Anxiety Didn’t Have Me
“I can’t feel my feet. If I pass out, just drag me out of the hallway.” I leaned forward and whispered half-jokingly to my friend, Courtney, during first period.
I continued to watch the clock, willing it to speed up. I felt like I was worlds away from my own body. I felt ice-cold panic surge through my body every few seconds. The bell rang to end first period and students rushed into the hallway. I hoped Courtney remembered my earlier comment as the surge of bodies carried me out of the classroom.
As my classmates jostled past me and my vision swirled, my mind tried to figure out why everyone else was moving at hyper speed while my dazed limbs were stuck in normal rhythm. My body felt weak and I began to drown in the overwhelming fear that I would pass out. I heard my heart beating rapidly in my ears.
Something is wrong. My brain kept repeating this phrase over and over. I called my mom and convinced her to let me drive home, since it wasn’t far, and I didn’t want to be trapped at school while I waited for her to pick me up. As soon as I got in the car, I tried to turn on some music to calm myself down. The thumping of the music felt like there were bees trapped in my chest and I turned it off. My mom met me at home to check on me.
“You’re so pale,” she whispered and felt my forehead with the back of her hand. She immediately called to make me an appointment.
“I can’t feel my feet. Something is wrong,” I kept saying.
We arrived at the doctor’s office and I began to cry as my mom checked me in with the receptionist. The couple across from me looked at me and then at each other and started whispering.
“Maddie, what’s wrong?” my mom whispered as I laid my head on her shoulder.
“Something is wrong. The walls are melting. I can’t feel my feet,” I repeated.
She got up and told the receptionist I needed to be seen immediately. A nurse opened the door and looked at me with concern.
“Come on back, dear,” she said and guided me to the exam room and onto the table. “Lie back and let me get your vitals.”
My blood pressure was high and my heart was racing. My mom took my shoes off as I complained about the lack of feeling in my feet again and saw that they had turned purple and were cold. Alarmed, she opened the door and called into the hallway for the doctor.
He asked me to lie down and listened to my breathing. After a list of questions, he started writing in my chart. I was preparing myself to do bloodwork, x-rays, whatever needed to be done to find out what horrible thing I had that caused me to feel like I was dying a slow, terrifying death.
“You have anxiety,” he said.
I could’ve laughed in his face. Anxiety. There was no way that everything I just went through was nothing more than anxiety. I had no clue at the time what hold it could have on a person. I left with a prescription and a recommendation to seek counseling. He had written me a note to be homebound for the next two months while I got it under control. My heart had finally returned to its normal speed. I felt exhausted and defeated. I didn’t believe that anxiety could cause all of the physical symptoms I had experienced.
I researched symptoms to Anxiety Disorder and began to see similarities. The cold surge of panic, racing heart, feeling far away, high blood pressure, all of them were there. I felt like I was trapped in a black hole of darkness and no one could help me or heal me from that which consumed my thoughts.
Senior year was supposed to be fun: going to football games with friends, dances with my boyfriend, pep rallies, and parades. But while all of my friends were enjoying all it had to offer, I was sitting on a couch surrounded by tissues saturated with waves of unexplained sadness that overtook me. I was afraid to leave my house. I sat and cried at the thought of going out of the comfort zone I had created for myself.
Thanksgiving came and while traditionally I would be going to my aunt’s house to be with the entire family for dinner, I was wrapped in a blanket at home, begging my mom to let me stay.
“You guys go ahead,” I insisted, not wanting my family to miss out on an enjoyable evening because of me.
I look back now at this horrible mental illness that I have battled for years, and feel sad seeing all of the times I was on the sidelines of my life. About a two years ago, I finally took control. I sought counseling and set goals for myself. I challenged myself to do things that would trigger my anxiety: driving for more than five minutes away from home, staying overnight with friends again, doing anything that wasn’t explicitly planned a week in advance. It’s only temporary, it will pass became my life mantra. It wasn’t easy to make myself do things I felt panicky about, but I felt like I was pumped full of adrenaline after I accomplished it. My comfort zone kept expanding outwards. I remember walking through town one day and noticed that even the colors seemed brighter. I was no longer on the sidelines of life. I had anxiety, but anxiety didn’t have me.
Maddie White has a passion for mental health and writing. Her husband, Shawn, encouraged her to pursue it. She has been published in Rhythm and Bones, Flash Fiction Magazine, Pixel Heart Magazine, Paragraph Planet, and Mojave Heart Review. You can find her on Twitter at @MaddieMWhite17. Her website is https://maddae21.wixsite.com/maddiewhitewriting.