Is Anxiety All Just in the Head?

‘You’re over-reacting’..’No one is going to take you seriously anymore’..’Can you please just chill?’. I am sure many of us have heard these phrases being thrown at us under various circumstances. I have unfortunately experienced the two sides of this conversation. I had always been a light-hearted person. I would see my friends and family getting tensed about examinations, relationships etc and I would be that one person who always had a back-up if something goes wrong.

So, what does that mean? No stress! I am guilty of getting vexed with people who would always fluster for things that I deemed trivial and those who would constantly seek reassurance. Do not get me wrong, I have had my fair share of stress but I never thought that it would be big enough to actually get to me. All of this changed when I entered my third semester of Medicine. It was just a month away from my finals and I had started to study more about diseases in depth. That is when I started to notice things in my own body that could have potentially been one of the diseases I had been studying. It got me mortified. I had to immediately run to the clinic the next day to get myself checked. A reassurance from the doctor would have calmed me down but shockingly, to no avail. I started to find more and more things that were absurd about my body. Suddenly, every disease that I had studied about were related to my own body and I was convinced that I needed a full body check-up because a single examination of a certain part of my body was not enough. If something is okay today, can’t it go wrong tomorrow? This was what ran through my mind always.

I knew I needed help from someone who would listen to me and I talked to my mother and my best friend always. They were the only ones who gave me what I needed to hear during those difficult times. I would constantly call them up telling them that I can’t breathe or my heart is pounding and I think I am going to die. It was then after some googling, that I found out that I was experiencing panic attacks. I had never heard of that before in my entire life and I have never heard of anyone close to me complaining about panic attacks. Honestly, the only time where I had some peace from all these thoughts was when I was sleeping. No one could fathom why I was behaving this way and why me? People tried to help by telling me that it was perfectly fine but I did not believe them. I remember wishing then for a parent who was a doctor. He or She could have come up with a diagnosis and I would believe them without an iota of doubt but my parents are not doctors. In fact, they are even better. They knew exactly what I needed at that point in time and went all out of their way to help me.

My father brought me back home from Malaysia a month before my finals when they realised that I could not cope with my anxiety alone and made sure that afterwards, I was properly taken care of. He would advise meditation, jogging, healthy eating, hobbies and a balance of study time as well. See? Why would I need a doctor when my parents are the best counsellors though they do not have any background knowledge in the medical field. Hailing from an Indian community, feeling mentally ill is a myth for most people. Unless you look physically ill, you are not actually ill. This made it even more endearing for me to see that my parents wanted me to be mentally happy. They even suggested that I drop medicine if this is not what I wanted to do.

The turning point in my 1.5 months of anxiety came when I was prescribed with sleeping pills to control my anxiety. Also, when my mother told me that she had always thought I was capable of handling stress despite what others had told her. I felt utterly dismayed that I had disappointed my parents and I was shocked at how I was coming up with new self-diagnosed diseases and no credible medical documents supporting them. I decided that enough was enough and I need to start gaining control back in my life. I started to try out meditation with my family as part of our family yoga sessions, I mingled more with my family members, I started to fully believe that I was completely fine when I told myself that I had completely no reason to heavily take into account common symptoms which could be from a benign cause. I realised that my panic attacks lessened and my life went back to what it was before when I took my mind into my own hands.

From this experience, I learnt that no one is immune to harrowing stressful episodes and panic attacks. You are never alone. If you are experiencing any form of panic or stress, there are many others who have gone through those or are going through them right now. Just because your stress or experiences are not similar to mine, does not mean that they are worse or that you are the only person in this world experiencing the worst form of anxiety. Second thing is to NEVER GOOGLE your symptoms. Google is not a certified doctor.

 I have still no clue as to whether what I had experienced was a syndrome called ‘second year syndrome’, a syndrome that arises among medical students where they relate whatever they study to their own body or anxiety disorder.What I do know is that I am lucky that I have a strong support system around me but I urge for those who don’t, to take matters in your own hands and take that step towards finding mental peace. Be it meditation, yoga or talking to a counsellor. Once you have taken that step you are already on your journey towards becoming the master of your own mind.

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