Living With Severe Anxiety

By Autumn Faggett


Imagine that its Saturday night. You are perched on the most comfortable piece of furniture in your house doing the thing you love the most. Then suddenly, your chest tightens. It becomes harder to breathe even though you were not in a state of activity. Your heart is racing as though you have just run a marathon. You start feeling as though you are in danger. Like there is someone out to get you in your own home. You know that the only people in your house is the people you love, but somehow the feeling of danger still lurks in your mind. The extremity of these physical and emotional feelings continues for what seems like a lifetime, and you start to feel as though your world is ending. 

Then just as quickly as those feelings began, they disappear. You are baffled by what just happened as your body calms down. Without a diagnosis, you go about your business doing what you were doing before, hoping that those feelings do not return. 

You have just had a panic attack. 

Normal people may experience panic attacks one or two times in their lifetime as a response to extreme amounts of stress such as the loss of a family member, or major life changes that involve uncertainty. However, for people like me, who suffer from severe anxiety under a condition called, General Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D), panic attacks happen often without the proper reason to occur. Because anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress everyone at some point will experience anxiety. Anxiety can occur from excitement or somber occasions, but regardless, it will happen. The only difference between normal anxiety and severe anxiety is the rate at which the anxiety occurs. 

In hopes that my story will help someone, I am going to share my story below from the perspective of a southern, African American woman in her early twenties. 

I had my first panic attack when I was thirteen years old. My grandfather was just admitted to the hospital for the first time, and I was in school when my mother first sent me the dreaded text. She was coming to get me out of class early, but at the time, I was eager to leave school just so I could see my grandfather for perhaps the last time. At that moment in time, it was not going to be the last time I saw my grandfather, but my anxiety plagued me with all kinds of worries of what could happen in the hospital while I was not there. I worried so much about not being there when my grandfather died that my body thought that I was in a state of danger, and the panic attack came as swiftly as my worries. My teacher thought that I was having a heart attack and sent me to the nurses that could not figure out what was going on with my body. Eventually, the attack subsided, but the memory of that attack resonates with me today. 

That single attack makes my stomach churn because if I had sought out mental help sooner, I would not have suffered from my anxiety as long as I let myself suffer from it. When my mother picked my twin and I up from school that day, I was too embarrassed and ashamed to tell her that I had an incident with the nurses. I could not bring myself to tell her while her father lay in the hospital. Worrying about the health of my grandfather was only the beginning of all the worrying I would do through high school and my college years. Worrying about things out of my control, about social activities, how I looked, and the perception others had of me prevented me from living my best life during the times I should have been having the most fun. 

My anxiety prevented me from being able to relax and enjoy the things I formally would spend hours doing. My anxiety prevented me from pursuing relationships from people who had a genuine interest in me as a larger woman. My anxiety caused me to stray from the tight relationships I formed in middle school with people who I talked to well-into college because I worried that not talking to them for an extended amount of time made them hate me. My anxiety made me quit jobs over minor mistakes that were easily forgettable, yet I would stay up all night crying over those simple mistakes because I believed that I was bringing everyone down at my workplace. 

And finally, after 12 years of letting my anxiety rule and ruin my life, I finally sought out help at the end of 2020. As a black woman of an emotionally unavailable mother, I was too afraid to seek mental help since my family always had a stigma against mental health. Seeking therapy took the greatest amount of courage I could ever muster from myself. Getting the diagnosis of why I always felt the way I was feeling felt like a boulder was being lifted off my shoulders. Even though my mother teased me over my condition at first, she became slightly more understanding as I educated her on GAD. With the help of antidepressants and calming pills, I now feel like I have the freedom to do things I never would have imagined myself doing. 

I can say with pride that seeking help changed my life for the better. Although I have a long way to go to recovery, just the simple step of seeking help dramatically changed my outlook on life. 

For anyone who is doubting that they may have severe anxiety, I encourage you to look at what your anxiety is making you miss out on. Ask yourself; is this anxiety affecting my relationships? Is my anxiety causing me to ruin my performance at my job or school? Is my anxiety making me miss the best parts of my life? Is my anxiety consistently infiltrating my day-to-day activities? If you have said yes to any of these questions. Please, do not wait to seek help and let your anxiety get out of control the way I allowed mine to.

 You should consult your everyday doctor or licensed professional therapist to help you work through your anxiety, and the symptoms that come with anxiety. Do not wait because you feel embarrassed or ashamed of these symptoms. You cannot help how you feel, and you will only hurt yourself further if you do not seek help. 

If you’re still wondering if you have severe anxiety, please use the link below and use this free quiz provided by Rogers Behavioral Health below.


Thank you for reading my tale. Have a wonderful day and I hope this has helped you understand anxiety a little more!