While I like to keep things light and focus on positivity and focus my energy on fun + exciting projects and topics on this little space of mine, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t also share some of my hardships and struggles. (We are all human after all, right?)
I remember the day like it was yesterday, only I was seventeen years old — an innocent teenager with no real life problems or stresses. Which is why it hit me like a ton of bricks — but on a random beautiful sunny and totally average day, I experienced my very first panic attack.
My boyfriend at the time and I had gone to the movies and life as I knew it was great. School was great, home life was great, my friends were great and for the most part, I was a happy and positive individual but anxiety doesn’t care how happy you are or how positive your outlook on life is. Anxiety doesn’t care about ANY of that, because in a blink of an eye, as I was sitting in a room full of strangers, in the dark and about to enjoy a relaxing evening at the movies like I had plenty of times before — when I suddenly felt like I was going to die (if you’ve ever had a panic attack then I don’t even need to tell you the rest). My heart was pounding, hands were sweaty, I was lightheaded — I was a mess and I was positive and completely certain that I was going to die. How could I die at seventeen years old? How could I die and not even say goodbye to my family? How could I die without experiencing the rest of my life? This just couldn’t be possible.
I rushed to the nearest hospital and after a few tests, the doctors told me that I had experienced my very first panic attack. They handed me a referral to see a psychologist, a prescription for Xanax and sent me on my way. How could this be? I felt terrible, both inside and out and didn’t understand how I could ever experience this again without completely losing my mind.
I lived in fear for years following that initial attack. I told my friends and family about my struggles and limited outings or situations that would trigger my anxiety (malls, concerts, crowds). I was lost, I was restricted from living a seemingly normal life and I was PISSED.
I decided to ditch the meds and saw a therapist for the first time. (don’t get me wrong, I totally believe in taking medication and even question whether or not I should have to this day). As I walked into my first appointment I felt so many emotions. Truth is, I was scared out of my mind to talk about this deep dark demon that was haunting me and dictating my entire existence. After a few weeks of therapy, I felt like a new me (or should I say the old me). I wasn’t scared anymore because talking about my condition made everything better.
To this day, I still experience spurs of anxiety and depression. I still feel like it lingers around like a black cloud over my head waiting to strike at any second, but I feel in control of it. I remember my therapist asking me numerous times “what’s the worst thing that can happen when you have an attack? Are you going to die? Nope.” Every time I felt scared or anxious I repeat those exact words in my head and after a while I felt the anxiety less and less.
I will never ever forget the agony that anxiety and depression put me through but in some weird way it also shaped me to be the strong individual I am today and for that I am eternally grateful. Sounds weird right? YUP, but when you’ve hit rock bottom you are so much more thankful for even the smallest joys of life.
I choose life, I choose happiness but most importantly I choose me.
Author: Tara Spinelli