So Anxious

It felt like I couldn’t breathe. It felt like if I didn’t get out, I would explode.
The second time I moved to New York wasn’t as joyous as the first. It was 2012 and my job made a change and relocated to New York. I could either move and make a few extra bucks or go back to my Mom’s couch and job hunt. I took the job and begged my father to let me move back into his house. After a few days of back and forth, I realized he did not want me back in his house and I would have to figure something out.

I packed my car with clothes and drove to Brooklyn. A good friend of mine had agreed to let me stay at his place for $70/month and I was nothing but grateful. My entry-level job was paying me about $32K a year and that means you’re homeless in New York City. Till further notice, I would be living on the right side of my friend’s living room which I also shared with another guy who lived on the left side.

For the first few weeks it was dope. I was independent and living with good people. We smoked and watched the sunset on the rooftops, held Madden tournaments and went to all the parties in Brooklyn. My job was going well and I was learning so much about digital marketing.

After about 2 months, things started to take a turn. I was having trouble riding the train. Once the doors closed my heart started to beat rapidly, sweat appeared on my brow and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Every gap between stops felt like eternity and I couldn’t calm myself down. For 2 months, I walked from lower Manhattan to midtown because I couldn’t bare another train ride. Going home was no better, I walked 30 blocks to home because I couldn’t stop my heart from racing. Riding the train wasn’t ever a problem for me, I rode the train for 5 years in college and I had never had a problem.

This inexpiable feeling started to follow me. My heart started racing and I couldn’t control my thoughts at work and I started self-medicating. I took my last $20 and bought a bottle of rum hoping being a little buzzed would take the edge off and calm me down.

I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t know how to fix the situation. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone. How would anyone understand this if I couldn’t?

I was seeing a girl that lived in Queens. We had this odd relationship that was headed nowhere. I woke up at her house and left for work but I couldn’t get on the train. I called a friend and told her about how I was drinking just to stay calm and that I could not set foot on the train or I thought I would have a heart attack. She told me I needed help and that I had to stop drinking to solve the issue. I Googled a hospital and checked myself into the psychiatric ward.

I sat there for 4 hours before I saw anyone. They brought me into a grey room with 2 chairs and I waited for someone to talk to me. A man walked in and asked me a few questions:

“Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?”“Have you experienced any physical or emotional trauma lately?”“Why did you think you needed to be here?”“Have you ever sought out mental treatment before?”“Would you consider seeing a counselor?”

I kept trying to prove that I wasn’t crazy. I didn’t want them to think that anything was wrong with me even though I hadn’t felt like myself for months. I was assigned a counselor and reassured that I would be okay.

They asked me if I had anyone that could pick me up, so I called my father and he found me outside of a hospital in Queens. He couldn’t understand how I was feeling. He told me I should find something to occupy my mind. I just nodded and stared out of the window.
Two days later, I had my first appointment with my counselor. It was a tiny office in Brooklyn and there was just enough room for us in the back room. She asked me about how I felt on the train. When the panic started to set in and what was going through my mind as it happened. She asked me about my life over the past few months. If I felt safe and if I felt safe at home.

Despite the fun I was having with my friends, I didn’t feel “safe”. My clothes had holes in them due to rodent problem, I worried every day that one of his house guests would rob me and I never knew what to expect when I walked into the door. I could be greeted by his face or a house full of strangers in my bedroom/his living room. I was always worried, and I resented my father for putting me in this situation. My home had always been my safe space and I no longer had that anywhere.

After 8 sessions with my counselor, she helped me come to these realizations. I had anxiety and it was because I no longer had that safe space that I required. Some people are able to live without that sense of home but I wasn’t one of them. This insecurity resulted in panic attacks and self-medication. To cope, she armed me with a few tools to help ease the anxiety and/or distract me. She asked me to write or read a book on the train. She told me to get a seat and make myself as comfortable as I could and she challenged me to stay on the train. I couldn’t flee and walk home. I had to work through the anxiety.

It worked.

After about 4 weeks, I was able to ride the train without any issue and without any distractions. Seeing the counselor, addressing my issues with my father and developing these coping mechanisms provided me with some relief. Anxiety would always live with me, and manifest itself in different ways. Seeing a counselor was the most eye-opening part of the experience. It was okay to need help and it was okay to talk to someone about my problems.
Most of all, I learned that I haven’t been dealing with the things that bother me. I take the hit and only pretend to move on while the issue grows inside of me. The most important lesson I learned from discovering my anxiety was how to address my issues head on.

I will no longer let a disagreement with friends/family/coworkers go unaddressed.
I will no longer allow someone to wrong me without saying something.
I will no longer assume my problems are any less important than anyone else’s.


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