Why I can’t just ‘calm down’

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Why I can’t just ‘calm down’

Sarah Doiron

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“You’re being ridiculous.”

“I don’t understand why you’re so upset.”

“Why can’t you just calm down?”

These are just few phrases and questions I have heard because of my anxiety disorder.

It’s not fake. It’s not me being overdramatic. It’s something I have to deal with every single day.

There is a social stigma that surrounds anxiety disorders that needs to be addressed.

Anxiety disorders affect 40 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. With that many people suffering from anxiety, it is an extremely important discussion to have.

With the “social stigma” of anxiety, there is a “self stigma” that goes along with it, according to Anxiety.org.

A self stigma is self-induced shame that is caused from assuming others view them negatively because of their anxiety disorder.

This is something I struggle with everyday. I’ve never had thick skin and I am always conscious about what people think of me. I will stress myself out over what I say and what I do around others because I am fearful that someone will find me annoying, over dramatic or even stupid.

When I am stressed even slightly, my mood changes dramatically.  

Only one third of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. I am a member of that statistic.

But even on anti-depressants, I can still find myself stressed beyond relief. What they don’t tell you on the little orange pill bottles, is that anxiety will never completely go away. It will surround you and even sometimes engulf you completely.

I haven’t been anxious my entire life though. It all started in middle school after I was bullied by a group of girls who used to be my best friends. I spiraled into depression and I found it hard to get up in the morning to go to school. I would cry myself to sleep most nights and retreated inward, talking little, eating less. My mother finally brought me to therapy and slowly but surely, it made me feel better.

But it wasn’t until high school, however, when I had my first panic attack and realized this wasn’t just going to go away. This was worse than I could have ever imagined. Sobbing uncontrollably on my bed, not being able to catch my breath, heart racing like I had run a marathon. No one truly understands how horrifying a panic attack is until they’ve actually experienced it.

This is what I deal with, what I go through more often than I should, and I’ve slowly come to terms with that. But it was never easy for me to accept my anxiety for what it is and it’s always been made worse by what other people think of my reactions to stress.

I must say, I’ve gotten much better at calming myself down in stressful situations, especially now that I am in college. I’m improving my coping methods everyday.

Throughout college, I have had my anxiety tested numerous times and the more I experience as I am growing up, the easier it is for me to calm myself down and think realistically about every situation I wind up in.

This semester I have five classes on Wednesday, followed by travelling to my internship at WTNH News 8 in New Haven on Thursdays. As if the nonstop classes from 9:30 a.m. to 9:10 p.m. weren’t enough to make me anxious, parking in the city has definitely freaked me out one too many times. It takes a lot of energy for me to talk myself down, take deep breaths and tell myself “it could always be worse.” I’m managing, but it hasn’t been easy.

But the most important thing is for people to understand what I – among many other college students and young adults – have to deal with on a daily basis. I don’t choose to act the way I do when I’m stressed, no one with anxiety does. But I’m trying to get better at controlling those reactions.

Everyday is a battle I have to fight and I’ve gotten pretty good at it lately. So before you complain that someone is being ridiculous or over dramatic, remember that you don’t know what that person has gone through. Be nice to everyone, because as I have experienced first hand, everyone is just trying to find their way.