There aren’t a lot of words I can use to effectively describe my anxiety, which is probably the most frustrating part about it. No one can truly understand what it is like to suffer from anxiety unless they have experienced it themselves.
Anxiety affects nearly all aspects of my life. While the majority of the time I can function as a happy-go-lucky, 19-year-old college student, not all my days are like that. Anxiety is absolutely crippling. When I get an anxiety attack, I feel like my body is slowly dissipating from the inside out. Confused is an understatement. Why is this happening to me?
During my first semester of college, my anxiety was set on fire. It was basically a four-month long anxiety attack and was the first time I truly realized the long term effects that anxiety had on my body and overall health.
The first immediate effect I noticed was on my eating habits. Anxiety is a constant tug-of-war between mind and body. My body was hungry, but my mind didn’t want to eat. It didn’t let me eat. I fell into a pattern of hardly eating one meal a day and my anxiety fostered on the constant emptiness of my stomach. The thought of food made me feel sick.
Although food is an obvious reason why my body shrunk during my first semester of college, my body image was altered as well. It’s not that I was self-conscious, it was that I just didn’t care. My body was not only losing fat, but muscle as well. I never touched a pair of jeans because sweatpants were so much easier. I applied make up only to cover the constant redness of my eyes. Working out was too hard. Hair done? Good one.
I have been an athlete all my life, coming from a strong upbringing in the world of competitive soccer. To suddenly hang up my cleats and toss out my running shoes was beyond uncharacteristic of me. I was defeated, emotionally and physically.
The thing about sinking into an anxiety attack this deep is that it creates a domino effect. Not eating led to not working out. Not working out led to not sleeping. Not sleeping increased the anxiety I was already struggling with in the first place.
Sleep was the next major factor to take a toll on my dwindling body. I wanted to sleep all the time, but I couldn’t. My mind was racing; pointless and irrational thoughts poured through my head on a daily basis. I would close my eyes for hours on end, never to fall asleep throughout the night.
I became the spitting image of anxiety disorder. Except it wasn’t an image at all; no one could really see it. I just looked like the next over-exerted college student. Anxiety may have ruined my body in several ways, but I was the only one that really knew that.
I learned a lot about my anxiety in the years to come and it is still something I work on every single day. There are always triggers for anxiety, which took me a while to figure out. These triggers are sometimes so hard to pick out and so minuscule that you don’t even think twice about them.
Anxiety effects an astronomical amount of college students today. It is important that these students remember that physical and mental health should be their number one priority. I let my health slip out from under me for a short period of time, but anyone can get back on track with a little help. Anxiety may have temporarily ruined my body, but I will not let it ruin me permanently.