If you’re reading this, don’t be ashamed.
My struggle with anxiety started the fall of my fourth year. It began seemingly out of nowhere, a panic attack on a Saturday night. I didn’t know what was going on, or what was wrong with me. Nothing seemed wrong, so why was I panicking?
I ignored it, pushing it to the back of my mind, thinking I could handle it on my own. I didn’t want to be weak and ask for help. I was ashamed. I forgot about the panic attack as best I could, and held the burden of it silently.
My breaking point came when I had a major panic attack in the middle of class. It was much more intense than my first one, even more fearful and real. I went straight to student health afterwards, thinking something was wrong with me. I got an EKG and blood tests, both results completely normal. At the end of the appointment, the doctor handed me a pamphlet on anxiety.
“Maybe you should go home for a weekend? Destress?”
I held the piece of paper in my hand, trembling, on the verge of tears. I was ashamed and angry. Ashamed I had come to student health for a doctor to hand me a pamphlet on anxiety. Angry that this doctor diminished my panic attack to stress. I had experienced stress before; this was completely different.
That night, I realized I couldn’t combat anxiety alone. It was too much to bear. I called my parents and told them everything. I felt instant relief, and support. I made a doctor’s appointment to find out about treatment options.
I finally stopped ignoring my anxiety. Instead, I looked it in the face and said “Fuck you”.
There are still days when I can feel my anxiety creeping up on me like a little devil on my shoulder. Telling me I’m not going to be okay, telling me I’m not good enough. I know it will always be there, but now I am capable of fighting back.
If you’re reading this, don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed to admit you can’t fight it on your own. Don’t be ashamed to get help and talk to someone. You’re not weak; getting help is one of the strongest things you can do.
Anonymous, University of Virginia