I thought I would never get better.
I first started having panic attacks in high school -- just one here and there, never in the same situation -- and by the time I got to college they were crippling. First I couldn't drive without getting hot and dizzy and feeling like I was going to pass out. I convinced myself that there was an exhaust leak in my car, or maybe I was just dehydrated, or maybe I was just still feeling the beer I'd had two hours ago... or four... or twenty-four. But I still had to get to class, and so I took the bus... until I couldn't do that, either. Then I biked.
There was a period of about a year where I was living in a commune-type situation, and I slowly started getting better. I could drive again by the end of that year -- not far, but far enough to get groceries and visit friends on the other side of town. I really thought things were turning around.
And then I moved again, into a house that was full of mold and drama, and my anxiety took such a turn for the worse that I thought I'd never climb back up. I couldn't leave the house without a buddy. I couldn't leave my room. I couldn't answer the phone. I didn't go to school, or to work, or to the store... I didn't do anything but sit on the couch and drink, for about ten long years.
All this time, I had friends and family trying to help me, but it wasn't the help I needed. My friends had their own issues to deal with -- they could go to the store for me, but that was about the extent of the support they could offer. My family talked to a counselor (without me present) and came away with the idea that I could be back to work inside of a month. They then held this time frame over my head for the next decade, blaming me for not trying hard enough when the idea of walking around the block had me in tears.
I thought about killing myself a lot during those ten years.
But as technology progressed, there were more and more jobs available online. I was finally able to support myself, and so I moved out of my parents' house the minute I could. It wasn't all easy -- I still needed a buddy to go shopping with me -- but without the constant reminders that my situation was my fault, I was able to claw my way out of my depression. I could concentrate again. I started eating better. I began an exercise routine. I started a neurofeedback program.
And then, six months ago, I got on my bike (I still can't drive) and went shopping at the neighborhood farmers' market all by myself.
I go out every day, now, making sure to push myself just a little further each time. I'm still not 100% me again -- I can't be home alone without having a massive panic attack -- but every day that I push myself out of the house is another day closer to really being better.
I know it's hard. I know there are days when you look at where you are, and where you want to be, and the gulf between them is so vast you can't even begin to imagine a way across it. And I know our situations are different - you don't know me, and I don't know you -- but as somebody who spent years about as far down as it's possible to get? Trust me. It can -- and it will -- get better.