Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Overcoming my anxiety

Practical Cures/Flickr)
(Practical Cures/Flickr)

I’ve been apprehensive to write an article discussing my personal struggle with anxiety. It’s not something that I talk about very often, and definitely not something I share with people I don’t know. However, it’s that apprehension that made me decide to share my experience, in the hopes that it will help to fight the stigmatization of mental health disorders. I’ve heard people throw around the term often, to the point where it has become trivialized, often synonymous with mild stress, but I hadn’t really recognized anxiety as an actual disorder.

Throughout high school, I noticed that I was always a little more on edge than my friends. Little things that went wrong would throw me off easily, and there would be times where for no particular reason I’d feel an underlying sense of unease I couldn’t shake. Some things bubbled under the surface, too stifled for me to actually understand or process. I recognized that it was probably something bad, so I ignored it. Healthy, I know.

The feelings of unease would come and go, disappearing just as abruptly as they came. I’d go weeks feeling completely fine, and would tell myself that I was growing out of it.

Fast forward to the end of my freshman year of college, and things were starting to unwind. A series of unfortunate events triggered symptoms in me that finally led to my breaking point, where my anxiety was too strong for me to ignore any longer.

I had entered into what felt like a week long, never ending panic attack. All of my anxiety hit me at once, overwhelming my mind and my body. I felt like I’d slipped into some sort of parallel universe, where everything looked the same on the outside, but something on the inside had drastically shifted. I couldn’t eat without throwing up, and my body shook violently. I felt exhausted, but my mind was experiencing so many irrational and intrusive thoughts that I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I was the only person in the world who had ever felt this way before, a thought that fueled my anxiety even more. I didn’t have the ability to identify any of my feelings or thoughts rationally, and felt like I was trapped inside of my own mind. I went and saw a doctor, who did nothing but prescribe me a few pills I never took, and told me to eat some peanut butter for energy. Suffice it to say, the peanut butter didn’t help much.

It took me a long time to finally feel like I had regained control of my mind and my life again. I’m extremely lucky to have supportive people in my life who I knew I could lean on, and still lean on today. I started seeing a therapist fairly regularly, who helped me to identify what I was feeling. One of the most important things he taught me was that I could channel my anxiety into positive things. I’m gaining the ability to own my anxiety, and use it to my benefit, channeling those feelings into something positive.

That’s not to say that I don’t still have bad days. My anxiety will be with me for the rest of my life, but I’m finally becoming ok with that. Although I never thought I’d be grateful for it, my anxiety has made me more self aware, more confident, and has given me the knowledge that I can get through the worst of the pain and come out of it stronger than I was before.

One of the hardest parts about going through this was the feeling of isolation, the feeling that this was a burden I had to carry on my own. I feared that if I told others what I was going through, they would write me off as crazy or unstable. The ways in which we talk about mental illness in our everyday lives have a deeper effect than we tend to realize, and the stigmas we attach to those struggles add unnecessary shame to those who suffer. I hope that by sharing my own story, I can help in the fight to end the stigma attached to mental illness, and assure anybody who is reading this and fighting their own battle that you are not alone.

Katrina Kervin is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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    AmyMar 30, 2016 at 8:07 am

    You are SO RIGHT about everyone being able to just talk about it! Struggles with emotional issues are no different than struggles with physical issues. Let’s bring it out into the open!

    You may find the “Anxiety Relief Techniques Video Course” of much help to your readers.

    All the best! – Amy at Otis Publishing & Sunrise Guided Visualizations