I have lived with anxiety and worry almost every day for the last six years. During college I took Lexapro, a commonly prescribed antidepressant that helps anxiety sufferers, but stopped taking it shortly before graduation. I started my career believing I had things under control. Two nights ago, the worst panic attack of my life proved me wrong.
I work in the medical field and hold down two jobs. I am also in school to attain a bachelor’s degree and will be graduating in a few short months. On top of these responsibilities, I am looking at the possibility of moving twice in the next six months — one of those moves will more than likely be cross country. In my brain, all of these responsibilities and plans bring different worries and postulations about possible catastrophes — it is no wonder I experienced a panic attack. But it does bother me that I didn’t see it coming — or that I didn’t do enough to prevent it.
Two years, ago Glamour published an article entitled “Anxiety: The New Young Women’s Health Crisis,” and they weren’t far off the mark. Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. Further, it is believed that the amount of women suffering from anxiety disorders is actually underdiagnosed. Anecdotally, I can attest to this finding, as I have never been formally diagnosed as suffering from an anxiety disorder. However, my panic attack did motivate me to make an appointment with my family doctor to discuss the possibility of going back on medication.
Some people might see my actions as failures. A failure to control my anxiety, to realize my feelings are unwarranted or silly, a failure to take care of myself and make dietary changes that are thought to help stave off anxious feelings, or a failure in that by going on medication I will become “chemically dependent.”
I want to let sufferers of anxiety disorders know that no matter what way they choose to deal with their symptoms, they are not failures. Societal stigma of mental health issues is a real thing, and it encompasses more than the common thought that people who suffer from a mental health disorder are crazed psychopaths. This stigma is also present when people try to tell those who do suffer from disorders how to manage them properly. More than one celebrity has mentioned that they do not believe in using antidepressants or putting trust in a psychiatrist. These opinions reinforce the notion that people who suffer from mental health issues just aren’t living the way they should, or that maybe they are choosing to participate in activities like drug or alcohol abuse that exacerbate their issues. The fact that I blame myself for suffering a panic attack is proof I have internalized some of this victim blaming.
I want to encourage other sufferers of anxiety, especially women, to get help for themselves and to not let society dictate how and when they choose to treat their anxiety. Everyone is different. If you think that medication can help you, talk to your doctor. If you think dietary changes will help, try them — journal the outcomes. If you think counseling can help you, contact your local mental health clinic and see if they can refer you to a counselor. If they can’t, they may have access to other resources that you can benefit from.
Personally, I hope that going back on medication will help me live a less mentally congested life. I hope it will help me to live a happier life. And that doesn’t make me a failure.
Written by Laurel Reed
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