The Mighty Logo

Just Because I Have Anxiety Doesn't Mean I'm Afraid of People

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I have severe anxiety. I take medication and I have panic attacks daily.

But that does not mean I am shy.

That does not mean you should be afraid to approach me.

I am not afraid to talk to you. I’m not afraid to get up in front of the class and present my work or my essay. I’m not afraid to order my food alone. I am not afraid to do things alone, nor am I afraid to interact alone with other people. But that doesn’t mean my anxiety isn’t severe. Which may be what you misunderstand.

You see, I’ve always struggled with random panic attacks and an endless amount of thoughts that run through my head. I’ve always struggled with feeling like I was going to pass out because I walked up the stairs too fast and my heart was going a mile a minute.

The first time I realized my anxiety was bad, I was doing a solo in my chorus class. I messed up a note and almost passed out. I couldn’t breathe, I felt like there was a huge weight on my chest. I stopped hearing what I was singing and time sped up. My face went white, and everything got so bright, yet dimmed out at the same time. I could only hear my heart drumming a terrible tune in my chest. A constant fast drumming as loud as it could be. And the next thing I know, the song was done and everyone was just staring at me. And I sat down and didn’t say I single thing throughout the class. I thought I was having a heart attack. And this is where my depression kicked in. I felt so stupid for doing the solo, because why would I, a terrible singer, get up there and try to sing? And as soon as my anxiety got worse, with the sweating, the beating and the fast pace, I started to feel numb.

Eventually the bell rang, and I snapped out of it and went about my day — but with the fog floating over me, and this tiny little ocean sitting behind me, ready to create a tide to drown me at any moment. That day was when I realized there might be something wrong with me. I had no idea what anxiety was. I thought anxiety was just being afraid to do things. I thought it was feeling adrenaline from a fear you’re facing. I never knew anxiety was so bad, you literally feel like you’re dying.

The “attacks” kept happening. I was in and out of the hospital four times until they finally gave me medication to treat my anxiety. The medication helped. I could finally eat and sleep a little more. But it didn’t help entirely. I had multiple visits with a therapist and psychiatrist, and they just kept upping my doses. It took an entire month until I was able to go back to school and actually walk a foot away from my house.

I got bullied because no one believed I had anxiety — people assume having anxiety means you’re afraid of social situations and freaked out by people. But that’s not true at all. Anxiety takes so many forms. I’ve been through so much with my anxiety, and none of the stereotypes about anxiety are true for me. However, I felt like a burden because there was no telling when I would have a panic attack. And I felt anxious all the time — I just hid it. As I’m typing this I feel like there’s someone clenching my throat, making me unable to breath. And that’s what I live with. I’ve lived with this constant suffocation and random attacks for an entire year now. I’m on a large dosage of two different pills and I’m still not OK. But, I’ve learned to live with it.

With everything I face, things aren’t impossible for me. I’m still afraid when my heart races a little faster than a resting heart rate, but I learned to tune it out. I learned to completely shut down my attacks with the cost of being tired every second. Because every day is a war with my own body. Every single day I feel both the ocean over me and a fog covering my vision. It’s terrifying. But that’s my illness.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your disability, disease, or mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold this misconception? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 13, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home