These battle scars

I WANT to tell you a story today, but it’s a bit different from our usual chat.

I think it’s a story that needs to be told, because I don’t want people to feel alone anymore.

Here goes.

My first panic attack occurred a few months after I finished high school.

I was driving at night, lost complete confidence in my ability to be behind the wheel, my vision blurred, my heart was threatening to rip through my chest, I burst into tears and I had the most awful, gut-wrenching feeling of utter fear.

I was on the side of the road, afraid of my car, thinking I was going to die.

Thus began my downward spiral.

I was Alice in freaking Horrorland.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am quite extroverted.

In the days after the incident, I became so introverted that I barely recognised myself.

I became my anxiety.

Initially, I was okay.

I had scared myself, but carried on as normal.

But something just wasn’t quite right.

I became highly irritable and I twitched a lot, at every loud noise or sudden movement.

I was hypersensitive and numb to things, at the same time.

All I wanted to do was curl up in bed or on the couch all day, where I couldn’t feel disassociated or dazed.

I refused to get into a car.

I lost 5kg in a matter of days.

I couldn’t eat, I didn’t want to go out; I could barely function.

I quit my job because I became so anxious around too many people and noise and weird lighting.

My doctor said I was showing symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder.

I trembled the entire drive to and from the doctor’s office.

I endlessly researched my symptoms and discovered all the possible treatments.

I refused to believe I had a form of mental illness, because mental illness could not be cured with a week of antibiotics and bed rest.

But nothing could cure it overnight.

Trust me, with the endless hours I spent online, I would have found a cure by now.

I considered medication, hypnotherapy, a psychologist, brain surgery, and whether I had a physical illness that just produced similar symptoms.

I wanted an instant cure because I was so scared of an illness that was not yet fully understood and cured by science.

The worst part was seeing people turn away in fear as I shook and hyperventilated, trying to breathe with no air.

It took me more than a year to comprehend that the cause of my anxiety was undisclosed.

The sole purpose of me telling you my story is that I want you to be brave.

I want you to ask for help when you need it.

Because it is okay to not be okay.

What isn’t okay is to let it consume you.

I was consumed by my anxiety for months.

Some people are consumed by it for years.

I still get the odd feeling of disassociation in a shopping centre, and get twitchy when I am super tired.

I only started to become myself again once I had acknowledged my anxiety, and decided I wanted to figure out how to cope with it.

No matter how far you think you have fallen down the rabbit hole, there is always a ladder waiting to help you up.

Be that ladder a person, medical assistance, self-help or a combination of a few things, you have a ladder.

You just need to let yourself start to climb it.

As I always say, step by step.

My first step?

My name is Ash and I suffer from anxiety.