Looking back, I recall first experiencing a panic attack in the sixth grade. I remember getting so nervous that I would have to leave class and go to the counselor’s office. Until I was 16, I was in and out of psychiatrists’ offices. It was a challenge to find a psychiatrist that I could connect with. Throughout junior high and high school, I still experienced anxiety and panic attacks. And when I started college, my anxiety and panic attacks intensified.
The worst panic attack I ever experienced was during a lecture in my freshman biology class. I had all the textbook symptoms, plus I broke out in hives that covered my face, neck, chest, arms, and all down my back.
During a panic attack, the first thing you want to do is get out of the situation that is causing it. However, since most professors find it disrespectful to leave during class, I had to sit for an hour and half in this agonizing state. As soon as I got home, I knew I needed to get help. I had been prescribed a benzodiazepine only in case of an emergency. My psychiatrist was four hours away, so I to went to urgent care.
As I explained my situation, the doctor prescribed an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medication and said, “If you cannot control your panic attacks, then maybe you should drop out of college.” I started sobbing. I could’t believe this doctor had just uttered those harsh words. It was as if I had terminal cancer that could not be cured.
Well, that was the last time I saw him. With the help of a caring doctor and my psychiatrist at home, I tried almost every SSRI on the market for my panic disorder and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). But I experienced awful side effects and I quit taking them. Fortunately, I learned to control my panic attacks through therapy, self-help books, and my amazing best friend, Stephanie, who has always been there for me and never passes judgment. After patiently listening to me, she could always ease my fears and anxiety.
At age 23, I’m about to receive my master’s degree in business. Although I still worry and get anxious, I haven’t let my anxiety disorders control my life: Now I control them. Please do not feel ashamed to get help because I can promise you this. Once you do, the quality of your life will improve tremendously. Mine has.