Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.

This week, we hear from Faria K. Tavacoli, a Kurdish-Iranian American residing in Las Vegas. She is a former United States Youth Ambassador to Brazil and is the CEO and founder of Hearts For Minds, an international initiative raising awareness and acceptance of mental illnesses, substance abuse and disabilities. She hopes to be a future psychiatrist and journalist working with the United Nations.

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My history with anxiety

My anxiety is tied to how I was a sensitive child at birth. My blood rushes a little too fast, my brain buzzes with thoughts a little too quick, and my lungs try to breathe in too fast. But it doesn’t just happen once. It happened and continues to happen all the time.

It feels like my body is literally caving in. And no matter how many times I tell myself to calm down, the waterworks just activate and make me feel worse. I didn’t know what to do until I forcefully dragged my parents to visit a psychiatrist after a near-death experience. My main diagnosis is borderline personality disorder.

How anxiety presents itself physically

Truth be told, I don’t just have anxiety. I have symptoms most commonly seen in anxiety disorders. My legs and hands twitch, my blood boils and my body heats up. When this kind of anxiety attack occurs, I have difficulty standing up, speaking, and even performing basic tasks. There is no coordination or concentration. The hot flashes and migraines create a mix of confusion and fear that causes me to scream and vomit. Not even migraine medications such as Rizatriptan can stop all of the pain that I experience physically. The only thing you can do is just rest for 10 to 12 hours.

How anxiety presents itself mentally

Along with the pain I go through with a personality disorder, it is only worse to have the anxious experiences that draw me into unnecessary thoughts and irrational fear. No one understands the paranoia, the constant fret of being placed under an awkward situation, and the fears that I associate with being worthless. My mind is numb and I can’t focus on all the stimuli that is being splashed onto me. I’m scared. Not just scared of the external factors that trigger me, but also of myself.

What a day when my anxiety is at its worst looks like

Uncontrollable instability. I usually start my day taking any kind of medication that has been prescribed to me, generally this involves Sertraline, Fluoxetine, and Propranolol. But that doesn’t cause me to be any less concerned. I remember distinctly one day when I was screaming “I can’t breathe” over 20 times, the tears gushing out uncontrollably as I tried to get a tissue box. Needless to say, I had school on that day. The minute I walked out to my next classroom I remembered screaming uncontrollably to the teacher, curling up in a ball, and wishing to be dead. My grades dropped from straight As to Bs and I was immensely bullied. I come from a Middle Eastern family who doesn’t believe in mental illness. So there isn’t any kind of acceptance whatsoever of my feelings or thoughts. Anxiety at its worst becomes the norm.

My go-to coping mechanism

In order to escape the toxicity of reality, I have heavily relied on maladaptive daydreaming to get through the day. When I am in a tough position, I constantly dream about a second life: one where the teachers are accepting, the friends I have are caring, and that I am financially stable living in Western Europe. I will incorporate these dreams into normal classroom settings (you can see me oddly whispering to myself) or even implementing dance and music, rhythmically fitting a pattern of fake confidence. Unfortunately, this “solution” can also lead to more pain. I’m recently trying to talk to people I trust, but it’s all a learning process. While I am still not used to it, hopefully talking to an adult can help me.

What I wish people knew about anxiety

Anxiety is so hard. It takes a lot of resilience and patience to tell yourself “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” And although it is a normal bodily response, continuously having anxiety is not normal. People should go to a psychiatrist and should go to therapy if they know that they have these kinds of thoughts. It doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you a survivor on so many levels. It was hard for me to go to a psychiatrist at first and get help. But the outcomes make you realize that what you go through is what makes you self reflective, empathetic and caring to other people.

‘My heart feels like it’s flopping around in my chest’: This is how I experience anxiety

‘For those who know the struggle, I want them to know that they are not alone’

‘The feeling of constant terror’: This is how I experience anxiety

‘It’s not just a worry that something bad is going to happen, my whole body is prepared for the fact that it will’

‘My brain is going a million miles a minute to try and solve a nonexistent problem’: This is how I experience anxiety

‘My brain won’t tell me what the problem is’