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Eileen Rosewater

mount st. mary's university campus

This week I want to focus on anxiety, which is just one of the many issues relating to mental health. Anxiety is something that I have struggled with my whole life, and I want to share a couple of my personal experiences with dealing with anxiety and how I have overcome it. But before I talk about that, it's important to understand the different types of anxiety, specifically the difference between having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Anxiety is described as an intense, excessive, and persistent fear or worry about everyday situations. Some symptoms/ signs of anxiety may include fatigue, rapid breathing, fast heart rate, and sweating. An Anxiety Disorder, on the other hand, is a mental health disorder that is characterized by feelings of worry or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one's everyday activities. Some symptoms/signs of an anxiety disorder may include stress that's out of proportion to the impact of the event, and the inability to set aside those feelings of stress or worry.

I have not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder; however, I have experienced some of the common symptoms that are present in people with anxiety disorders. Since I have been diagnosed with anxiety, I will be focusing on that. But it is important to understand that having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder are very different things.

I was diagnosed with anxiety around the age of 9 or 10. This meant that the first 8 years of my life, I struggled in silence with my anxiety. Obviously, as a child, I had no idea what anxiety was or that it was even a thing. The first time I remember experiencing anxiety was when I was in pre-school. The first day of a new school year was always tough for me, and I had no idea why. The night before, I would have trouble falling asleep; and when I woke up the next day my stomach hurt, and later on I started getting headaches from my anxiety.

One day, my dad dropped me off at pre-school and left without hugging me goodbye. I remember turning around and not seeing him anywhere. I remember feeling my stomach turn and my sight became blurred by my tears. I dropped my bag and ran outside after him, forcing my teacher to chase after me. I yelled out as loud as I could "Daddy!" and he turned around and I ran right into his legs and gripped his jeans so tight that it hurt my hands a little. I still remember his look of confusion as he bent down to hug me.

Unfortunately, I had several anxiety episodes before I was finally diagnosed. And I had several more until I was finally put on a medication that worked for me. I do still get anxious at times, but not nearly as often, and the symptoms are nowhere near as severe. My stomach hasn't knotted up in years and I have gotten a lot fewer headaches due to stress. My anxiety doesn't affect my ability to eat as often anymore, but when it does, I have found some foods that are safe and helpful to eat.

While anxiety isn't curable, there are several ways one can manage and treat anxiety. You just have to find out what works for you and what doesn't. I hope this post reaches someone who also struggles with anxiety and reassures them that it is possible to overcome anxiety.

Eileen Rosewater