On a Scale of 1 to 10:
Imagine you’ve gotten hit by a car. Initially you’d rank your pain a solid 10 because, let’s be honest, that probably hurt like the devil. But as you’re recovering, adjusting to the fact you’re in a full body cast for the next 3 weeks, you’ll downgrade to a pain level of 5 or 6 considering the fact that you are in a full body cast.
After my first major panic attack, I would have said my anxiety was a hard 10. An average day for me, what most people would rank their anxiety as 7 or 8, looks to be about 3 or 4 considering the fact that I have a chronic anxiety disorder. It’s all about adjusting to a weird version of normal. A normal that just happens to involve a constant and slow release of panic and stress throughout the day (which, spoiler, is super fun).
You’ll Believe it When You See it:
I’ve met a lot more skepticism than acceptance when it comes to anxiety. Which is fair. I think unless you’re well versed on the symptoms of anxiety or have experienced it first hand, it’s easier to excuse it as heightened emotions as opposed to a true cognitive disorder. If you fit into the latter category, I encourage that you read about it a little. You could be a huge relief to someone in the future.
Making Matters Worse:
From time to time, I get a panic attack that is entirely unexplained and uncontrolled. It’s infuriating to feel like your own body is against you and that you have no way of gaining control. It’s a constant fear about the safety of my family and myself (even in a sufficiently safe place such as Boulder). Most of the fears are entirely irrational, but no amount of logic makes them stop.
Fall semester of my Junior year at CU, I was having an abnormal string of attacks just like this. It wasn’t any more help that I was living with people who believed any ounce of my anxiety was foolishly fabricated by my imagination and he liked to remind me of this regularly. I got to a point where I was frustrated, exhausted, and couldn’t muster up the energy to stay on top of school.
Much Needed Empathy:
Up until this point, I had one specific finance professor that I had worked with frequently. He noticed I had missed classes so he reached out to me. I was falling so far behind that there were few options other than blatant honesty. The chances were higher that he would call it a b.s. excuse and I would fail that class and everything would be horrible. So obviously I went for it.
No surprise, he told me he had never experienced the same anxious feelings I was describing nor did he understand much about anxiety. However, instead of making me think I was insane, he empathized with me. Regardless of what he understood about the details, he saw that I was struggling with something out of my control.
He worked with me on a time frame and schedule of how to make up assignments and catch up with the class. He remained focused on the fact that he was my professor and he needed to help a student understand that curriculum he was teaching to the class. Yet somehow someone who knew next to nothing about my personal life or anxiety in general, managed to treat me with so much patience and understanding and it’s something to be eternally grateful for.