So, there I was, a striving 24-year-old college student. I was settled at a desk in my college’s computer lab, working on a Microbiology paper, that was due the next day. The later it got into the night, the more I realized there was no way I was going to finish. That thought made me tremble inside, since I had calculated the time it SHOULD have taken me, and I already passed that time, with no end in sight. This initial worry brought on a number of new thoughts. You see, after I finished the paper, I was going to study for a test from another subject, and it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get to it. The thoughts pursued. This lead into a fear of faltering grades. It wasn’t because the work was hard, but simply because I didn’t have enough time in the day to get done what I needed to get done. It was frustrating, and a mixture of emotions ran through me. I was saddened. I was angry. I was frustrated.
I had put so much time and energy to get myself into college to strive for a better life for myself. It just became more and more of a heavy burden. Everything I suffered through, like driving an hour to get to school each way, every day, because I couldn’t afford to live on campus. It was all just to grasp for that goal of graduation, that seemed so far away. I started to listen to the voices in my head of those who were against me going to college in the first place. And now, they were just laughing in my face. In that moment, I was a failure. It was all too much, and everyone who thought college was a mistake was right. I CAN’T handle it. I DON’T deserve a better life. I should just give up, and be a nothing, a nobody in my mind, because I just don’t deserve any of it. As these thoughts radiated within my mind, it was like in an instant, everything changed, and it would alter my life forever.
As I sat there, this feeling of heat came over me, and it was like the air became instantly thick, surrounding me, holding me, as the pressure built up, as if squeezing me. My head became light as the computer screen started to blur. My stomach instantly started to turn, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to throw up or pass out. It was at that moment my attention went to my chest, as my heart started beating out of control. I had never experienced my heart beat so fast while in a sedentary position. One moment I’m calm, the next SECOND, my heart beat a ba-zillion beats per minute, and felt like it was coming out of my chest. I don’t remember what happened next, only that my dear friend brought me to the infirmary. Scared out of my mind, the nurse took my vitals. After she was through, she then asked me what I did today. I was confused, and a little irritated with her. I’m DYING here, and she wanted to know what I did today? All I kept thinking was “fix me, fix me”, make it all stop. Make my heart stop beating so fast. Then she asked me if I had any stress….
Ah stress! I actually LIVED stress and anxiety, during most of my life, but I didn’t realize how much it affected me, even at that moment. I just went about my life, stressed, anxious or not, and just dealt with each situation as it came. When you live with something for so long, it becomes a part of you, so much, that you can’t even recognize the difference of what is stress, to what is reality.
For me, life was stressful. I wanted so much in life, but didn’t know where to find it. The one thing I knew I wanted, was to get out of my house. I wanted to live on my own. After watching most of my high school friends go off to college, I felt “stuck” in a place I wanted to peel away and escape from. It wasn’t that I didn’t apply to college. Actually, I was accepted into a couple of GREAT colleges, and wanted to go SO bad, but, at the time, I had no funds to get me there. And unfortunately, I didn’t know about financial aid until it was ultimately too late.
In my mind, I missed any opportunity for college, and went to work. The cost of a college education was too much for me, and even with financial aid, I knew I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.
I went to work as a waitress, and although, fun at times, it was hard for me to visualize doing this when I was forty. With each day I worked, I desired more for myself. I knew there was more to me, and I wanted more for me. It’s not that waitressing is a bad career choice, I just got bored with the same routine. I wanted more of a challenge for my mind, and that desire to move out only grew with time. I wanted to make enough money to get me out of my house, and on my own, and I wanted to have a career that I knew I was going to enjoy. I just didn’t like waiting tables.
I knew that if I wanted something bad enough in this life, I was going to have to do it on my own. So I did. After deciding which career I wanted, I made the decision to get my butt into college, and pressed on. I ignored the people telling me it was a mistake, because I knew, some how and some way, I was going to succeed. I did much research on getting funding for college, and decided to take on the financial burden. I asked my parents for some help, and they did what they could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to be able to get me on campus, so I had to commute. I would have to travel an hour each way, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was just excited to start this new endeavor. I would have to keep my weekend waitressing job, because I had bills to pay, including a car payment, for my little Ford Escort. Again, looking at the bigger picture, I was too excited to worry about, what I thought were petty things. I was doing this, and I was excited.
But, I learned quickly that striving for an education in the medical field is no picnic. With every class you take, there is an equal amount of lab classes that goes along with it. It’s not easy to have ten chapters of reading to do, only to get a two question quiz on the ten chapters of material. Especially, after being away from school for three years, learning how to study again was not easy for me. Add in driving an hour or more to get to school, where most of the time is sitting in traffic, then staying the entire day taking classes and labs, then heading back home only to sit in more traffic. The only thing I wanted to do when I got home was to eat, then go to bed, only to start the next day over again. I couldn’t even look forward to weekends, since I worked double shifts on Saturdays, and sometimes double shift on Sundays to keep financially afloat. The worst part of the entire situation was not getting the studying in that I had wanted. That’s where the pressure started to build inside. For quite some time, I didn’t let it get to me. I pressed on. Some call it strength, some may call it stupidity. And I was ok with it all, until I started to put a lot of that pressure on myself, which become more intense as the days rolled on. By the end of my sophomore year, was when I felt the routine starting to get old. My grades were slipping, and I was getting tired. I felt if I could just live on campus, or someplace closer, to alleviate that awful ride to and from school, it would have helped considerably. That was what was exhausting me. But, I just didn’t have the funds. I was just able to keep my head above water as it was with my weekend job, and just couldn’t afford any more of a financial burden. Then I started to doubt myself. Why am I continuing to fight this upward battle? The classes were only getting harder and I was starting to feel like a failure. But, I couldn’t fail. Failure wasn’t an option. Dropping out would only give power to those who didn’t want me to go in the first place. Dropping out would put me right back to where I was before. Dropping out wouldn’t get me out of the house. I started to fight with my thoughts.
It was all this that eventually brought me to the place in that computer room. The place where my body was not just telling me to slow down, but was screaming at me to.
I get it. I understand.
Life isn’t perfect, and there will be times in our lives that are challenging. There will be times in our lives that we need to press on. There will be times in our lives when we feel alone. But we ALWAYS have choice.
I could have easily just reduced the number of classes I was taking, which would have helped tremendously, and would have eased my mind of the burden. But, I was stubborn. I was impatient. I was letting my ego overpower me, and listened to my head, instead of my heart. This was the mistake I made back then. So, the anxiety and panic followed me all the way thru graduation. Funny, how they miraculously ended after that. I still had stress and anxiety at times, but the panic attacks ceased.
Regardless of where the fears stem from, our body reacts to the fear. For me, it was the fear of doubt, the fear of failure, and the fear of having to be put in my place. When we put enough pressure on ourselves, or allow the fear to grow, is where the trouble starts.
After that experience, I had hoped the panic attacks had stopped forever, but unfortunately, panic attacks found their way back into my life again when I hit forty. It was a time that I started to doubt myself again, but this time, it was different. This time it was based on a fear that developed after an illness, and I found myself right back in that place I was fifteen years earlier. The fear of illness, the fear of not being enough, or there for my loved ones. The fear of dying. The fear of not accomplishing everything I wanted in this life. When you are young, and a young person dies, it’s a freak thing. But the older you get, the more mortality isn’t a freak thing, but a natural thing. Different situation, but the same doubt of myself.
After suffering for some time, I decided to NOT be plagued by this again. So, this time, I took the opportunity to learn why this this is happening, and to dedicate myself to keep me on the right track of wellness, and so I did, of which I now share with you.
If your fear stems from doubting yourself, it’s a thought process change. Change how you listen to your thoughts. Don’t allow the negative ones to take over and build up inside. Find ways to quiet the mind. Find ways to tap into your inner strength, confidence, courage, and happiness. Find joy. Interact and surround yourself with people who make you happy, laugh and that make you feel good about yourself. It starts with choices, and it starts with you.
With peace and love..XO
Michelle has a BS, E-RYT, YACEP, CHN, CLYL, and Y12SRL.