I remember the first day I felt it.
I was laying on my bed during a lunch break on my LDS mission. We hadn’t done much that day so far. We had woken up at our normal time, exercised, studied, and done some organizing of our apartment. Nothing was out of the normal other than the way that I felt as I laid there on my bed.
Everything started with a heavy feeling on my heart. I felt like someone had put 100 pound weight on my heart and it was about to fall through my chest and crush me completely. Next came the shortness of breath. This was a more intense lack of air than I felt while running that morning. I literally felt like I couldn’t breath. My mind raced from thought to thought. I felt out of control of the thoughts coming and going in and out of my mind. Due to the lack of control of my body, tears came. I sobbed for 20 minutes as I had to endure the most painful and confusing attack of my life.
Later on with some help and support I was able to find out that what I had experienced was a panic attack.
These panic attacks started to happen to me about 3 times a week at random moments. We could be in the grocery store, at a strangers house, or in our apartment. The panic attacks didn’t care where I was or what I was doing.
After going through constant panic attacks and always feeling afraid that I would have another one at any moment, I got help.
I started by talking to my mission president. (A mission president is someone who is over all the LDS missionaries in a certain area.) After speaking with him a few time the decision was made that I would talk to a counselor. At first I was afraid to talk to a counselor because I thought he would think I was crazy and that I didn’t have problems, but after talking to him about ways to over come my anxiety and panic attacks for three months, I was feeling much better.
For about four months after talking to my counselor I was fine. I was able to handle and control my anxiety on my own. I still had panic attacks, but with the suggestions from my counselor I was able to get through them and be fine. Then there came a time where those suggestions no longer seemed liked they helped. I started to get panic attacks three times a week again and they started to last longer than they did in the past.
Feeling defeated, I talked to my mission president. Soon I started talking to my counselor again. After talking to him a few times we both came to the decision that medication was a good idea. To this day I still take medication.
My anxiety has gotten better with time. I still have off days. I still have panic attacks. I still suffer with anxiety, but I am okay.
I remember the disappointment I felt when going through this process. I felt stupid for not being able to handle my own body and mind. I felt like it was something I was making up. I felt as if people thought I was crazy. I felt embarrassed that this was something I was dealing with.
One of my favorite quotes comes from an apostle in my church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, he says about mental illness, “However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.”
We should not be ashamed to have anxiety. We have anxiety, but we are not anxiety.
Keep your head up.
Get help and get healthy.
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