Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.
This week, we hear from human resources professional Anvita Jain, who also works as a development chair for MannMukti, an organization that seeks to reduce the stigma against mental health in the South Asian community.
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Shortness of breath. Hands balled into fists. A cloud of confusion. The sudden urge to get off the bus. I will never forget my first panic attack.
Throughout college, I noticed that I was always more on edge than my peers, had thousands of thoughts constantly buzzing through my head, and would randomly burst into tears. I always knew something was wrong, but I was not forced to face it until those panic attacks started.
In vain, I tried to figure out why all this was happening. Several months into my first job, I hit rock bottom. Some days all I wanted to do was fight it, and other days I laid in bed all day with no willpower to do anything. Finally, I sought treatment, I quit my job and I went to a therapist.
I learned how mental health impacted every facet of my life, and I realized the importance of prioritizing my mental health. I made positive changes in my life, such as going to graduate school to pursue a career path that I fell in love with. At last, I started to feel like myself again.
Anxiety takes over my head with all-consuming tension headaches accompanied by intense pain concentrated in my temples. Insomnia kicks in while I desperately seek sleep as an asylum from the negative spiral of thoughts that I get trapped in. Some days I move through tasks lethargically, almost robotically, exhausted from the burden of overthinking. My flight response kicks in, my breathing becomes shallow, and my vision narrows. Often I experience random muscle tightness after being lost in my thoughts for too long.
It’s as if my mind just doesn’t know how to relax. I feel so uncomfortable in a relaxed state that my mind becomes obsessed with hunting for something to worry about.
Catastrophizing, decision-making paralysis, and being scatterbrained become the norm. Eventually, when I finally snap out of the anxious spiral of dread, I come out dazed and confused, only to find something else to worry about minutes later.
My worst days always start one of two ways: frustrated pacing back and forth across the room, endlessly obsessing about some “what if” scenario I’ve conjured, or panicking over not finishing my to-do list from the day before. Perfectionism kicks in, leading me to plan everything down to the minute and then assessing several times how to accomplish everything in the day. I start rushing through basic tasks such as showering and eating to maximize time to get everything else done. I tend to avoid interaction as much as possible and keep any unavoidable interactions with people short and to the point, sometimes coming off cold and too blunt. I focus on the clock and start to panic if I fall even a few minutes behind. The day usually ends with migraine coupled with so much exhaustion that I fall into restless sleep cluttered with nightmares.
My go-to coping mechanism has become talking to friends and family. Not too long ago, I used to avoid social interaction when I was anxious.
Few things feel better than the warm support of people who love you. Other coping mechanism include comfort food and light, humorous TV shows such as “Friends,” “Full House” and “New Girl.”