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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 history with anxiety

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.

How anxiety presents itself physically

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.

How anxiety presents itself mentally

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.

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

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.

My go-to coping mechanism

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.

What I wish people knew about anxiety

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.

This is what helps with my anxiety: ‘Giving people the opportunity to understand’

I’m trying to talk more openly about my ongoing struggles

‘It feels like my body is literally caving in’: This is how I experience anxiety

‘No one understands the paranoia’

Positive affirmations and playing solitaire: This is what helps with my anxiety

The presence of anxiety is a constant in my life