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The Night I Realized I Am Stronger Than My Anxiety

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A panic attack always begins the same way. I lose all warmth in my extremities and I begin to shake. My lungs begin to heave as if they are screaming for relief, and I can’t bring myself to inhale the air I so desperately need. While a lunch break, a university class or an episode of “Law and Order: SVU” tends to last longer than these attacks, they are not to be underestimated as mine often bring about shockwaves for weeks.

It was not until possibly my 123rd panic attack across a number of years that I realized there is more to me than my anxiety.

I found myself in an unfamiliar place, and I began to notice my knuckles buckling, my lungs struggling and my thoughts turning as cold as the fingers I could just about feel. I was reminded of my friend’s close proximity, and was sure this would develop into another panic attack. There was fervor in her question, “Are you OK?” It was in her reverence to my decision to battle the frontline of my mental illness alone that I knew I had to fight fervently — if not for my sake, but for her.

I drew my attention to what I could see, hear and feel. The walls were white and the fan was on; its clicking and churning of humidity helped fill the silence of my panic, together with the warmth of my friend beside me, helped me grasp reality. It was in my reliance on my own senses that I was able to draw my panic to the surface, where I could acknowledge it and subdue it rationally. My breathing began to slow, I was beginning to regain feeling in my fingers, and I felt as if I had won a battle that had beaten me countless times before. I was victorious.

I am a woman, a daughter, a classmate and a friend. I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) but I also have enduring resilience and strength. I can’t pack away my anxiety in a case and throw away the key. I wear it on my back and along my wrists like a sweater or a sleeve. I am a human being with a future and with dreams, and this was the night I realized I can have anxiety along with my future and my dreams.

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Unsplash image via Brooke Cagle.

Originally published: April 14, 2017
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