I’ve mentioned before in previous blog posts that I struggle daily with anxiety. It was to the point that it was debilitating. Talking to people was difficult and taking opportunities that could potentially change my life was impossible. I couldn’t even order food from unfamiliar places because it was something that seemed terrifying.
Ever since I can remember, anxiety was always there taunting me. One moment, I felt fine. The next moment, I would be curled up under my blanket, weeping to myself. I felt so defeated by the world. It took me until this year (at the sweet age of 24) to finally want to escape the invisible cage holding me hostage.
I honestly don’t recall what or why I decided to finally make one of the biggest changes in my life. All I know is, God gave me the strength that I needed in order to start taking a stand for myself.
In order to begin my self-treated exposure therapy I slowly (but surely) put myself in situations that would normally make me uncomfortable. For instance, during class when we had to do a presentation, I would sign up to go first. If a professor asked a question, I would force myself to raise my hand. Eventually, doing simple tasks such as these became easier (although still a tad bit frightening).
Eventually I mustered up the courage to book my first solo flight (to California). At first, (mainly since my trip was four months away) I didn’t feel anxiety whatsoever. I thought I would be fine. I certainly wasn’t feeling fear. Once the flight itself got closer and closer, panic set in fast. Two weeks before my flight, realization kicked in. Every single night until the day of my flight was spent having panic attacks and having unwanted thoughts of devastating events (that wouldn’t happen). I was even hit with random bouts of terror, causing me to uncontrollably sob no matter where I was at.
Before I knew it, it was the day of my flight. My parents and boyfriend took me to the airport, where my best friend met me. I should add, it was like 4 AM. If that doesn’t show that they love me, I don’t know what does!
My panic and worry wasn’t nearly as bad as the anticipation was. In fact, I was quite calm. Even though I was going to be gone for only a total of nine days, saying goodbye to everyone was the hardest part of it all.
Before I knew it, I was on the plane.
I was so blessed to be sitting next to two very kind people. One woman in the row next to me sparked a conversation and gave me some very helpful tips (listen to the pilot before landing, find your gate, etc.). There was also man sitting in the window seat in my row, who spoke to me for a little while. He too gave me tips that I would use often throughout my several airport adventures. He also told me that I was going to be perfectly fine. Hearing those words from a complete stranger was a comfort that I desperately needed.
After my layover, I finally landed at my destination. I never felt so accomplished and proud of myself. My flight back home ended up being a piece of cake. Now, a month later, I’m able to order food and do simple things with ease. My anxiety is in no way cured, but I can say, exposing myself to the things that I fear the most has done wonders. There are still quite a few things I need to work on, but now I am more confident in my own abilities.
To those who are struggling, find the strength you need in God. For those who don’t believe in God, find the strength within yourself. The anticipation is far worse than the action/event itself. Believe in yourself, believe in your own abilities, and most importantly, know everything will absolutely be okay. If I can survive the terrors of anxiety, so can you.