My Anxiety Story #NOSOLO

This blog post has been a long time coming. To be honest it's been very difficult trying to put my story into words because it requires me to be completely vulnerable with you. While I pride myself on being an open book, there are definitely aspects of my life that I don't really talk about... sometimes even with my own family and friends. I don't talk about them because they are very hard to. This story is one of those things.


Writing this brought me back to a time in my life which was extremely terrifying for me and it's hard to relive it, even if only through words. However, I understand how important it is to share my story with you because mental illnesses are a real thing and they need to be discussed more openly. So, let's do this. #endthestigma


I have struggled with anxiety since I was younger, but as the years went on and as I got older it became progressively worse. There was a distinct point in my life where I had lost complete control of being able to manage my anxiety and my mental health. I will never forget the years 2014-2015 because they were two of the scariest years of my life. If you know me personally, then you know that I have had some pretty traumatic things happen to me throughout the course of my life. But through all of the prior trauma I had experienced, these two particular years were without a doubt the most difficult for me. They were difficult because I personally lost control. No matter what life threw at me previously I always remained in control so I always knew that no matter what things would be okay in the end because I wouldn't stop until they were. However, during that two year period that changed completely because I lost control over everything and I honestly started to think things never would actually be "okay" again. I think it's safe to say I self-combusted.


If you're wondering what happened, here comes my best attempt at trying to put into words what I went through.


For starters, I moved to Boston alone to go to law school where I didn't really know anybody besides a couple of friends that lived in surrounding areas. However, moving somewhere new by myself wasn't exactly uncharted territory for me. I did the same thing when I went to college in Rhode Island and it was the best decision because I love experiencing new places, new things, and meeting new people. So while moving to a new city was a big change, I don't think it had anything to do with what happened… although to be fair it didn't necessarily help either.


Looking back and after a LOT of therapy during those two years, I think the real kicker for me involved three things.


FIRST, law school itself was incredibly challenging and stressful. Just google the spikes in anxiety and depression among law students and lawyers… the results will speak for themselves. You literally live and breathe law school because it is so demanding. It is also extremely competitive and you are constantly trying to do better than your classmates, so you don't fall into the "bottom end of the curve" category with your grades. Oh and speaking of grades you have ONE final at the end of the semester, AKA ONE SHOT TO DO WELL, because that test determines your entire grade. I literally couldn't afford to do anything less than my best because I financially put myself through law school, which is a huge investment of money. I constantly felt the extreme pressure of getting the best grades because I needed to come out of law school on top so that I could get a high paying job to pay off my student loans.


There is also this thing called "cold calling" in law school which basically means at any given second you can be called on by your professor to recite the extremely detailed facts of a particular case verbatim (out of the SEVERAL you read the night prior) or even harder… explain why the court ruled the way that they did… IN FRONT OF YOUR ENTIRE CLASS. You never really know when you were going to get called on, so you're basically on edge 24/7. At least I was, because at the time I was terrified of public speaking which didn't help matters at all.


I will say though, despite the extremeness of this particular stressor there was a huge positive that went hand in hand with it. Due to the demanding nature of law school it actually gave me something to focus my nervous energy on. When I was reading case law or studying for my finals my mind was set on that task and that task only. This focus stopped my mind from tail spinning into an anxious disaster. It actually made me oddly feel at ease (when I wasn't in class that is) that I had something to consume my thoughts with. So, I tended to rewrite my notes when I got home, make note cards, re-make note cards, or literally do anything extra I could do to keep my mind occupied. I think dumping all my energy into this positive is what allowed me to excel so well and ultimately graduate cum laude. PS. If you're reading this and you're currently in law school I feel the struggle you're going through, but just know that you CAN and WILL get through it, so don't give up.


SECOND, at the time I was going through a really mentally exhausting relationship / breakup. It was a five year relationship that was good in the beginning, but turned very toxic. Trust me, I know we all have our demons and things that we go through, but let me just scream this from the rooftops…. you should always 100% do everything you can to help others when they need it, BUT you are NOT required to keep sticking it out if nothing changes and you keep getting hurt because of the actions of others. You need to look out for yourself and you need to start putting yourself first. I finally realized that after years when I saw myself falling apart right in front of my own eyes. Having this added stress stacking on to my already existing stress made everything so much worse.


THIRD, I was very sick during these two years. It turned out that one of my apartments that I was living in at the time was completely covered in black mold. I was in and out of the doctors office and hospitals more times than I can even remember and NOBODY knew what was wrong with me. I was having difficulty breathing, a cough that seemed to linger, extremely itchy skin, and just being so insanely tired. I will never forget the day it snowed and water started leaking through my windows so maintenance had to come check it out. That's when they found the black mold. After seeing the photos I took of the mold in my apartment, my doctor wrote a letter mandating my lease be broken immediately because of my declining health. And guess what? Black mold significantly messes with your nervous system and my anxiety was quadrupling even more as an effect.


Now that you know "the why", let's talk about what happened to me during those two years.


I had what I can only describe as crippling anxiety. It was so bad that it felt like a full time job just getting through a normal day. I literally had to focus and try SO hard to have a "good" day and it was exhausting. I also started having really bad panic attacks for the first time ever. They began occurring so frequently that I was diagnosed with panic disorder. My hands would shake and sweat uncontrollably, I wouldn't be able to breathe, my vision would go in and out, and my heart would race so fast I was convinced that I was dying. My head felt like it was permanently resided within a fog machine, everything just felt hazy. I remember having this "panic" feeling at least 3-4 times a week during 2014-2015. I would have to get up and leave my classes every so often and just go for a walk or sit on the chairs outside the classroom. I would take deep breaths, and just pray it would pass. I remember one time specifically that it did not pass while I was at school. I was in my class and immediately felt that overwhelming sensation coming over my body so I got up and left class like I would do whenever this started happening. But I couldn't make the panic stop this time and when 10 minutes went by and I didn't come back, my best friends from law school came looking for me. I was literally having a panic attack in the hallways— shaking, sweating, terrified. My best friend Sara left class with me that day and took me back to her apartment since she lived right around the corner from our law school. I will never forget sitting in her apartment drinking the chamomile tea she made for me wondering what the F was wrong with me. I was terrified of being in my own skin. Truthfully, without the help of my friends I would not have made it through law school and the sh*tstorm I was dealing with.


I remember multiple times I would call my mom on the train ride home from school because I had to get off at a random stop because I could feel it in my body that I was starting to have another panic attack. After having so many, so frequently, I started getting this irrational fear that I was going to have a heart attack or pass out in an unfamiliar place alone. So I would get off the train at a random stop, fall to my knees, cry on the phone to my mom, and just have a full blown panic attack right there in the train station. Let me put this in perspective for you. My train ride was only 15-20 minutes to my apartment from school and I couldn't even sit on the d*mn train for that short period of time without falling apart. I literally couldn't function and to this day I avoid public transportation, specifically trains, at all costs (if I'm not alone... then I can "kind of" stomach it).


Somewhere in this messed up timeline of mine I was prescribed Lorazepam by my psychiatrist. If you don't know what Lorazepam is it's used to treat anxiety/panic attacks by calming your nerves and putting your mind at ease so it stops racing so much. I have debated over and over again about whether to include this next paragraph or not, but it's part of my story so it needs to be said.


This was actually brought on because I reached out to a friend of mine crying hysterically asking her to help me because my life was falling apart before me. She gave me Lorazepam pills to calm me down and get me through the next couple of weeks. HUGE FYI you should 100% not get prescription medication from ANYBODY but a doctor, but I was so desperate at the time. I had made an appointment with a psychiatrist about a week earlier, but they couldn't see me for three more weeks and the thought of living the way I was living for three more weeks TERRIFIED me.


I was also scared of taking medication because up until this point I never had, but I knew that I 100% needed it because my quality of life was flatlining. Taking it finally allowed me to start being able to get a grip on my life and get through the day without it falling apart. I eventually began having more good days then bad ones and was finally able to start pinpointing the things that led me to get to this point.


Let me just preface this next part with the fact that there is NOTHING wrong with taking medication that helps you live your life to the fullest. I personally just wanted to try and get back to a point where I could take it only as needed because I knew that a lot of what made me lose control was putting myself in toxic or stressful situations over and over again. I waited until all of the above stressors were eliminated from my life and until my doctor felt that it was okay for me to do so to slowly start tapering myself off of it.


I had already researched everything under the sun that helps combat anxiety naturally at this point, so I felt ready to begin this next chapter. Over the years since I have figured out what works for me and I will be sharing everything in my "Anti-Anxiety Arsenal" in another blog post soon. Let me also just that while all of these natural remedies have helped me significantly my anxiety is still very much with me. I still have days that are hard and even random moments on great days where I just think the absolute worst in a given situation. The difference is now I recognize them, I acknowledge them, and I get through them.


It's perfectly okay to not be okay.


FINAL WORDS #NOSOLO...


Mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bi-polar disorder, etc) are more common that you can ever actually fathom. The problem is that nobody talks about them, so you feel like you're fighting through this battle by yourself. Let me just tell you that you are 100% not. The more you start to open up and talk about your own struggles, you start to realize just how many people are also struggling too. Some of the brightest and strongest people I know suffer from a mental illness. I like to think of us as warriors because we are constantly fighting an invisible war every single day and somehow we still get sh*t done… sometimes LOL.


One of my very best friends from college, Sarah, who is married to my good friend, Johnny, (I take full credit for this marriage btw.. just kidding... but they did meet while Johnny was my roomie!) just launched a company together called NOSOLO. NOSOLO is fundamentally established around this principle of not being alone through your struggles with mental illness.


When Sarah and Johnny first told me the news about their launch my first reaction was how freaking amazing it was. But I was wrong, because it's so much more than just amazingit's a movement. It's a step in the right direction of ending the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I am so incredibly proud of these two for their launch and I know that they are going to do incredible things with it.


NOSOLO literally means "NOBODY GOES SOLO" because quite frankly nobody should have to. Wearing the NOSOLO symbol not only helps raise awareness, but it also shows support for those who suffer from mental illnesses. So, let me just tell you I proudly rep my NOSOLO hats for two reasons-- (1) the cause and (2) because it's cute AF ,I'm a sucker for a good trucker hat.


Best part other than showing support? By making a purchase it actually does support the cause because a portion of EVERY single sale goes to NAMI which is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So go show your support, rep one of these hats, and if you too suffer from a mental illness then I also encourage you to share your story.


PS. SUGARED20 will get you 20% off site wide. Click here to see my try on a few different styles.


Nobody left alone. Nobody goes solo. #NOSOLO.


With Love Always,

Sugared Stilettos

(Stephanie Knightly)