My Anxiety Story

In 2019, I was on a family vacation, about to eat dinner at a nice restaurant, when suddenly I began to feel nauseous. I didn’t know what was going, I had never felt nauseous for no reason before. Interrupting the lively conversation about our plans to go to Disney World the next day, I told my parents that my stomach hurt really bad and I needed to go back to the hotel to lie down. After laying in agonizing pain for an hour, I decided that I should go to the ER before things got worse and ruined any more of our trip. 


The doctor at the emergency room said that it seemed that my symptoms were caused by constipation. He gave me some medicine to help me get through the trip, and recommended I see more doctors once I got back home. I was able to get through the trip without feeling too awful, although I did have to skip half of the activities so I could rest up.


Once getting back home, I visited my primary care doctor. After explaining to her everything that was going on, she said that it seemed like all of my symptoms were caused by anxiety and depression. It had never crossed my mind that those were the reasons for my sickness. Mental health wasn’t something that my family and friends talked about often, but I was getting ready to move across the country to go to college, so it made sense that anxiety and depression would go along with it. 


Following my diagnosis, I partook in some reflection. Looking back on my life, it seemed that I had always had a touch of anxiety, but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I started to experience physical and symptoms due to it. I felt nauseous every morning my junior year, and I assumed it was due to lack of sleep. But looking back, I had just started at a new school and hadn’t made many friends yet, so the nausea was actually a symptom of my mental illness. 


Leaving my parents and going to college was just such a monumental event that it set my anxiety and depression over the edge to the point where it began to take over my life. My primary care doctor has prescribed the drug Lexapro to take, to limit my anxiety and depression. I took it for about four months, from July to October, and did not see any changes in my symptoms.


On the contrary, once I arrived at college my symptoms worsened. Being in a dorm made me feel like I was constantly being watched, as there was no privacy. People were always around, which made my social anxiety go off the rails. I began having diarrhea every single day, multiple times a day. It was difficult for me to eat because I felt sick all the time, and when I did I had to use the bathroom immediately after. I had to take Pepto Bismol all the time just to be able to attend class. I weaned myself off of the Lexapro, because it didn’t seem to make a difference and I forgot to take it every once in a while anyways. That was a rough time in my life. 


Over my school’s fall break, in November, I went to see a different primary care doctor to see if she had any different advice than the first doctor I saw had. After explaining my situation and symptoms to her, she agreed that I had anxiety with a hint of depression. However, in addition to that, she diagnosed me with IBS, otherwise known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. She explained to me that many people with anxiety have IBS, as well, because anxiety can affect one’s digestion. She prescribed a fiber supplement to me, called FiberCon, that was supposed to calm my stomach and help with constipation and diarrhea. 


I have been taking FiberCon everyday for a year and half now, and my anxiety and depression symptoms are as limited as they have been since I began high school. Yes, I do occasionally have an upset stomach when I am stressed about a school project or meeting someone new, but nowhere near the extent that it was my first semester of college. This is all to say that even when you feel like your mental illness is taking over your life, there is a way out of it. Don’t give up on yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


For those of you that experience symptoms of anxiety and depression like I do, here are some of the coping mechanisms that I employ to take back control of my mind. First, I like to do breathing exercise. I know that this is a common one that most people already know about, but it really does work. When I feel my anxiety start to build up, I take slow, deep breaths until I start to calm down. The great thing about this one is it can be done in public without anyone around you knowing. 


Another thing that I do is sing and dance by myself. Yes, this sounds silly, but it really works. When I’ve had a bad day and am feeling stressed and depressed, I turn on some of my favorite music,do a little karaoke, and have a little dance party for myself. When I do this, it’s hard to get into it at first because I don’t feel happy and I’m not in the mood to sing and dance, but after faking being happy for a few minutes, I start to feel actually happy! Trust me, this works.


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