Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.
This week, we hear from Cathy Powell, who has lived in the United States Virgin Islands for the past 40 years. She was born in Haiti and immigrated to the U.S when I was 3. She is a retired special-education teacher.
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My acquaintance with anxiety goes far back. The first time I had an episode of anxiety was in 1986. It seemed to come out of nowhere. One day I was fine, and about three days later, I was anxious enough that I turned down an offer for promotion. Hiding my anxiety is one of my greatest challenges.
Anxiety is the hallmark of my depressions. Many frightening things happen to me and it’s hard to put my finger on the worst one. A panic attack is what I wake up with. I feel a jolt in my chest that goes away as quickly as it came. I have trouble sleeping. Anxiety makes me pace, shake, forget what I’m doing.
An ongoing problem that I have is the feeling that a panic attack is coming on. I simply tell my husband I cannot go out with him. When we talk while he’s at work I tell him that I feel “bad,” so I am going to rest. This is our code.
It’s hard to put my finger on the worst day I’ve had. I woke up anxious and could not find my father. No one in the family knew where to find him. He wasn’t at his house with my mom or with my daughters. I found him at the beach and watched him swim for a while. We chatted a bit. Driving back to my house was so frightening I thought I’d have an accident.
I’ve tried to cope with my anxiety and nothing short of sleeping seems to help. Group therapy, meditation, walking for a while, I’ve done it all.
Most people are averse to taking medications. There are times when it is necessary. If people understood that anxiety is a physical, rather than a purely emotional state, they might not be so resistant to medications.