I ignored my anxiety for years until it made it impossible for me to breathe

Constant panic attacks made me realise what a horrendous mistake it was to underestimate the power of a sound mental health .
Don’t take your anxiety casually. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Sonakshi Kohli Published: 26 Aug 2020, 03:29 pm IST
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‘Twas just “casual” anxiety they call ‘stage fright’ before making a big speech at a school function. A few years later, I’d feel the same kind of “fright” before job interviews. It would pop up every time I sat behind the wheel in the first few days after I learnt to drive.

‘Twas a feeling that would send countless chills down my spine—literally chills—the kind that would make my throat go dry and render me weak, as though my limbs had lost their strength. At its peak, it would make my legs shiver and leave me gasping to catch barely the amount of air I’d need to make it through that feeling of drowning.

The good thing about this feeling was that it wouldn’t stick around for too long and made its appearance only at rare occasions. But before I knew, I started going through the same cycle every time I’d put on weight, get a call from someone I didn’t wish to speak to, went through a difficult phase in a relationship, or someone had something harsh to say to me. Worst of all, sometimes, without any rhyme or reason, this feeling would just hit me out of the blue.

It wasn’t just “casual” stage fright
As per the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS), “Anxiety is a feeling of unease. It can range from mild to severe, and can include feelings of worry and fear. The most severe form of anxiety is panic,”

Furthermore, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, panic disorder, which is a form of anxiety disorder, is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are very preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. It’s often characterized by symptoms such as fast, pounding heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, muscle tension, rapid/difficult breathing, tightness in throat, chills or hot flashes, and restlessness.

anxiety disorder
Don’t let anxiety dawn on you. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Now, I had to overcome my strong, natural denial instincts, unawareness about mental health issues, and complete disbelief in the fact that it could happen to me—to even acknowledge that all these symptoms were matching mine and that I had a panic disorder.

Because after all, I had a perfectly healthy, happy childhood, a set of extremely supportive friends and family, and got married into a wonderful family with a partner of my choice, and have a career that gets me excited every day.

Also, read: Music can save you from anxiety. Here’s everything you need to know about music therapy

What went wrong, then?
Firstly, the fact that throughout my life, I thought I had it all together and chose to not talk about things that bothered me so as to maintain peace and harmony. But, brushing things under the carpet wasn’t it.

The second mistake that I committed, much like many others, is the fact that we try to find a “practical” cause of anxiety/panic/depression and other mental-health issues.

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“Sushant Singh Rajput was a good-looking, successful man, what reason did he have to get into depression?” seemed equivalent to “You’re well settled with no stress or worries, why are you anxious?”

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FYI, one doesn’t necessarily have to be financially weak or lose a loved one/ be going through a breakup/ facing work stress/ have a traumatic past/ have any history of physical assault/ be facing failures in life to be anxious/stressed/depressed.

According to lead researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety can be due to genetic and environmental factors as well as any disturbance in the brain chemistry.

Munna Bhai called it a ‘chemical locha’ and that’s what it is—perhaps triggered by my habit of brushing things under the carpet.

But instead of wasting time on finding the perfect cause, I headed for treatment instead
After being misdiagnosed for a seasonal allergy, covid, and lung infection and when the strongest medicines failed to relieve the recurrent bouts of breathlessness and shivering I was facing day in and day out—continuously for almost a month—I knew something was wrong. I was sure it was, when my disappointed doctor finally asked me if I was “stressed/worried due to something”.

Also, read: Can you quick fix your anxiety? Here’s what a psychologist has to say

Finally, it occurred to both him and me that my miserable condition needed therapy and not antibiotics and nebulizers. What followed was a course of anxiety pills that left me dizzy, fatigued, and sometimes even disoriented. But at least, I was able to breathe after a month.

anxiety treatment
Anxiety takes time to materialise and time to fade away. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The final word
This happened just last month, so I can’t really promise if I’m okay. But I waited for my mental health to get to a point, where I couldn’t breathe no matter how hard I tried—before I decided to stop staying quiet on matters that affected my emotional and mental health.

Also, read: Time to change: These 6 common habits can make your anxiety worse

If you or someone you know has even one of these symptoms, do take anxiety as a possibility. Because trust me, it’s not easy to go through an anxiety disorder—especially when you’re least expecting it.

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