Generalized anxiety is something I’ve lived with pretty much my whole life.
It used to isolate and disguise itself as either a single fear or as situational anxiety but, essentially, it’s always been a thin blanket that’s draped itself over my whole life. When I was a child, I had death anxiety. I was terrified of the fact that everyone dies; it kept me up at night and everything I did was in an effort to remain safe and avoid death.
With every happy moment, I was reminded that we’d be dead soon anyways – really fun for my parents, right?!
When I grew up, I became hyperactively anxious at the very thought of school. Everything was of great importance; every class, all the notes, quizzes, tests, exams – it all made me uneasy. And when university hit, so did the symptoms. It’s hard getting people to believe what I went through physically. I guess school was kind of my breaking point with my anxiety but with those broken pieces came a time for me to rebuild myself into a custom model.
The needle that broke this bitch’s back was second-year physics. The whole semester was going terribly; I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus, I was working multiple jobs and had a stern GPA to uphold.
Whenever I was in class and the prof would mention something like an upcoming exam worth 70% of our grade, that feeling would hit. If you have anxiety – and I mean real anxiety – you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The prof’s words would leave her mouth, zip through the air at me as if they were tangible, and hit me in the chest only to erupt like ice. The cortisol-ridden icicles would shoot up into my mouth and tongue and down into my toes, my vision would skew slightly yellow, and my heart would beat so hard it shook my eyesight and made my body throb.
I would try to focus on my breathing to calm down but all that did was remind me that my heart was about to explode.
I was reviewing my notes the night before a huge exam when again I was consumed by the feeling. I would read one formula or one problem and have to stand up to shake off the shittiness. As the night progressed, I started getting a little itchy here and there but I thought nothing of it. The more notes I read the itchier I got, to the point where hives started developing all over my body.
In a super healthy way, I pretended it was all in my head and continued studying.
At this point, I was covered in lumps and welts from head to toe. My ears swelled shut, my eyes were puffy, and I looked like Will Smith in the movie Hitch when he has an allergic reaction. My swelling and symptoms got so bad I had to be rushed to the nearest hospital. I was treated for an allergic reaction, oddly enough.
Was I allergic to my own body? How the hell did my anxiety possess me and take over like this?
After a few days, the hives dissipated and I was back to my normal-ish looking self, but now it was time to reflect on what had happened and make a decision.
I had to decide if I was going to let my mind take over my body like that again. I had to decide if I was reacting appropriately to the stresses at hand. I decided that no, I would not react like that again, and no, an exam should not tear my body apart.
I spent the rest of that school year really learning about myself. I eased up on the fact that I had to ace every single class and took a step back from everything. I really paid attention to my triggers and the antidotes that got me back to me.
It was a tough year but I really thank my second-year physics class for chewing me up because when it spit me out, I was more together than I had ever been.