By JESSICA HENDRIKS
Panic, racing thoughts, shakes, blurry visions, nausea, difficulty focusing, warmness to the skin, sweat, heart palpitation, muscle tension, irritability – we’re scared because we have lost control of our mind and body.
We feel we’re dying, but we’re not. It’s just another anxiety attack.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, one in four Canadians will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
My friend Carly McHugh, a Niagara College graduate, and I are two of those people.
Having a friend with the same disorder makes it a lot easier.
We understand each other. We help each other through our thoughts and help each other think rationally, but without judgment. If we’re about to go into an anxious situation, we give each other words of encouragement. We know how much it helps.
It makes a huge difference to have someone say you can do it rather than have someone say you’re overreacting or being crazy.
McHugh agrees, saying, “Especially if they understand your mindset. It always helps to get another perspective on what you’re going through and help you go through the motions that’ll calm you down.”
However, people who have never had anxiety have difficulty understanding it.
Tim Armstrong, 49, from Grimsby, husband and father to those who struggle with anxiety, says, “I don’t know what to do when someone has an [anxiety] attack because I have never had one. My reaction is, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
There’s no clear answer on how to help. Everyone with anxiety deals with it differently.
For me, if I were around people, I would normally reach out to the person whom I feel most comfortable with. What they can do is just be there, hug me or rub my arm, take me out of the room if possible and ask me what else they can do to help.
If I’m alone, I normally text someone, put earphones on and listen to Demi Lovato because her voice and lyrics are so soothing.
But be careful, whereas touch calms me down, it might make someone else’s symptoms worse.
McHugh says she sometimes likes to be left alone depending on the nature of the attack, which I had a hard time understanding at first because I hate being alone during moments of anxiety.
“Everyone’s condition is different, and fitting every anxious person under a specific umbrella is not the way to solve their problems,” says McHugh.
I have learned to ask her what she needs – or sometimes I can just tell – because I know it’s not always the same.
The best thing to do when you learn that someone has an anxiety disorder is to talk to them and educate yourself on their anxiety, not just anxiety in general.
I truly believe teachers or professors should receive some type of training on how to deal with situations like these, especially if they have a student who has a document stating they have a mental health disorder.
I have heard a number of stories from students and professors saying they had no idea what to do or just didn’t understand.
Training will not only help them understand how to help, but also why a student is acting a certain way.
I must leave class when I feel anxious. I also have a hard time focusing on work when I’m dealing with anxiety, sometimes making me hand my work in late.
For those struggling with anxiety, stay strong and keep pushing through. Stand up for yourself and let others know what you need. Figure out what helps you and do it. Take a few deep breaths. It’s all going to be OK.
McHugh also has advice for those struggling with anxiety.
“Anxiety can be hard to shake, but wallowing won’t help; the more you have to occupy your mind, the better. Maintain focus on something you want. Goals are easier to achieve when you don’t overthink them. Keep busy, but don’t forget to breathe.”
McHugh moved back home to Burlington after spending my first two years of college with me. I am now struggling with separation anxiety because I’m separated from the only person who truly knew me.
I go to school every day, with a smile on my face, but am struggling knowing that no one is there who understands my anxiety and me, like she does.