Hey all! I'm a 26 year old fellow wrapping up college and looking to start a career in journalism!
I've been having a really weird and really scary summer.
I've had anxiety since June 2010, when my first panic attack sent me running to the hospital because I was obviously dying of a heart attack. I had an agoraphobic episode that lasted about four months. I remember the fear I felt when I would step out of the house, even into the parking lot just outside my apartment building. It felt like the sky was trying to swallow me up. The fear came first, and the pounding heart and tight chest and ragged breathing would come afterward. I wouldn't even notice the physical sensations until I was safely back inside. Then I had to deal with those, which was a task in itself.
Now I'm having trouble leaving the house again, but it feels completely different this time. I have no issue with the outside world. I'm not frightened by the emptiness of the sky or the uncertainty of being around strangers in a strange place. I am mentally at peace with the world beyond the boundaries of my body. Yet every time I leave the house, my stomach and chest area go absolutely nuts. My chest tightens and I feel sharp pains like glass shards poking around in my neck, shoulders, and chest area. My stomach goes into knots. I start burping uncontrollably - a dozen times a minute, maybe more. Everything feels heavy inside my torso, as though my squishy internal organs have suddenly turned into lead. Everything gets so tense and terrible, and then I start to get these things that I call 'rising actions' - that's technically a writing term. A 'rising action' is when I get hit with a sudden wave of discomfort or pain, and it intensifies, and I start to worry that this is the one time when the intensifying awfulness ends in my death. I've predicted my own death a hundred times since I've had anxiety, and I've been wrong every single time, but every single time it feels fresh and new in some scary way.
So, I feel awful. What usually ends up happening is that I find the nearest bathroom and take shelter in there. I calm down, listen to something relaxing or cheerful on my MP3 player, and 90% of the time end up with diarrhea. Thankfully I'm in a bathroom! After about 20 minutes, I wander out feeling a little better, but the experience can repeat almost immediately afterward. The other day I went out on a family trip to the beach and ended up having to take shelter in a bathroom three times in a two hour period. I spent more time in the inside of that filthy, graffiti-filled beach bathroom than out on the sand by the water. After each visit, I'd walk around for a short while, still very tense, and eventually everything in my torso - chest, abdomen, stomach - would tighten and feel like they're about to pop or wrench themselves apart or something awful.
I have some of these sensations at home, too. But I feel safer here. There's always a bathroom a few steps away in case I need it. There aren't people watching me and judging me here. There are many chairs and beds that I can sit on and calm down on. I have medicine here, plenty of water to drink (being scared makes me thirsty), and my friends are only a phone call away. I can relax here. So even when I feel bad, and my stomach feels like it's tearing itself apart, I remain calm. Those same feelings, when I'm out and about, make me panic. I can feel bad at home, but not when I'm away from home.
I have had issues in the past with G.E.R.D., so maybe my stomach troubles are linked to that, though back then I had actual acid reflux and now I just have non-stop belching. I will be seeing a doctor in a couple weeks about it, in case it's some sort of other issue interacting with my anxiety, but I thought I'd write about my problems here in case someone has felt something similar.
Thanks for your time. <3