When I was about 22 years old, I had, what they call in Shakespearean studies, hubris. I had recently graduated from a competitive public high school, and had been accepted into the University of Chicago, undergraduate studies. Little did I know what was in store for me.
At 3 AM on a July 2012 morning, I lay helpless on an emergency room cot, unable to experience any emotion other than fear and the physical sensations that racked my body. My extreme levels of anxiety did not cease; my body showed me no mercy, perhaps because my racing mind did not extend that courtesy to my body. I was wrapped in a backless hospital gown and meagerly strewn blanket that had been nuked in a microwave to keep me warm.
I have battled more at the age of 25 than most humans do in a lifetime. Take a moment to think of the most dreadfully painful experience you have had – I can empathize with you. In my life, I have overcome two near death experiences. One at the age of 11 which left me in a coma, the other at 21 where I was fighting against a collapsed lung and losing a lot of blood. My suffering has not only been painful physically but mentally.
Mark Bermudez, an art student at Florida International University, reached out to ADAA a few months ago to let us know that he was working on a project for his Graphic Design III class where he would create a series of posters that explain how mental illnesses can affect people through the use of metaphor. His designs are all related to the different themes that represent ADAA’s outreach and educational efforts around anxiety, depression and related disorders.
When I last sat down to reflect on my journey with anxiety I was nervous, timid, and YES even a little ANXIOUS. I wanted to share my story with the “right” spin or the “right” perspective. I gave just enough details to get the point across and deflect the focus away from me and my “issues”. This is what came out.
I was in seventh grade when I discovered I had anxiety. I didn't go to school for 2 months because every day my mom would take me, and I would end up on the floor of the car sobbing and hyperventilating. I was a sophomore in high school when I was diagnosed with depression. I skipped class a lot, I would cry over everything, and I would never leave the house.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be hard to recognize because you may not think of yourself as worried or anxious. But if you are having physical pain, or waking up in the night, or sensitive to sounds, or overthinking things, you may have GAD. That's what happened to me.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with social anxiety disorder, along with generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and depression. During the worst of it, I was on strong medication and medical disability benefits due to my fear of job interviews. I would feel uncomfortable or awkward in public 90 percent of the time.
I wish my breakthrough moment wasn’t when I thought "I'd pay good money if I could feel better." I am cheap, so the path became clearer once cost was no longer a concern. After I decided to get help for my depression, one challenge was telling a receptionist why I wanted therapy. I had never told anyone I felt depressed.
Founded in 1979, ADAA is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through aligning research, practice and education.