By TIFFANY STRALEY

For two and a half years now, I have been battling the beast that is anxiety with a side of panic attacks.  Although it is so much better and more manageable now, I remember when it first started and I had no clue what was happening to me and no clue how to explain it. 

All I knew was something was very wrong and I felt so hopeless that I just wanted Jesus to take us all home. After numerous ER trips, doctor appointments, and even a cardiologist appointment we found out I had a clean bill of health and that all the problems were from anxiety. I never knew the physical toll anxiety had on a person’s body. I was convinced I had a heart issue due to all the chest pains and heart palpitations.

As I have fought against this, I have studied it a lot to know what I was up against and I found out that not only can anxiety interfere with your quality of life but it can also have consequences on your physical health.

It continues to shock me as I experience new physical tolls how many ways anxiety can manifest itself.

Some of the common symptoms of anxiety are feeling nervous, restless or tense, having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom, an increased heart rate, breathing rapidly, sweating, trembling, feeling exhausted and weak, trouble concentrating about anything other than your worry, trouble sleeping, GI problems, having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety and avoiding social interactions. 

I have experienced all of those along with chest pains, extreme head pressure and having my blood turn cold in fear. One positive about developing anxiety is as I have spoken out about it, I have learned people I know and love also struggle with it. Some of them I never had a clue they were struggling and I know now from experience how scary and lonely it is.

It is nearly impossible for someone who does not have anxiety to know how horrifying it is and it is so hard to be able to explain it to someone.

I asked a few of the people I know personally who have or are struggling with anxiety what it is like for them and here are some of the responses I received. 

“I felt totally out of control, my heart and mind were going crazy and I just needed to get away, but I did not know what I was running from or where I was going. I would drive for hours and as I was driving I would see semis and want to swerve at them. I did not want to leave the house and would not get out of bed until noon and would only get dressed when I had to leave the house. I felt I had no friends and got so offended by everything. I was tired all of the time and my spouse had to handle all of the duties at home along with their job. It felt like I was in a game of whack a mole with satan.”

Another individual said, “I was living my life, but just walking in motion. My mind was somewhere else, I had a racing heart beat and got so out of breath doing little things.  I never felt “normal” and knew something was off but didn’t know what it was. I had heart tests and lost 20 lbs in two months and thought I was dying a slow death. It was one of the worst times of my life and I felt hopeless. No one knew how to make me feel better. I never realized what anxiety was and what it can do until I had it. Many are ashamed to admit they have it but I believe it is something that needs to be talked about more.”

As I learned more about these individuals and their struggles, I teared up because I knew exactly how they had felt.

In talking to different people, I have found that although people have different triggers the main ones tend to be worrying for children, worrying in general, money or health issues.

For me, as I have learned different ways to cope, the things that help me the most are singing praise music, praying and being in my safe place. 

There were times when I would feel so hopeless that I would imagine I was sitting with Jesus to calm down. I did seek help from a doctor and use medication, but still to this day the fastest way for me to calm down is to be in a completely silent area to breathe and pray.

Another individual said part of what helped them through was making a list of people to pray for, people to send cards too and people to make meals for. Focusing on other people rather than self felt so good.

If you are struggling with anxiety do not be ashamed and do not be afraid to seek help.

This life is not easy and part of what makes it worth living is loving and being loved. If not for the prayers, love and support from my friends and family, I have no idea what I would have done to survive the hardest point of my anxiety.

If you want to know more about anxiety, watch for part two as I will explain the different types of anxiety.