11 Women On When They Decided To Seek Help For Their Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues to struggle with, but due to the stigma around mental health, many people avoid seeking help for anxiety. But if you're among the 40 million American adults who experience anxiety, you're not alone and help is out there. So, how do you know when your anxiety requires professional help?
"I’d advise anyone who's feeling anxiety and just wishes they could talk to someone about it (other than a family member or a friend) to reach out and give therapy a try," practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle. "A therapist is sworn to secrecy about virtually everything and is there to work with you as you focus on yourself, what you’re feeling, and how to address it. At minimum, it’s a wonderful and healthy place to learn more about oneself and grow. And if the anxiety is feeling very distressing and hard to manage, or if it’s getting in the way of your ability to enjoy your life or do the things you want to do, then I’d also say it would be a good idea to reach out to a therapist. Effective, caring support is out there."
If you're wondering if your anxiety could benefit from professional help, here's how some women decided to seek help for theirs.
1. Kathryn, 30
"When I was 28 and my world began slowly closing in and crashing down around me — even though everything was going well.
I remember lying in bed one afternoon that summer, looking out the window, and wondering what the point of being in the world was. I felt as if I had no purpose and no desire to find one — it was hard enough to just breathe. That’s when I decided to get help."
2. Jennifer, 42
"In my late 20s, I was experiencing a lot of stress at work. In retrospect, it was much more than I was letting on. One evening, I was on the highway going to visit my parents when all of sudden I felt a shortness of breath, my mouth went dry, and I realized I needed to pull over to collect myself. That was my first experience with a panic attack. I still couldn't tell you what I was thinking about before it came on, but it led to some pretty serious driving anxiety for quite a few months.
At first, I tried to ignore it, but ignoring your subconscious that is trying to protect you in a fight or flight moment only makes it worse. I have always been a strong, independent woman, so I finally realized I needed to get help and found a wonderful therapist who did not put me on drugs but rather taught me the benefits of yoga and meditation.
In the end, this put me on a path of not only overcoming my anxiety, but [becoming] a life coach helping other high-achieving women own their power and live the life they deserve. For a lot of women like me, we were brought up to know that we can be ANYTHING we want in life. Somehow along the way, this anything became EVERYTHING, which often leads to overwhelm and, in my case, anxiety."
3. Jenny, 24
"About a month ago, I was on my way to work, a lengthy two hour commute to my downtown Los Angeles office, when I was overcome with heat, shortness of breath, nausea, and panic. I pulled off the freeway to what I can only describe now as the mecca of Hollywood — a Denny's restaurant with an open, FREE parking spot and public restroom. I paced back and forth on the gravel, attempting to control my breaths, stop the tears from rolling down my red cheeks, and eventually try to understand what just happened to me. I've made this drive for almost 10 months, Mon-Fri, and the only thought in my mind now is will I ever be able to get in the driver's seat again?
There are real problems in the world, so what am I so anxious, sick and, worried about? I'm not so sure of that answer yet, but I am currently seeking treatment. In 2011, I was able to delay college by a semester, miss a couple classes when it got bad, and take the summer off when I was so overwhelmed and needed to find myself again. But now, I'm an adult living with anxiety — and in that Denny's parking lot, I realized that I was in a position of great risk.
Telling my boss was knowingly presenting my greatest weakness, and possibly posing too big of a burden in the office. But I had to do it — I needed time to get back on my medication, see a therapist, and illuminate these problems attacking my body, instead of suffering in silence. And to my shock, my whole team was more than supportive. They didn't press for details but offered a safe place to come back to when I was ready.
...When your mind is doing everything in its power to bring you to the lowest place you've ever been, it can feel scary opening up. But what's even scarier is taking on these problems alone. I know I will always live with anxiety and the inevitable factors that will continue to trigger me throughout my life, but if anyone is every contemplating getting help, I will always, always urge them to make that step."
4. Emily, 24
"While I had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was in elementary school, I had always found ways to manage it. But, come sophomore year of college, my tried and true tricks weren't working. I could hardly get out of bed and found myself listless. I was cancelling any and all plans, except for anything that involved drinking, so I could numb the feeling. I eventually realized I was in a downward spiral and realized that I couldn't handle daily panic attacks anymore. So, I sought help on my own."
5. Alice, 50
"After I had one set of hallucinations."
6. Eileen, 32
"About two years ago, I had a business trip to Sri Lanka. At the gate, I started to get sweaty and felt like the walls were caving in. Things got really frantic really fast and I couldn't imagine getting on that plane. It was my first panic attack — and relating to travel, which is what I do for a living! I had always been a little high-strung, but this was the first time anxiety affected my everyday life. I almost didn't go, and future attacks prevented me from getting on the subway, in cars, and on more planes. I knew I had to see someone. I went to a primary care doctor after a couple weeks, who gave me medication for flights. He then referred me to a psychiatrist for further CBT therapy, and I sought private counseling afterwards, which all helped."
7. Theresa, 29
"I couldn't get out of bed in college. I had to call my dad to come get me."
8. Marie, 38
"It started interfering with my life to the point it became crippling. I was a new mom with a high-pressure job, and I could not get my brain to focus when I needed it to. I reluctantly tried a low dose of Lexapro, and this vise grip that had been squeezing my entire life suddenly lessened. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner."
9. Myisha, 36
"I knew I needed help with anxiety when I couldn't breathe in large crowds. I would actually go silent and hold my breath. At one point in a restaurant, my silence and breathing became so awkward, my friends began to ask of I was OK. This is when I knew I needed support."
10. Jane, 49
"For several days in a row, even before my mind had seized on any external 'facts' of my life, I awoke with very physical sensations of anxiety — feeling like I was wearing tight straight jacket on my upper body."
11. Rachel, 36
"I started seeing a therapist again earlier this year when I started having anxiety attacks more frequently. I'd experienced a couple anxiety attacks a few years ago after a really rough breakup but stopped therapy when everything started to feel OK. Then, this past year, the anxiety attacks came back and were happening about once every two weeks, and that's when I knew I needed help. My symptoms are very physical: hyperventilating, heart racing, inability to calm down, and feeling like it's the end of the world. It's helpful to have that dedicated time once a week to talk to someone about it."
If any of these experiences sounds familiar to you, talk to your doctor or see a therapist. There's no shame in getting help.