague my life. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative idea when it comes to love. 

The thing about “overthinkers” is that we are strong as hell. And we care. Truly care. That’s why we think so much. That’s why we can’t sleep at night. That’s why we worry. That’s why we can’t control our own thoughts.

It’s because we give a damn.

And I can tell you this — I will give you my all. I will give you my blood and tears and sweat with no shame. This is who I am. And I’m not ashamed of it.

I think carefully about the way my partner will communicate with me and speak to me. I think long and hard about the way my partner will laugh at my jokes and smile at me from across the room. I don’t just jump into anything with anyone. I don’t fall in love blindly.

I think so much when I’m falling in love, because I care so deeply for the other individual. I let my thoughts go because I don’t want to lose him or her. I study and observe them until I am exhausted.

But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Because you see, I think long and hard about how to make my partner’s day after a long business trip. I observe what their favorite food is and what their favorite sex position is and what their favorite anything is. And I pay fucking attention. 

I notice the way my partner will say my name. I notice the little things they do in order to make me happy. I notice everything about my partner, because I want to know everything and anything about them. I don’t want to hold back and I don’t want them to feel the need to do so either.

Maybe I overanalyze too much. Maybe I drive other people away with my questions and worries and observations. But wouldn’t you rather have someone care more than they care less?

I would do anything for you. I would fight to the ends of the earth just to see you smile. And I will love you until my hearts give out. I will adore you and cherish every part of you. And I won’t apologize for it. 

Sure, overthinking can be a pain in the ass. It can be taxing and cause a lot of stress for me. But, I am blunt and bold and beautiful. I won’t hold back anything. I won’t take shit from anyone. I won’t settle.

And when I find the love I’m looking for, I won’t let it go. Because while overthinkers are sometimes seemingly clingy or jealous, I think we are much more than that. I am loyal and I love hard, with no apologies. I may overthink what you say or do, but it’s only because I care. It’s only because I want your life and my life to be even better and more beautiful. It’s only because I give a damn.

And don’t you want to love someone who actually gives a damn?

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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