Home 2018 Collegiate Magazine Taking my first steps

Taking my first steps

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Yesenia Santos-Flores poses for a photo. Photo by Adamaris Vazquez.

By Yesenia Santos-Flores

I try to wrap my head around the idea of why I can’t go a day without my anxiety overbearing my body, making me want to shut out the world. Feeling cold down my back and in the pit of my stomach, crying but having to clear my throat because it feels as if it’s closing on me over the hyperventilation taking over my body. I have had anxiety and depression for the past seven years. It’s crazy how much anxiety can make a person feel completely hopeless. Constant doctor and emergency room visits along with tons of medication. Always feeling scared, trapped, as if I were six feet under being buried alive. All emotions are building up but too scared to go off and then boom. All I see is dark. Opening my eyes to my parents next to me and a nurse putting an IV into my arm. I am 18-years-old and still can’t figure out how to control my anxiety and depression.

I’d like to share my experience with people who are going through the same struggle because I can say I know how it feels. I’m hoping that my story can also help those who have family members or significant others who are struggling with anxiety or depression to help understand what it’s like. Because I can say I know how it feels to lay in bed and feel the weight on me telling me to stay home. I can feel the legitimate pain in my heart about to explode, distraught throughout my body. Losing my appetite. I can say I know that it feels like my head is barely over water. I know that it’s embarrassing to have a panic attack or anxiety attack with my friends. I know that you tell yourself 10 times a day to stop being so sad, to just do it or get over it, that you would do anything for this feeling to go away because I do too. I know, it sucks so bad.

Over the past seven years I’ve tried different things to help cope with my anxiety. Like going to the gym, soccer, music, writing, painting, etc. Yes, they’ve helped but regardless of what we do to help the anxiousness in our stomach go away, sometimes it just doesn’t work.

What triggers my anxiety? I can’t tell you just one thing when it’s everything. It gets to the point where it just feels like the walls are caving in and I just need to be heard out. As much as we create pessimistic thoughts that no one cares or will hear us out. There is always someone out there, friends, family, a coworker or therapist. We need to learn we’re not alone. We need to put ourselves first because if we don’t, no one will.

August 2017 – My doctor had scheduled an appointment to check up on how I was doing with my anxiety and depression. “Any attacks or attempts?” I responded with “Two, and yes.” I think what got me was that look she gave me. My doctor seemed hopeless and looked at me and said, “Yesenia, it’s been years… years we cannot help you if you don’t want to be helped.” I was startled and just sat and thought about what she had just said to me. I never imagined my personal doctor to ever say that to me. It, in a way, woke me up. I can admit at that appointment I wasn’t as bad as prior. I witnessed myself fall to a point where I didn’t know if there was coming back. The only strategies I thought of was ways to escape – a way to end it all.

After that appointment, I promised myself to never fall that low. I promised myself that I would become a better me for me. It took me six years, late but it is never is too late. I stopped going for refills at Walgreens. No more pills, no more exposing my body to only operating as it should when I’m on my medication. I exposed myself to becoming more productive. Going to the gym every day, soccer when I had games or practice, opened my mind to a wider range of musical genres. Distributed my creativity on blank canvases. It was painting that opened my mind, it brought my body to a relaxation. Bringing me no type of stress but an ease to my body. Finally being able to paint what I felt or the abnormal ruckus that ran through my mind. Slowly but surely everything was working. I still have my days, but I do not let it take over my body anymore. I control how I react. I also took down all my social media. I’m not addicted to being on it, nor do I spend all day scrolling through Twitter’s latests news feed. After just one week it felt like I had gotten some type of relief, as if it were exhausting to me to see constant social media feeds or having to constantly post to let the world know how i’m doing. Like I didn’t have an image but now I really don’t have to portray anything on social media if that makes any sense. It was weight and stress I never paid attention to, and I’m happy to say I can wait to go back.

Well the big question is, how do we know when it’s time to start dealing with our anxiety? In order to “overcome” anxiety and depression we must define and eliminate intimidation and believe we can surpass anxiety and depression. The key is to not let it take over our bodies but acknowledge calming affirmations to remind oneself that the feeling will pass. The human mind is amazing. It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking we can not overcome the feeling of anxiousness or depression. Triggering the emotional part of our brain to continuously send signals of danger. Everything is easier said than done and that’s factual. Taking deep breaths when feeling the anxiety rush through our body. Working out, sports, reading, take walks, give time to yourself. As I mentioned before, I’ve tried these methods. It’s not easy, I mean what can I say it’s been six years. And another long year but a long year of progress. If we don’t wish to find a way out we will never think to see one. It is important that we reach out for help.

Studies show we see at least 1,495 faces a day. According to the The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million people are affected and or are discovering that they have anxiety a rate of 18.1 percent a year. It’s crazy how much we all individually go through everyday. We focus so much on the good but as soon as the bad comes it feels like we are to blame. Out of that 1,495, 82 are finding out or know they have anxiety or depression. We fail to realize that we aren’t the only ones. Mental disorders have been around for years and have always been looked down upon . We are surrounded in a society that normalizes mental illness. When it should be the contrary, it isn’t normal to feel this way. Get informed, receive help confidentially or anonymously. Find a way out.

Seek help at local organizations, a therapist, friends. Even though that first step of realization is the hardest, it will be the beginning of an amazing journey.

24-Hour Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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