Everybody has a certain level of anxiety, but between the age of 12 and 16, I suffered with a very high and rare level of anxiety attacks. The years that I had those attacks were very difficult and I missed out on a lot of fun things normal teenager would do. When people ask me about that period, I always tell them that in some way I’m glad that it happened because I believe that overcoming my anxiety made me a stronger and more positive person. Of course I can look at the negative aspects, but I prefer to look on the bright side.
Today I want to share the most important things that I learned. But first I want to give you a brief description of the kind of anxiety I had:
Just from one day to another, I got my first anxiety attack. Today, I still don’t know why it happened. I remember that we were watching a comedy movie at home and suddenly I started to feel really weird, as if everything wasn’t real, like I was dreaming. All my senses felt weird: sounds, feeling, moving. You can compare it with feeling tipsy or drunk. My heart started pounding really fast, I started sweating and before I knew, I had a panic attack and I had the feeling that I was going to faint or die.
Moving forward, this anxiety attack came back at the most random places and I never knew when it was going to happen. I started to avoid a lot of situations to avoid panic attacks. There was a time that I didn’t even want to leave my house or I would panic before I even got a real attack. I’ve been to many doctors and had a lot of different treatments, but nothing seemed to help my attacks go away. I wanted to be normal like everybody else so I didn’t give up and kept on fighting this anxiety. When I was 15 or 16, I started with medication. Very slowly my anxiety attacks became less frequent and I did everything I could to make sure that those attacks would go away for good.
I can now proudly say that I haven’t had any attack over the last 5 years! Here is how I believe overcoming my anxiety has made me a stronger, more positive person.
I learned to enjoy the simple things
During that time I enjoyed every moment that I didn’t feel anxious, even when this was something simple and boring like waiting in a car. I found that people complained too much. I never understood that because for me it felt like they should be happy, because they were able to do normal things, and I would do everything to do normal things too. Now when I’m waiting for a bus, eating in a restaurant, or something else that people may take for granted, I feel very blessed and happy because I feel in control of myself. I know that wasn’t always the case and that there were times when I thought I would never be in control of my body and able to do normal things. This also leads me to the next point:
I realized there is always a light at the end of the tunnel
During an anxiety attack it feels like it would never stop, like I would never feel calm or happy again. I learned at therapy that an anxiety attack can only last for 20 minutes. Of course I didn’t feel completely calm and happy after those 20 minutes, but it was true that the worst part of the anxiety attack doesn’t last longer than 20 minutes. After some practice, I learned to hold on to the thought that there was going to be a light a the end of the tunnel, even though I couldn’t see it. I just let it happen, and didn’t fight the symptoms because I knew they would go away eventually. This made me a little more calm inside even though I still had all the panic attack symptoms. Now when I’m feeling terrible or when it feels like I’m never going to be happy again, I use that same technique. I let myself be sad or anxious but I don’t let it control me. I just let it happen because I know there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel, even when I can’t see it yet. Fighting sad or anxious feelings will only make it worse, believe me!
My positivity made me stronger
Your thoughts can control you and your body so being positive can be very powerful. But being and thinking more positive takes practice, especially when you’re used to having a lot of negative or fearful thoughts. I learned to think more positive when I went to therapy. It didn’t directly help my attacks go away at the time, but I’m still thankful because now I consciously focus on the positive side of things. I truly believe that there is a positive and a negative side to everything and that consciously focusing on the positive side can make you stronger and help you to move forward, while only focusing on the negative side makes you feel insecure and sad.
I started saying yes more
During that time, I wanted to say yes when people invited me to something, but I couldn’t because I didn’t feel strong enough. Now that I don’t have those attacks anymore, I say yes a lot more because it feels like I’ve missed out on so much, and I don’t want to miss out on things anymore! It feels so good to say yes now. Even when I say yes to an event or something and it turns out to be disappointing, then I’m still very happy that I at least got the experience.
I became more comfortable with the uncomfortable
I had to go out of my comfort zone a lot when I had anxiety attacks because my comfort zone was very small. There were times when I wish that I could stay in my comfort zone for the rest of my life, but that was impossible. I experienced that making your comfort zone bigger, trying things that scare you, and overcoming fears is really rewarding (eventually) and will help you to feel free. It reminds me of this quote I love: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I’m thankful that I learned at such a young age that if I want to achieve something, I have to conquer my fears and step out of my comfort zone.
These are things that I learned from having and overcoming my anxiety attacks. If you have any questions about the anxiety attacks that I had or about something else, please feel free to ask me in the comments below!