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February 9, 2024

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

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Entire nights without sleep, the feeling like your heart is beating out of your chest and being completely helpless. Anxiety and panic attacks are not a game. They are a reality.

Before I enrolled in college, I had never had anxiety or any kind of panic attack. For me, that was a joke. I used to say things like: “Those people who have anxiety just want attention,” I said. “If you have anxiety, just breathe, and that’s it; it’s not that serious.”

Little did I imagine that I would swallow my words in the future.

College can be stressful sometimes, and you can add the stress of being a student-athlete.

In my three almost four years of college, I have had many problems passing classes, not being eligible to compete, and having to take summer and winter classes to be eligible. But I tried to convince myself, saying: “These things do not affect me.” But, unfortunately, they are eating me up inside. The helplessness of not performing as I wanted to, academically and athletically, was eating me up.

I used to cry alone because I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I felt like I did not have someone to turn to, and I was very far from my family in a completely different country. It’s not at all the joke that I used to think it was.

The first panic attack I had was at the beginning of this year, Jan 5, to be exact. I was lying in bed, and I could feel my heart beating rapidly out of nowhere. I had not made any physical movement for my heart to beat at such a speed. I felt dizzy, my joints began to go numb, and there I thought, “Am I dying?” I said to myself in my thoughts. “Could I be having a heart attack?” My head was filled with questions, and with each question, my fear increased, and my heart beat faster and faster.

I woke up my roommate and told him to call the emergency room because I was dying. He tried to calm me and tell me that everything was fine, but in my mind, I had already formed the idea that I was going to die. After four hours of overthinking, I asked myself, “What was that?” I couldn’t understand what had happened. It was something entirely new for me.

At the moment, the best option was to breathe; my only strategy to handle such a bad panic attack was to breathe and try to convince myself that everything that was happening was on my mind. I didn’t know what else to do.

Afterward, I decided to continue my life as if nothing had happened; it was a bad memory, but I preferred not to pay much attention to it and keep going with my academics and athletic life.

Unfortunately, that was not the only time that happened. There have been multiple panic attacks this year for me. Until this day, I don’t know what triggered my attacks. All the ones I’ve had have been in both happy and sad moments. They just happen without any warning.

The last attack I had was during one of my swimming practices.

I had always considered swimming my safe place; whenever I had any problems, I used to like going to the pool for a swim in order to forget about every problem that I had.

However, that practice changed my whole perspective. I was underwater, and suddenly, my heart started to beat so fast that I barely made it out of the pool and felt like I could barely breathe. The sensation of being underwater and thinking that you are having a heart attack, I don’t wish it, not even to my worst enemy. My coach sprinted when I screamed, “help!” with my hand on my chest and with the bit of air that I could breathe. My only thoughts were, “I don’t want to die.”

With the help of my coach, who kept encouraging me to breathe and calm down, I could finally breathe, and my pulse went back to normal.

This is when I felt like I hit rock bottom, not even in my safe place. I was safe. I couldn’t continue like this. I needed help. So I went to the doctor to have them check me physically to see if I had heart problems or something similar, but the results came out perfectly.

“It’s anxiety,” said the doctor, “the results came out fine, so we can rule out that it’s something from the heart.” It was a relief for me, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. I couldn’t stop thinking about how, years ago, I made fun of people diagnosed with anxiety, saying that they were exaggerating.

It is crucial to ask for help even though you do not want to share the problems you keep to yourself. I did not like to share how I was feeling with anybody because I thought that nobody would care about my problems. Fortunately, my friends reassured me of their support and said they would be there whenever I needed them. Also, my coaching staff is very caring and understands that mental health is just as important as physical health, and they also offered all the help they could provide. With my academic coach, we have been working on being more organized with school work so stress is reduced and my anxiety doesn’t get worse.

I haven’t had a panic attack since I decided to ask for help, and my only regret is waiting until I felt like I was losing my mind.

If you are going through something similar, ask for help and tell your loved ones how you genuinely feel. You are not alone.

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  • C

    CatDec 7, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    ❤️❤️you’re not alone. No matter how far away you are. Ily

    Reply