It’s normal to feel a little nervous and stressed before a test. Just about everyone does. And a little nervous anticipation can actually help you do better on a test. But for some people, test anxiety is more intense. The nervousness they feel before a test can be so strong that it interferes with their concentration or performance.
Test anxiety is actually a type of performance anxiety — a feeling someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or when the pressure’s on to do well. Here’s how our Guest Author described the situation for herself.
A B C or D? I look down at the test and I freeze. I feel as if my mind’s going in 15 million directions as I look up and I hear the sound the clock: tick-tock! Time is running out. My body begins to sweat and my mind begins to shiver as I stare at the test thinking I have no mercy.
That’s the life of a college student with testing anxiety which has been a part of my life from the time I was in third grade. I believe that’s when my journey with testing anxiety began.
I was always an overachiever from a very age and I was always a child that loved school. I made it a point to make sure I received A’s and B’s (or sometimes a ”C” if it was in math) and I also made sure that I was on the honor roll and studied hard for all my tests.
Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I was placed in special education classes from kindergarten to about the 2nd grade. That’s when my special education teacher Mrs. A saw that I was ready for mainstream classes.
After that, an IEP meeting was held, which is an individual education plan for students with special needs that attend mainstream school. My parents and they decided it would be best for me to go into regular classes since I was able to handle most of the workload, just like any other student. I simply had to receive my work in moderation. For example, if the class had an assignment where they had to answer 25 questions, I would only have to answer 10 of them.
Writing The F.C.A.T.
I was fitting in well and had a great year overall but I was starting to become anxious about the upcoming F.C.A.T., which stands for Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
The F.C.A.T was mandatory for students that were in mainstream classes and throughout the year I had prepared for it as much as I could. I would take many practice tests to see how well I was doing and worked hard on my math and reading as well. I would also do the worksheets my teacher sent home so overall I was as ready as I could be.
When it came to the day of testing I was nervous and I didn’t have the right testing accommodations. It got a bit overwhelming for me and I wound up doing poorly on the F.C.A.T. which resulted in me being held back a year. So despite my good grades and being successful in mainstream classes, I still had to repeat a whole year which I felt was completely unfair. This lowered my self-esteem and made me think twice whether I was going to be able to be successful in school.
After that, whenever my teachers would mention a test I would freeze and sometimes even cry because I was in fear of constant failing. Finally, in 10th grade, I received the official diagnosis of ”Testing Anxiety “. I have dealt with the struggle since then, but even now (while in college) I think back to the time when I was the little 3rd grader who loved reading Flat Stanley and Captain Underpants and it makes me sad.
Now I’m an online college student but it’s not easy. At times I feel like my mind is glitched, especially when I have a panic attack and think back to that time in the 3rd grade. I just take a deep breath and remember to take my time. What I find helpful now when I’m tested is to put on some headphones and jam out to Blake Shelton music. It makes me forget about why I’m having a panic attack and it makes taking the test easier.
I hope that my experience helps others who suffer this way.
About The Author
Tylia Flores is a 24-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination to make a difference in the world. Through her many life challenges and obstacles, she discovered her passion for writing. Tylia’s goal in life is to share her stories with the world.
Chronic illness is like eating potato chips – you can never have just one. At least that’s true for me. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1995 and since then I have had an avalanche of multiple other chronic illness diagnoses. From Depression and Anxiety to Fibromyalgia and Bile Salt Malabsorption to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Insomnia. I think the chronic nausea and diarrhea are there just for fun. I might have even missed a few, but you get the idea. I have a gamut of chronic nonsense happening writhing my body.
The Day to Day: What will flare and what won’t?!
Sometimes everything can remain in check. My bowels remain relatively calm and only give me somewhat minor issues. My depression and anxiety are held at bay with more positive things that might be occurring in my life. My insomnia gets tired and finally goes to sleep so I can rest. And I can sometimes even manage to move just enough, or just little enough, that my Fibromyalgia is mostly quiet and I don’t hurt as much as I usually do. Though these moments are super rare, they do occasionally happen. It’s never for long and never, ever predictable, but the moments do occur. And in those moments I feel like what I imagine a healthy person feels like; or at least someone less like myself.
Then there are the days when everything works against each other to cause complete and total anarchy in my body and brain. A typical day like that is one of the toughest because I’m not only fighting one of my chronic illnesses, I’m fighting all of them at once. When these days happen the illnesses are just continually feeding off of each other. It’s like fighting a Hydra – cut one head off and three more grow in its place. These days are challenging and just as unpredictable as the really good days, but somehow they happen more often.
Inside My Mind and Body with Chronic Illness
Follow me down this rabbit hole of chronic illness overload to experience what my body goes through, and how it talks to itself.
It usually starts in the early hours of the morning between 4:00am and 6:00am.
Brain: “Wake up!”
Anxiety: “Hey remember that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re going down a roller coaster? That weird adrenaline rush feeling? Here you go. Do you feel it?”
Stomach: “Ahh! What the heck??!!”
Body: “Please, I’m tired. Let’s sleep. Nothing is going on. I’m safe. I’m warm. I’m okay. Just sleep. Please.”
Anxiety: “Nope. We have things to worry about.”
Body: “Don’t wanna. Wanna sleep.” Tries to roll over but realizes it hurts. Elbows and wrists are stiff and achy. Legs feel heavy.
Brain: “Nope. Not happening.”
Bowels: “Hey, guess what’s up? I am! And I gotta go. NOW!”
Brain: “Can’t we ignore you, bowels? You never play fair.”
Bowels: “No way – gotta go – NOW!”
Body: Manages to sit up. “Ouch, my back!”
Body: “Must to run to the bathroom.” Quickly realizes everything hurts. Screams silently from every muscle and joint but knows we must make it to the bathroom or we’ll have an accident. Curses bowels.
Bowels: “We’re done. For now. Heh, heh.”
Body: “Please let’s go back to sleep now. Everything hurts.” Manages to lay back in bed and get covers on top of me.
Brain: “You can try but it isn’t going to work. I’m getting cranky.”
Anxiety: “Remember that thing that you said but you should have said this instead? Let’s think about that and replay the conversation twelve different ways over and over even though we know it will never happen. C’mon, it’ll be fun!”
Brain: “No, that’s dumb. Don’t think about anything. Just lay here and be quiet.”
Body: “Yes! Let’s sleep more.”
Bowels: “NO! Let’s go again!”
Body: I’m so tired. I hurt so bad. Okay, I guess we’re doing this. Throws covers off and runs to the bathroom again.
Brain: “Maybe I am tired now. But now I hurt. I’m going to ache and throb now.”
Depression: “I hate everything. I wish we could just hide under the covers and never get out of bed again. Like, ever.”
Body: Drags self back to bed. Attempts to get comfortable.
Stomach: “Hello? Yes, I still hurt. I’m still here. Here’s a bad cramp because I’m feeling left out.”
Anxiety: “What if…”
Brain: Throb, throb, throb.
Body: “Drink water. I need water. I’m dehydrated. Get up and get water.”
Stomach: “Don’t do it. I’ll reject any sort of hydration or nutrition you give me.”
Bowels: “If Stomach doesn’t reject it I will. Oh hey, let’s go AGAIN!”
Body: “Ugh!” Runs to bathroom again. “I’m so tired. I just want to lay down on the floor. That bathroom rug looks comfortable. Let’s lay down.”
Brain: “That floor is going to hurt so bad. You might get down there but how are you going to get back up?” Throb, throb.
Bowels: “Oh we’ll make sure she gets up. Heh, heh.”
Body: “Fine, forget the floor. I’ll go to bed.” Finally gets back to the bed and gets somewhat comfortable. “Why do I hurt so bad? I did nothing yesterday that would cause this pain. I need a hot shower. Hey Bowels, how long until the next …. oh!” Runs to the bathroom again.
Bowels: “Yeah, we’re doing this every fifteen minutes. No shower for you today!”
Body: “Meh, I’m too tired to shower now anyway.”
Brain: “What time is it now?” Throb, throb. “Oh, we’ve only been awake an hour? It’s going to be a long, bad day.” Throb, throb, throb.
Depression: “I’m so tired of this. No one possibly understands how bad this is. No one cares. This isn’t living. This is terrible. If we lay here still enough can we just stop breathing?”
Anxiety: “But what about all the things you need to do? What about all the things you have done? Let’s stop and reassess everything in your life right now. Hey, remember that time in third grade when…”
Body: “Hey, I’ve been hurting and just want to sleep but no one is listening to me!”
Stomach: “I don’t feel so good either. Brain pain is making me feel sick. I think might throw up.”
Body: “Oh no, I cannot handle retching right now. It’s going to hurt so bad and it already feels like someone took a baseball bat to my back. Let’s try to lay back down.”
Bowels: “Haha! No!”
And so on and so forth throughout the day as the never ending cycle of what happens when all my chronic illnesses come together and work as one, slowly feeding off of each other in another attempt to destroy me. It’s excruciating and it’s exhausting. But somehow, every single time I make it through. These days are the worst, and even though at the time when my body is continually arguing with itself, I somehow always know that I will make it through. The next day might not be so bad, or the day after that. So I hang on, just one more day. Because eventually, I will get one of those good days where all my chronic illnesses play nice with each other. And those are the best days.
Jenni Lock is the creator of Jenni’s Guts blog and writes about her journey with intestinal nonsense and other chronic health issues. Her sense of humor, sarcasm, and willingness to talk about the things most people just think are all part of her charm. Jenni is a nurse, however is unable to work due to struggling with Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Bile Acid Malabsorption, chronic nausea and diarrhea, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia and PTSD. Learn more about Jenni and her guts at http://JennisGuts.blogspot.com.
When you live with chronic illnesses, sometimes your body can react differently than the average person’s would under normal circumstances. This can not only be confusing to you, but also to the doctors or other medical staff you may encounter when trying to seek treatment and can effect the care you receive. I had an experience with this when I needed to have my tonsils removed.
I had my tonsils removed when I was 23. They had gotten infected and I went to the emergency room for care. At the time, I couldn’t open my mouth because the infection had gotten so bad. The doctor on call tried to force open my mouth and this caused so much pain that I literally passed out. However, he told my mom that I just fainted because I was scared.
Grave’s Strikes Again
Year prior to this, when I was about 19 years old, I was diagnosed with Graves’s Disease after years of experiencing a lot of vague symptoms that no one had been able to figure out before. When I was diagnosed with Graves’, I had to take a lot of medications, 13 pills, to treat not only the disease itself and it’s effect on the thyroid, but also to treat cardiac symptoms and to help with the side-effects of all the other medicines.
After about a year and a half in the medications, my Graves’ Disease went into remission, but my overall health had suffered from all the medication I had taken during that time. Sure enough, I had gotten very sick. I had double pneumonia that lasted about three months. It took a lot of antibiotics, but I eventually recovered. At this point, I decided that I really just needed a break, so I decided to take a semester off from University and went to Aruba for five months to just relax and recharge.
A Break From One Problem is the Start of Another
While in Aruba, I started getting horrible throat infections. My throat would be bright red with white spots and extremely painful. This was accompanied by a very high fever of 40* C (104* F) or higher. I had been to the hospital multiple times for it, about four times in a five month span, and each time I would be prescribed antibiotics, but it kept coming back. Part of the problem may have been that Aruba, while beautiful, is a very dusty island, and when you breathe in the dust in the air, it can irritate your lungs and tonsils, making it difficult for throat infections like I had to resolve.
After 5 months, I went back to Holland because my semester was starting at University. I just got my first apartment in Amsterdam and I wanted to get back. Over the next year and a half, I was still constantly getting these throat infections and had been on antibiotics at least seven times. The antibiotics would work, but not well enough, and my tonsils kept getting infected.
At some point, the doctor told me that he recommended having my tonsils removed. As I was still young, he said it would be a fairly easy operation, so considering all the problems I had been having, he thought I shouldn’t wait until I was older, as it’s a much harder procedure on older people. Apparently, they almost peel out on a young person, but with older people, they are attached more to the body and therefore the procedure requires a lot more cutting. I reluctantly agreed, as I was having these severe throat infections almost monthly by then, and decided to go ahead with the surgery.
The day of the surgery arrived. I am very sensitive to all medications, so I advised the doctors not to use too much anesthesia. I knew just a little bit will do the trick and told them they should start with a very low dose. Prior to the procedure, I had a meeting with the anesthesiologist. Thankfully, he really listened to me, which made me happy and more comfortable about the procedure. Sure enough, when the time came, they really did give me a very low dose of anesthesia. I know because I can remember them talking during the operation. I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t scared. I just felt a really weird sensation like I was sleeping, but I knew I was awake. I could hear the people around me, but I could not move or wake up or do anything. It’s a really strange sensation.
I woke up after the surgery. Everything went well, but it took me a long time to recover. It took me about eight hours to wake up after surgery, whereas I was told that most people wake up after only four five hours. I was told that after I wake up, if I could eat some ice cream and go to the bathroom on my own, I would be able to go home to recover. But I just couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t eat the ice cream. It was about ten hours after the surgery before I could manage to do what they requested and was discharged to go home with my mom to recover.
I went home, but the pain was still so bad that I could hardly tolerate eating the ice cream or even drinking. This progressed, and after three days, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even open my jaw anymore. So after three days I was in so much pain and I couldn’t really open my jaw anymore. I think it was a Friday evening, as I usually got sick on Friday evenings for some reason, and I called my mom and told her that I felt like I needed to go to the hospital.
A Rough Recovery
I felt very strange. I was in a lot of pain. I felt like I was floating and hallucinating. Something was very wrong. My mom rushed me to the emergency room and I saw a doctor. I’ve always been kind of jittery and anxious about anything hospital or doctor related, so I only go when I urgently have to. Well I was there and feeling anxious, but I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t really open my mouth, so I knew I needed to be there.
I told the doctor how I was feeling and that I couldn’t really open my mouth when he came to examine me. He didn’t take me seriously and thought I was being dramatic and exaggerating. I opened it as far as I could, but that wasn’t good enough. He told me to “ man up” and open my mouth properly, but when I was unable to do so, he took his hands and forced it open. This caused so much pain that I actually lost consciousness.
I woke up on the floor with a pillow under my head and my mom sitting next to me. There’s no doctor in the room at this point. I asked my mom what just happened. She knew the truth and was furious. Soon, the doctor came back into the room. He blamed the incident on me being scared and having and anxiety attack and then just walked away. I was stunned! I knew I had fainted from the pain and this doctor had the nerve to not listen to me and then blame it on anxiety. Just because I wasn’t screaming and carrying on, it doesn’t mean I’m not in pain. That’s something I wish people understood. When you have chronic illness or chronic pain, you tend to react differently to pain than most “normal” people. You can almost hide it and push through when other people would act like they’re dying.
Yet More Antibiotics
In the end, he gave me another round of antibiotics that I had to drink while my throat was infected and open after surgery. I can still remember the flavor and smell to this day, and if I smelled it again, I wouldn’t be able to take it because it was such a traumatic experience. The pain I had was the worst pain ever! It was even worse than childbirth! Drinking the gross antibiotics twice a day in my open , sore, infected, swollen throat was no easy task. They were a gross orangey flavor and I’d just drink it as quickly as possible while my entire head was wrapped in bandages and packed with ice. It was awful!
The antibiotics did help this time. It took me longer than normal to recover, but in the end, it was successful. To this day, I have never had another throat infection. And have only had sore throats maybe three times and they were nothing compared to the infections and fevers I had previous to the surgery.
Doctors, Please Listen to your Patients
While I must say the surgery was successful, this was just one of many stories of doctors who didn’t believe me or just didn’t take me seriously. Obviously, not all doctors are bad. There a lot of good doctors out there. This doctor probably meant well and really thought I was having a panic attack, but I would like to share this story for all the people living with a chronic illness and issues like these to know that these things happen everywhere. I also hope that some doctors will see this article and realize that what they do is very important. How they react and interact with patients and whether it seems like they believe them can make a huge difference.
I hope you enjoyed my crazy story about when I got my tonsils out. From this experience, I learned how important it is for doctors to listen to patients. It can make a world of difference in the patient’s outcome and, for doctors, can make a difference in their treatment plan and relationship with their patients. It is important to be your own advocate and speak up when something doesn’t seem or feel right. Especially when dealing with chronic illness or pain, what seems “normal” may not be, so we must advocate and educate on our own behalf’s to have the best possible outcome.
Sometimes, it can be a struggle to get a proper diagnosis when something is not right in your body, Today, I’d like to tell you the story about when I was having breathing problems as a teenager. I was misdiagnosed as having anxiety but in reality, I was actually having a much more serious issue. The following is the story of how I was finally diagnosed with a thyroid disorder.
Growing Pains? But I’m not Growing Anymore!
My symptoms started when I was around 14 years old. I was living in Holland at the time and sitting my Dutch class when, out and out of the blue, I got shooting pains in my upper arms and across my chest. These pains were so intense that I got out of my chair in the middle of class. I went to the doctor where they did a lot of tests. They checked my muscles, joints, and blood and nothing showed up so they told me it was probably just growing pains. This didn’t really make sense to me at the time and at my age, but I just listened to the doctor and went on my way.
I’m Calm, Really
Over the next couple of years, my symptoms started to change and still seemed very strange to me. By the time I was 16, I started to constantly experience shortness of breath. I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath in. Once again, I went to the doctor and they started checking my oxygen levels. My oxygen levels were fine, so they decided it must be all in my head, like I was having anxiety. By the time I was almost 18, the doctor sent me to breathing therapy because he thought I was having panic attacks.
I didn’t feel like I was having panic attacks. To me, it was something that just happened and would subside just as suddenly as it came. I just felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. Around this time, I would also have strange dreams in which I was choking or like I was drowning underwater. After what was probably just a few minutes, I would wake up and take a deep breath. My body just felt like it was under so much stress, but when I would explain this to the doctor, it would be dismissed as anxiety.
Breathe in….Breathe out….
The doctor sent me to therapy to learn breathing exercises to help me cope with this so-called anxiety. I learned to ground myself and to take very controlled breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth and how to do these breathing exercises when I’m in situations when I feel stressed or need to calm down. Funny enough, this helped me about 15 years later when I was pregnant and found myself in a scary situation, but did nothing to help my current health difficulties as these were not, in fact, panic attacks.
By the time I was around 19, I was going from hospital to hospital and having test after test, but no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Each test would come back negative, and that was just about the worst thing someone could tell me. According to them, I was the picture of perfect health. That really upset me because I knew something was wrong. I know it sounds crazy because to most people, a negative test result would be a good thing, but I knew something was wrong with me so it actually made me quite upset.
A Lead in the Right Direction
When I was 19, they did another comprehensive blood test to really try and figure out what was wrong with me. As a result, my doctor discovered that I had something wrong with my thyroid and referred me to the hospital to have an ultrasound to try and figure out what’s really happening. I called the hospital to make an appointment for the test and to see a specialist, but I was told the first appointment wouldn’t be for four months. The lady who was scheduling asked me if it was an emergency, and my doctor didn’t say it was, so I said no, as my doctor didn’t say it was, and waited the four months until it was time for my appointment.
At this time, I was 19, living independently from my family in another city, and working part-time in a butcher shop. When I was at work one day, people started looking at me really strangely and asking me what was wrong with my neck. I looked in the mirror and it looked like I swallowed an inflatable, donut-shaped life preserver! It looked like a cartoon! My neck was swollen really badly, but even though it looked and felt strange, it didn’t hurt at all. My hands started shaking, but at only 19, I still didn’t know that anything was really wrong.
I went to the doctor, but figured I would probably be okay since I’m already on the waiting list to go to the hospital. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I should call the doctor and tell them what my symptoms are. My neck was huge, but at that point, I didn’t even know where my thyroid is or what symptoms to watch out for. Back then, the Internet wasn’t really available like it is now. I did do some research in the library, but still didn’t think it was a big deal, and by this point, my hospital appointment was only three weeks away, so I thought I could wait. By this point, my hands were trembling so badly that it became a game to see if when I ate something like soup, anything would be left on the spoon by the time it reached my mouth.
As Serious as a Heart Attack
The day came that I had my appointment and I was sitting in the waiting room with one of my friends. The doctors kept coming in calling the names of each patient as it was his/her turn to come back. Finally, I was called by a doctor that was old and cranky to say the least. He called out my name and I got up. He has never seen me before and knows nothing about me. He just knows I’ve been referred and he needs to have a look at me. The doctor looked at me and said that he hoped I had been sent there urgently. I’m like, “What?!” He asked how long I had been on the waiting list. I told him I had been waiting four months. He was shocked and said that I need to be seen by cardiology urgently. Once again, I was shocked! I asked, “What? Where are we going?” He said that he needed to make sure my heart would last the day. “WHAT!?!?”
There I am, walking with this doctor, and we’re going past all these elderly people waiting in line. There was a lady who was probably 80 years old sitting with an IV running, and yet I was the urgent one! First, I went to cardiology, where they stuck all these things all over my body to test my heart to make sure I was fine. I’m like, Oh My Gosh! Again, I’m 19, so my friend, who was maybe 21 at the time, and I were laughing and giggling throughout. We would laugh and make jokes to ease the tension, but all the movement was impacting the test, so soon enough, the technician peered through the curtain and told us to stop so he could get an accurate reading of my heart rate. We calmed down so he could check my heart rate. It was not very good, but it was good enough to allow me to go to my consultation.
By this point, I was freaked out. I just wanted to know what was happening to me. I had the consultation, during which he ran bloodwork and tests to make sure I was okay because he was scared that I was going to have a heart attack. Again, I was 19 and had been having these symptoms for three years. I told him about my shortness of breath, that I had to go to breathing therapy, and because of it, I can calm myself down when I get tense, but I still couldn’t breathe normally.
The doctor said that the reason I couldn’t breathe was because my heart was in such distress that I couldn’t get enough oxygen. I just freaked out! I could not believe what he was telling me. Long story short, I had to go into the hospital every four days for a whole bunch of different tests and it turns out that I had Grave’s Disease, which I later found out is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid.
A “Grave” Answer
At the time, I was told I had this condition, Graves Disease, but the doctor really didn’t tell me much about it. He said it should go away on its own in about a year and a half, so we just needed to focus on getting through the next year and a half. Knowing what I know now, I would have questioned this, but at that point, I was still only 19 and didn’t know much about the thyroid. I was told I just needed to take a some pills for my heart and some for my thyroid and additional pills to counteract the effects of those pills, about 13 pills in all. I also had to go into the hospital for tests every four days for the first six months of my treatment.
I had treatment for about a year and a half. My Graves was under control and I thought I was cured, as this is what the doctor told me. I was taken off all the medicine but warned that in about 20 years, I would have the opposite problem: my thyroid would go too slow instead of too fast like it had worked previously.
The doctor explained that with Graves Disease, your thyroid works too fast. Your thyroid is like the motor of your body. When things like your digestion goes too fast or you feel anxious and jittery, or you have a fast heart rate, you’re hyperthyroid. That’s what had caused all of my weird symptoms. The doctor told me I was cured after taking all the medicines.
My Graves Disease was gone, but in about 20 years, my thyroid will to be too slow, or hypothyroid, but that’s about it. He said I would have to take a pill for it for the rest my life, but that’s about it. That didn’t sound so bad, so I just signed the papers and left the hospital. No more tests, no more pills, no more anything. I was finally free to go enjoy my life. I was cured! Or so I thought….
Pregnant! But Something Wasn’t Right…..
Seven years later, I got pregnant. I had a pregnancy from hell. I didn’t know what was going on. I had bad moods all the time. I was so tired that I couldn’t stay awake for more than 3 or 4 hours per day. It was really extreme. They thought I had postpartum depression 6 months after I gave birth to my daughter. Years later, I found out that I actually have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, but now the thyroid goes too slow. The doctors gave me a pill and said to take this pill every morning when I woke up and I’ll be fine. I had to test my thyroid every year.
The numbers looked okay, but I still wasn’t feeling well. Long story short, when I was researching Hashimoto’s, I figured out it’s not just hypothyroidism, or when your thyroid goes too slow, it’s an autoimmune condition. I also figured out that Graves was an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, which I never knew before. Apparently, I had an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, but it was just in remission. I wasn’t cured at all, and the doctor failed to tell me about it because I’m sure that he knew. Since I was 19, he thought he could just keep it light and simple, and just tell me I was cured. You can read more about my pregnancy here.
Always Trust Your Instincts!
They lesson I learned and that I hope to convey to others who are teenagers or young adults is that teenagers can remember. I remember every single thing that this doctor told me. If he would have told me that I had an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, I would have done things differently while I was pregnant. I would have pressed for a test of my thyroid. I would have told them that I had a thyroid issue when I was about 19, but I’m cured. Instead, no one ever tested me. No one looked for anything while I was was pregnant, and I think a lot of my cascading downhill health could have been prevented if I would have been presented with the right information when I was a teenager and having all these problems.
Teenagers know when something is wrong with their body. They’re not just being lazy. They’re not just having panic attacks. They’re not just making it up. If they are really suffering from issues or having symptom for years at a time, it’s real, and you just have to search until you find it. If you have a problem with your health, be your own advocate. Don’t give up. Even when the doctor told me I was having panic attacks, I still didn’t believe it. I complied with the doctors and went to the breathing therapy, but I never ever gave up. It didn’t matter how young I was. It didn’t matter that nobody believed me. I just kept going. I got my diagnosis and in the end, I got my treatment.
When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel as though you’ve lost control over your future. The stress of learning to deal with multiple doctors, coping with the physical changes, and managing your daily life can often lead to excessive worry or stress. This is known as Anxiety.
Researchers have found that experiencing a chronic illness puts a person at increased risk for developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder. People with ongoing, or chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.*
The daily demands of living with a chronic illness continue to present challenges and generate anxiety long after the diagnosis has been given. Loss of mobility or daily pain can lead to worry about employment or financial concerns. Depending on others, worrying about becoming a burden or even intimacy with your partner may also be concerns. Some people are more easily able to adapt to the changes in their lives. Others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to cope. Others may find themselves unable to make decisions about their future.
The Five Most Common Anxiety Disorders
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day.
3. Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening.
4. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.
Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety. I personally am terrified of the Dentist, even though they treat me gently and with compassion. I have to take medication to help relax me in order to go for a simple cleaning.
Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy, ). But when the focus is on the chronic illness, anxiety is often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your emotional and cognitive health, and to speak up when you experience signs of anxiety. There is treatment available, but you may need to seek it out.
Symptoms Of Anxiety
Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Frequent colds and infections
Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
Forgetfulness and disorganization
Inability to focus
Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
What You Can Do
There are several things you can do to calm your mind.
Challenge negative thinking
When you’re anxious, your brain may jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or exaggerate. Catastrophizing and ignoring the positives in your life may occur when you live with the challenges of a chronic illness. One way to manage anxiety is by being aware of the negative thinking, examining it and challenge the irrational thoughts. Counselors/therapists can play an important role in teaching you this important coping skill.
Calm your mind
Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place. Consider whether mindfulness meditation, yoga, or other breathing and focusing practices can still your body. Taking time to relax, increases your ability to think objectively and positively when it comes to making choices about your health and life. There are many free apps and downloads available online to help.
Find A Good Doctor
If you take medication for both mental and for physical health, it’s important to that your doctors are aware of all your medications. Some medications may actually escalate anxiety, so it’s essential to work with a prescriber who can make informed choices that address both conditions without worsening either. Also, make sure your doctor is aware of any natural products you may be taking as they can have an impact on prescription medications.
Connect With A Support Group
Managing a chronic illness can be a lonely job as it may be difficult for loved ones to understand the unique challenges. Support groups, whether online or in person are wonderful for creating community but also for providing information that can help reduce worry. They can also connect you to valuable resources for treating your illness. Facebook groups are a great place to start looking for support as they are plentiful.
Anxious thinking about chronic illness can keep you from feeling that you have control over anything in life. It’s important to acknowledge all successes, both big and small. Keep track of the healthy things you do for your mind and body. Write them down. Exercising, going to counseling, spending time with a friend–these can all help. Keeping these successes at the front of your mind can help you combat worry. They can remind you that you do have the power to affect your present and future.
If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, be honest with your doctor. Ask for help. Anxiety is highly treatable, so remember…you are worth it. And there is always hope.
Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada, just outside of Victoria. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness. Her blog is called There Is Always Hope and it can be found at https://pamelajessen.com .
Ever since I can remember I have been trying to find ways to calm my anxiety, in turn hoping this would ease my depression. Something that would soothe the tightness in my chest, the queasiness in my stomach, and the aches in my head, neck, and back that are triggered by stress and anxiety. I have tried baking, cooking, breathing exercises, and painting, not to mention trying distraction methods like watching TV and movies. Yes, these have all helped but that effect wears off in no time.
This all changed within a year, when I stumbled across my first ASMR video on YouTube. ASMR stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.”
The sole purpose of ASMR is to relax people. Ideally, ASMR videos are meant to give the viewer a relaxing tingle at the back of their head and/or spine. ASMR videos usually involve one or more of the following things: • Gentle whispering • Relaxing hand movements • Smacking of the lips • Nail tapping/scratching on hard surfaces such as tables • Brushing sounds
Although it sounds scientific, only one study has been published on the phenomenon, despite the fact that everyone in the world experiences physical responses to sounds. ASMR is along the same lines of getting frightened by a loud noise or cringing at nails on a chalkboard, except instead of a negative response, these sounds promote relaxation. The 2015 study found that 98 percent of people who seek out ASMR videos watch them for relaxation purposes, and 70 percent watch them specifically for stress and anxiety relief. Many participants added that they use ASMR videos to help where other therapeutic and medical interventions have failed to make a difference.
Once I stumbled upon the term, I fell into a rabbit hole of ASMR YouTube videos for every ASMR trigger imaginable. There are videos with soft-spoken voices, whispering, accents, crinkling, writing sounds, keyboard typing, tapping, water pouring, and so much more.
Although, these aren’t the ones that soothe me. They don’t send my brain into an abyss of calmness and serenity. Oh no, it is in fact slime and soap cutting videos that take me to my happy place.
Video Type: Slime
The hallmarks of any good slime video are the pokes, prods, stretches, and folds. Watching people dip their fingers into goo and create popping and squishing noises ignites an instinctual response that’s either deeply unsettling or strangely satisfying to watch. These ASMR-inducing slime videos become even more hypnotising when other items are added into the mix, such as Styrofoam packing beads which act like bubble wrap, which just so happen to be another popular action featured in relaxation ASMR videos.
Slime is a soothing and calming approach to ASMR, which promotes relaxation and a therapeutic sense of well being, helping to de-stress. Boy, is this right. I can’t tell you how relaxing it is hearing the slime pop as its squished, hearing the different condiments put into the slime scratch together and create their unique sounds. I may not be happy to admit this, but slime has been the best method of relaxation for me to date.
Video Type: Soap Cutting
Carving soap bars into tiny cubes is so satisfying visually and aurally that there’s a whole series of videos depicting its many pleasures.
The premise is simple: all you see is a pair of hands cutting up soap in various ways. The videos typically have no music, because the sound of the soap being sliced and diced is soheavenly, you would never want anything to disturb it. You can find soaps of all different colours, shapes, sizes, and textures, and Instagrammers cut them up using various tools and techniques, such as cutting up cubes of soap, slices and even crunching soap curls.
Other Uses for ASMR Videos
In her Elite Daily article, Megan Cary talks about how ASMR has been invaluable in managing her insomnia: “ASMR has not only given me hours of sleep back, but it has also given me hours of my life back.” She says that the videos help her turn her mind off and get her to sleep much faster. Lifehack also published an article about reducing stress with ASMR, citing ASMR as a creative way to manage anxiety through the euphoric and relaxing state these videos can inspire.
It can take time to find the triggers that work for you, and there are people who don’t feel anything while watching ASMR videos. Chances are, if you have ASMR, you probably already know it and have an idea of what you respond to. Either way, it’s worth checking out, especially if you struggle with stress and anxiety.
I’ve been hesitant to tell people about my love of ASMR videos, but I know that I shouldn’t be. I watch ASMR videos when I’m feeling anxious, having trouble concentrating, experiencing pain, and even when I’m depressed or discouraged. Anything that can help soothe anxiety, depression, and chronic pain for so many people is clearly a valuable resource, no matter how odd it might seem.
I’ve had chronic coccyx pain and a sitting disability since 2012. This simply means that I am in pain when I sit down. The thing with coccyx pain is that in the early days it is left to heal on its own, as there is no plaster cast or bandage or anything that can be put on it. I remember being at my very first appointment with the nurse practitioner, who said that even if it was broken, there was nothing they could do except give it time to heal by itself.
I gave it time to heal, but several months later I returned to my GP in exactly the same amount of pain. I had an MRI and a sit down/stand-up x-ray, and I got various opinions about a diagnosis – from “it looks normal” to “it could be fractured.”
Over the next year or so I saw numerous specialists and tried all kinds of treatment – physiotherapy, exercises, chiropractic treatment – as well as numerous types of medication and painkillers. But nothing seemed to fix the problem or stop my pain. I saw an orthopaedic surgeon who gave me a diagnosis that my coccyx was dislocated in two places. He tried some more treatment, which didn’t work, and said the last resort was to have my coccyx removed. I had the surgery in February 2015.
A Major Surgical Decision
Despite the high risk of infection because of the location of the surgery, six months recovery afterwards, the two years before I would know if the surgery had worked, and the high chance that having my coccyx removed wouldn’t solve the problem, I wanted to give it a go. I couldn’t carry on as I was. I was miserable, I’d put my life on hold, I was saying no to doing stuff with my family and friends, and I was becoming a person who I didn’t like.
In early 2017, two years after my coccyx was removed, I knew the operation hadn’t worked. I knew this much earlier in my post-op recovery, but there was always that little glimmer of hope that kept saying I needed to wait the full two years.
Since having the operation, I now suffer from neck pain, too. For a while I was convinced that the surgery had caused another problem, but my physiotherapist says this pain is caused by my many years of abnormal sitting, which has caused damage to my spine. Literally, by avoiding one pain I have caused another.
The Challenges of My Pain
A sitting disability is a very challenging pain to have as we do so much sitting down: eat meals, watch TV, relax, drive, work, the list goes on. I had years of frustration and anger, as no one seemed to take me seriously.
Having an invisible health condition or disability can be difficult for others to understand when there is nothing physical to see. You feel you have to justify yourself all the time, and explain the pain and why you’re doing something different to how others do things. For example, when I’m the only one standing and everyone is sitting, or why I’m sitting on a special cushion.
I find it embarrassing to explain things to people who don’t know about my pain. It’s often easier to try and hide my pain, not make a fuss, and try and carry on without having to explain myself all the time. I often worry what people think and if they actually believe me.
I have also found that my anxiety has got worse since having chronic pain. A big part of this was the amount of time I spent at home as part of my recovery after my surgery. Since I wrote a blog post about chronic pain and anxiety, I’ve learnt it’s a natural symptom due to the body being in a constant fight or flight mode.
My chronic pain affected my work, too. Unfortunately I had to step down from a team leader role, which was very difficult to accept. I had worked hard to progress my career and step up the ladder, and it was even harder to take a pay cut. But I knew I was lucky to have the support of my employer, and was extremely lucky to still have a job.
How I’ve Overcome Some of my Struggles
The turning point for me was changing my mindset. I knew I had to accept my pain, stop fighting for more tests and a diagnosis, and just focus on getting my life back and doing the things I enjoy as best I could. So that’s what I did. It was easier than I thought. I knew all along that if the operation didn’t work, there was nothing more they could do, which meant there was nothing more I could do. I read a book called Beyond Pain: Conquer Your Pain, Reclaim Your Life by Anjelo Ratnachandra and it really changed my way of thinking. My attitude became: I’d rather be in pain doing the things I enjoy, than be in pain doing nothing and be miserable.
Focusing My Energy on the Right Things
I also learnt to focus my energy on the right things. Chronic pain is mentally draining – I was constantly thinking about the pain, how to avoid the pain, and how to manage the pain. This took a lot up a lot of my energy and added to the physical fatigue, which is a natural symptom of chronic pain.
This led to me focusing on what I can do, and not on what I can’t. Yes, I have to do some things differently, or I use aids to help me when I sit down. But these help to take away the barriers and allow me to say “yes” to doing stuff as often as possible. I have learnt to be innovative in my thinking about how I can carry on doing the things that I enjoy. For example, I love going to the cinema with my partner, so I go to a cinema that has recliner seats or sofas. I’m never completely pain free, but if it means I can spend quality time doing something I love, with the love of my life, then I’ll give it a go.
Doing What I Enjoy
I’ve learnt a lot about endorphins since reading Anjelo’s book. When we do things that we enjoy or that make us happy, our body releases endorphins and these are a natural pain relief. This has really motivated me to carry on doing stuff that I enjoy. Again, I’m never pain-free, but I’d much rather be doing an activity or task that makes me happy and can help distract me from my pain. I write regular blog posts about the things I’m so glad I’ve done to show that you can do the things you enjoy despite having chronic pain. Everyone’s challenges are different, and it can take time to get to this point in your chronic pain journey.
There is no treatment or medication that can take my pain away. It’s simply a case of managing my pain as best I can. I use heat packs, physio tape, and do lots of walking and different exercises to help stretch my muscles. I’ve also learnt to manage my anxiety and stress levels so they don’t have any further impacts on my pain. Stress and anxiety naturally make me feel tense and cause tightness or knots in my muscles which cause additional problems and pain. Since September 2017, I have been seeing a physiotherapist to help with treating my neck pain. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds, but I am finally at a point where I only have to go every 6-8 weeks for maintenance treatment. My abnormal sitting has caused issues that cannot be reversed, so I have to make sure that I keep on top of this to stop things from getting any worse.
Setting Goals and Challenging Myself
I like to challenge myself as this gives me something to work towards and focus on. I set myself different goals to try and push myself out of my comfort zone to build on my confidence and help tackle my anxiety. Some examples include: trying to hit 10,000 steps a day, leading web conferences at work, and setting up and writing my blog. I’ve found this has turned something negative into something positive, and I love that I am able to help others think differently and learn to cope better and live a more positive life with their pain.
In work, I was fortunate to be offered another job as a workplace adjustment under the Equality Act. It was certainly a worrying and difficult journey to go through, but I had several workplace adjustments and am able to still work full-time.
The Things I Still Struggle With
I don’t think I’ll ever fully cope with everything my pain throws at me. I’ve come a long way, and have challenged myself to change my mindset and ways of thinking alongside doing things differently, either with or without support and adjustments. I know there are still some areas of my chronic pain life that are difficult to cope with or accept. Like anyone with chronic pain or a chronic illness, I still have bad days and struggle to cope, and I still find it embarrassing to explain my pain to others.
Bad pain days are difficult to cope with both physically and mentally. Getting comfy is the most challenging thing for me, and by avoiding one pain I often make another pain worse.
On these days I just have to accept that I won’t be as productive, motivated, or happy as usual. I make sure I distract myself and keep my mind busy as much as I can so I don’t overthink and dwell on things too much.
I especially struggle when I have other pains on top of my coccyx and neck pain. I also have endometriosis, and struggle with the symptoms of this as well as additional fatigue. I’m the same when I have a cold or bad headache, as everything just gets so much more difficult to manage.
I find it hard when my pain affects other people. If my pain is bad and I can’t do something with my partner, I find it very upsetting and hard to accept. My partner is brilliant, and she will never pressure me to do something that she knows I will struggle doing. It doesn’t stop me feeling guilty, though.
Another thing I struggle with is trying not to overdo things on good days. I keep pushing myself to carry on because I get a sense of achievement or I’m simply enjoying myself or having fun. But I know this often affects me the next day and I can feel exhausted. Sometimes this isn’t always a bad thing, as I’m making the most of being productive and having a good pain day. But it’s much more sensible to balance and pace my energy and not burn myself out.
Despite all of my challenges, I still believe in fate. I’ve been on a journey that has taught me a lot and I believe I am meant to be where I am in life right now. I’m doing a job that suits me and my skills better than my last job, and I’m writing a blog that will hopefully help and inspire others to cope with their chronic pain better.
About the Author:
Alice lives in the north west of England with her partner and her two Westies.
Her blog Notebooks and Glasses is about living a positive life with chronic pain: her words and observations. She gives real advice and tips and shares experiences of staying positive despite having chronic pain, and encourage people to carry on doing the things they enjoy.
Anxiety is a debilitating disorder. It varies in its intensity from person to person. Anxiety will also be triggered in different ways for different people. It can cause a loss of appetite, tension in the muscles, headaches, and problems sleeping. Anxiety can bring on panic attacks which are terrifying. It can cause you to feel more pressure to find relaxation in your life. The stress you experience chronically can also turn into depression.
Why It’s Important to be Free From Anxiety
The thing is, anxiety does things to your body and your mind. When you’re in a constant state of anxiety, you cause cortisol levels to rise in the body. These are chemicals released to give your body the ability to respond to danger. This was a necessary response that worked well when we used to have to strive for survival. We now use that system (flight/fight response system in the CNS) for trivial matters. They don’t feel trivial to us. The things that trigger anxiety in each person feels legitimate and overwhelmingly hard to manage. The levels of cortisol in the body can become too much and it can begin to damage systems. It can cause inflammation in the body and other discomforts may arise. You will feel this constant state of anxiety even when you’re in the midst of resting.
How Breathing Helps with Anxiety
The breath does a lot of amazing things for you. It’s why we’re alive at all. It’s what gives you energy. It’s automatic for us to breathe so we take it for granted. Many times, you don’t realize that you might not be breathing deeply enough. The more fresh oxygen you bring into your body, the more you dispel carbon dioxide. It’s an important aspect of living.
Practicing your breath daily can help you with whatever emotional struggles and worries you have. Taking time out for yourself and breathing through discomfort can be deeply relaxing. When you’ve built up a chronic feeling of anxiety, you can work to build relaxation strategies through the breath. Breathing deeply has shown to be a highly effective way of relaxing the central nervous system. Cortisol levels lower. It also puts you in the headspace of being mindful.
When you’re focusing on how to breathe in certain ways, you stop thinking about your worries. As you breathe, you can focus breathing into parts of you that are tense. This is good practice alongside the actual breath that helps soothe the nervous system.
Here are some of the most soothing ways of breathing that have been shown to help with anxiety.
1. Ujjayi breath
This breath is often used during a yoga practice which is another helpful practice you can use against anxiety. There is an even deep inhale and exhale you’ll do as you count to four. It helps to make you feel more grounded.
How to do it:
Start with an inhale. You’ll want to slightly restrict the back of your throat. It should sound like the ocean. Inhale to a count of 4.
As you exhale, you want to keep your throat restricted. Count to 4.
Repeat this as many times as you want to give you a sense of relaxation. Ensure your breathing is slow and steady. Focus on the restriction of the back of the throat. If the ocean sounds cease, it’s likely you’re not focusing on what you’re doing. This is a good gauge to help you pay attention and sit in your present moment.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
A lot of people will experience their anxiety at night. Sleepless nights due to ruminating thoughts are common. It’s additionally a problem for someone with anxiety who is worried that they won’t sleep. This actually causes them to not be able to fall asleep. A beautifully relaxing breathing exercise is alternating nostril breathing.
How to do it:
Each nostril stands for something. Like yin and yang, the nostrils are opposed but working together. If you want to get yourself relaxed for sleep:
Place your thumb on the right nostril and breathe in through the left nostril.
The left nostril is connected to your parasympathetic nervous system. It calms the body and mind when you trigger this part of the central nervous system.
If you need to relax and rejuvenate in the middle of the workday, you can alternate the nostril breathing. This creates a balance in the body so you are less inclined to get stressed out over things.
How to do it:
Cover your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril. Exhale and inhale. Then cover the left nostril and exhale/inhale.
If you do this around 10 times, you should notice that you feel more centered and relaxed.
3. Breath retention
You may notice that holding your breath and then exhaling with a lot of vigor is helpful in relaxing you. That’s because it is. When you hold your breath, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system. When you do this, it releases GABA chemicals. These chemicals are designed to help you feel calm and relaxed. The body has the ability to relax you but you have to prompt it to do so. There are a lot of ways you can choose to hold your breath.
Beginners can start by doing this:
Breathe in slowly and deeply, counting to four.
Exhale a little bit of that air out but hold the rest of the breath in for four seconds.
Exhale more so that lungs are half-full. Hold for four seconds.
Exhale down to three-quarters of air in your lungs. Hold for another four seconds and then finally exhale whatever air is left in the lungs.
The more you do this, the longer you’ll be able to hold breath in. You don’t want to push yourself too far with this exercise. No need to gasp for air. You can build up to inhaling to a count of eight at some point. Whatever feels comfortable for you. This is an excellent exercise to do while you’re in the midst of an anxious episode.
The next time you do feel anxious, you should have the necessary tips to help calm your central nervous system down. When you’re feeling anxious, use this breathing technique to relax you immediately. Deep breathing and focused breathing has been shown to be an effective tool to relax the body at a cellular level. It also prevents your brain from thinking about the things that are causing stress in the first place. This has been seen as an effective stress and anxiety management technique. You can fight against anxiety as it sets in as well as reduce the physical manifestations that chronic anxiety causes.
About the Author
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential training in India (Rishikesh, and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali).
Tossing and turning, I was sweating profusely. My hair and back were wet.I looked at the clock – 4:30 am and I hadn’t slept yet.
Actually, I hadn’t slept for 2 days in a row.My thoughts and heart started to race.“What is happening to me?”
I sat up, called out my mom, and pleaded, “Mom, I’m not sleeping anymore. Please take me to the doctor.” Seeing how awful and serious I looked, she embraced me immediately and assured me that we were seeing a doctor that morning.
Weak, eyes popping out, and as pale as a sheet, I told the doctor what I was going through. His face tightened. He took his prescription pad and wrote the words I dreaded – Anxiety Disorder.
Despite a terrible brain fog, I began to examine every area of my life as best as I could.Throughout this terrifying and eye-opening journey, I let go of seven big things in my life. I’m glad I did.
1. Job Title
How many of you daydream about your current or next project while having a meal with your family?Do you text reminders or call your colleagues or clients after work?Or, do you do “quick” paperwork on a weekend?
I was not the only one, was I?
Six months before my diagnosis in 2011, I was promoted as the head of our teaching department. It was just a small department but it was a very fulfilling job to help students to read, write, and speak confidently in English.
When I hit my rock bottom with the anxiety disorder, I was not the brilliant teacher and sharp leader my students and colleagues used to know. I’d stop mid-sentence not knowing what to say next to my students. I’d sit for hours preparing my lessons but I couldn’t finish anything.
With the demands of my work and diagnosis, I decided to give up job (at least temporarily).
2. (Some) Friends
Crying my heart out, I told Mindy (not her real name), “I don’t know if I can survive this. I’m so scared.” She looked at me and hugged me. A second later, she turned to our other colleagues and said, “Hey, I got new sets of beautiful dresses, wanna buy?”
Did she leave me hanging just like that? I was dumbfounded. So, I thought my other friends would treat me better.
I took a deep breath and confided to my closest friends that I was suffering from anxiety disorder. Laura (not her real name as well), a friend for more than half decade, replied, “Mary, I didn’t know that you were that weak. Just fight it off and be positive. It’s that easy.”
That’s another punch in the gut.
I let go of friends like Mindy and Laura. Despite their indifference and painful words that decision wasn’t easy, though. Eventually, I was able to back off and set boundaries to support my healing process.
My pants became tight, it was hard to zip them. No, I did not gain weight. I probably lost a lot because I lost my appetite.
I was bloated and my tummy looked like I was pregnant. And I wasn’t pooping for almost a week at a time.
Aside from inspiring me to have more faith and hope, my mom tirelessly encouraged me to eat. Since I couldn’t take the usual amount, we focused on the nutrient dense food that supported my healing. That also meant eliminating junk foods.
I said goodbye to processed food, fast food, and sugar. I ate the rainbow (veggies of different colors) and lots of bananas.
4. Internet and social media
I learned that it was not a good idea to go online and research your diagnosis while you’re having brain fog and lots of terrifying thoughts (especially if you don’t have a trusted place to go to). One piece of advice I read went something like “Don’t talk about your anxiety and depression to your friends.” I was like, “Oh no, I’m doomed!”
I panicked. Then my mom said sternly, “Shut that down and stop searching!”
The internet has a ton of conflicting information while social media has lots of drama.I stopped going online, at least until I was mentally healthy again.
I was desperate to get out of my “darkness” but at the same time, I was losing hope. I even imagined my wake, funeral, and eulogy. Then I’d weep, feeling sorry for myself for dying at the young age of 28.
My world stopped but life around me continued.
I observed my sisters going through their day with puffy eyes and dark circles under them. Were they having trouble sleeping because they were worried about me? Were they crying themselves to sleep?Or, both?
My parents and sisters were trying their best to be cheerful and positive for me but I could smell the strong stench of worry, stress, frustration, and the fear of losing me.
This one got me the most.
Losing my will to live, my mom cried and pleaded, “My daughter, do you love me? Please fight and let us help and support you. We do not want to lose you.”
My heart was squeezed.
“This is not only about me.”, I realized. I had loved ones I hurt so much by not fighting, hoping, and taking steps to recover. We were all in it together.
I let go of selfishness and let love fuel me to stand up again and fight my battle.
Debt is one of the top causes of stress and anxiety. So it was one of the first things I dealt with before I took a long vacation.
No, I did not pay it in full. I was almost broke because of my medical bills and no money would come in because I stopped working indefinitely.
One debt was a loan in the office. I met with our finance officer to discuss it and she assured me that my monthly billings would stop and resume only when I get back to work.
The other one was an expensive gym membership. I asked for my older sister’s help and she gladly paid it in full and terminated the membership on my behalf.
7. The need to be needed
I was a perfectionist, know-it-all, get-things-done-girl who secretly could not get enough of praise and recognition for a job well done.
It was music to ears when people say, “Mary, could you please help me on this?” I was elated when they came up to me over and over again. I was needed!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraging helping, serving, or going above and beyond. These are beautiful things!But I got it all wrong. This need turned into pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness.Worse, I became exhausted, depleted and empty.
I learned to set healthy boundaries, check my motives and say ‘no’ when my plate is almost full.
Bare-naked But Fulfilled
Anxiety Disorder stripped me naked. Suddenly, I was a nobody. I lost my job, health, money, some friends, ego, etc.I was painfully peeled layer by layer until it reached my core.
But…I got my life back.
Over To You
Have you also given up one of the seven big things mentioned above after a diagnosis? If so, which one?
Have you given up something else? How did giving this up help you?
Is there anything you need to let go but you’re having a hard time doing so?
What’s holding you back?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the Author
Mary is a thriving spoonie, an online solopreneur and a natural healing advocate. Despite chronic illness, she believes spoonies are valuable, strong, and capable of making a difference in our society. Get 10+ Simple & Life Changing Tips To Improve Your Mental Health here.
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to people with disabilities is that we don’t have the social skills to want to be in a relationship, or we don’t have a desire to find love. I can tell you right off the bat, this is false! We do have a desire to find love and we do have social skills to be in a relationship.
I have always been a hopeless romantic type of girl. My dream is to get married in Tennessee overlooking the Smokey Mountains and ride away with my husband in the General Lee from my favorite TV show, Dukes of Hazzard.
Having Anxiety in a Relationship
Dating has always been one of the most challenging parts my life. This is mainly because I always wind up catching feelings for a young man who isn’t willing to understand my cerebral palsy and anxiety to a full extent. Or he isn’t willing to get educated on what it’s like to date someone with cerebral palsy and anxiety altogether. It wasn’t until five years ago when I met my boyfriend on social media that I finally felt like someone could fully understand me and accept my cerebral palsy and anxiety for what they are.
So, what’s it like being in a relationship when you have anxiety? I can tell you this firsthand. It’s like having a box of chocolate each day, and you never know what you’re going to get within that day. Sometimes days will be good, and some other days will be bad.
One of the main things that triggers me in my current relationship is the fact that my boyfriend and I have the same type of condition. I am not able to help him complete his daily tasks like an able-bodied woman would be able to. When I become triggered, I tend to communicate how I feel so he knows that I’m triggered, and he’s always there to listen even if we just had this conversation five minutes ago. But he understands.
Dating With Anxiety Tip #1: Listen!
My first tip for anyone dating a significant other with anxiety is listen to whatever is on their mind. Be patient and kind and try to help them find ways to cope. I know for me the best way to deal is watching one of our favorite movies together, like Urban Cowboy or Dear John.
Dating With Anxiety Tip #2: Ask for Space!
Another thing I would say causes me stress when it comes to dealing with anxiety in general are the days where I just want to be left alone because my anxiety is at an all-time high and I have to use my anxiety medication. I don’t like my boyfriend to see me in that upset state, so I tend to push him away because I don’t want him to see me in a negative light.
Then again, I feel bad because I feel like I’m abandoning him even though I have told myself it’s okay to ask for space. For those of you who are in a relationship struggling with anxiety, keep that in mind: it’s always okay to ask for space! At first, my boyfriend wasn’t quite as understanding, but now he fully understands. All I have to do is text him and tell him I need space and he’ll be understanding.
Dating With Anxiety Tip #3: Don’t Hide Your Anxiety!
I know firsthand that dealing with anxiety isn’t easy. When I was officially diagnosed with anxiety back in March, I didn’t know how to tell my boyfriend. How could I tell him that I was diagnosed with anxiety and that I had to take anti-anxiety pills and anti-depressants to control my emotions?
I was scared out of my mind. I was thinking in my head, “That’s it. He’s going to break up with me because he has too much on his plate.” So when I got home from the doctor’s office, I debated whether to FaceTime him that day because he lives all the way in Kentucky and I live in Florida. Finally, after he called me a hundred times, I picked up the phone.
As my heart pumped out of my chest, I said, “Austin, I went to the doctor today and I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.”
He told me, “Honey, I love you. I’m not leaving your side. We’ll get through it one day at a time.”
I was touched by Austin’s heart and the way he handled the news of my diagnosis. He also told me I should be proud of the fact I was unique, and I was one of a kind.
Dating With Anxiety Tip #4: Be There for Your Partner
Be open and willing to do your research on the diagnosis. Try to be there for your partner the best way you can, because at the end of the day they’re going to need you when the days get tough. They’re going to need you when they feel like the world is spinning and their thoughts are moving too fast.
I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for my boyfriend with me on this journey. I would probably feel as if there was always a dark cloud over my head with no sunshine. But he always gives me hope that it will all be okay one day and he makes my anxiety go away .
Austin is the sunrise after the rainstorm when times get tough. Always be in the sunshine for your partner because they’re going to need you to shine.
When you have a chronic illness, you need support from someone who understands. If you have a chronic illness and are looking to meet new people, check out this promising new dating app Lemonayde. It allows you to connect with others with chronic illnesses just like you from the comfort of home!
About the Author:
Tylia Flores is a 22-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination to make a difference in the world. Through her many life challenges and obstacles, she discovered her passion for writing. Tylia’s goal in life is to share her stories with the world. In doing so, she hopes to help others with disabilities realize that they, too, have the potential to make their dreams come true.