Chills ran down my spine immediately after men dressed in all black came into the theater and sat down rows in front of my friends and me.
They gave us an eye, one that felt cold and unwelcoming. With my heart beating one thousands times a minute, clammy hands grasped as tight as possible to the theater chair, tunnel vision and a stone cold posture, I was experiencing my first public anxiety attack.
It's a tough subject to talk about, yet one I feel most passionate sharing. To be quite honest, I never knew what anxiety was, or that I even had it, until I had my first public panic attack.
It seemed to be one of those “things” everyone would claim to have in a nonchalant manner. But what I experienced was in no way close to that feeling. I was in a movie theater weeks after I heard about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado when I started to panic over two men sitting in front of me.
Embarrassing to say the least, I sprinted out of the theater into the nearby bathroom, where I started sobbing and shaking for a reason unknown to me in that moment; all I knew is I couldn't stop. All these hypothetical situations kept popping up in my head, all ending in me getting hurt.
The scariest part of anxiety is how it affects those around you. For me, I can say dealing with my anxiety had taken its toll on many relationships and caused me to hurt those I loved the most. But the worst part of all was not realizing the pain I caused while it was actually happening.
Anxiety eats you up. It takes you down until you cannot find the strength to stand up again. It continuously pushes you down until you don't care enough to fight back. And now looking back, I can proudly say although anxiety is a part of who I am, it can never define me.
Although this is easier said than done, trust me, it's worth the fight. Anxiety taught me how to live my life.
Don't let anyone or anything stop you.
Anxiety is without a doubt an inhibitor. The amount of times I skipped seeing a new movie or hanging with friends because I would fear a panic attack or feeling alone is unfair.
It prevented me from feeling normal, from trying new things or feeling a sense of belonging. Standing in the background while everyone around you seems to be taking full advantage of what life has to offer is not the way you want to look back at your past. Don't let this obstacle get in your way from joining your peers.
Life's too short.
TAKE CHANCES. No brilliant idea or amazing story came from sitting in your bed all day while you fear something that most likely will not even happen. As cheesy as this may sound, every day has something new to offer you -- whether it's meeting a new friend, having a ton of laughs at a show or even passing an exam you were sure you failed.
One of my favorite sayings to live by is, "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
Experiencing all life has to offer is something that should never be taken for granted. Life is a privilege, not a right. So stand up, take a deep breath and conquer what's in front of you.
Mind over matter.
Anxiety is just a game your mind likes to play, and it really is there to protect you from danger. It's not impossible to overcome the hardships of this game. Breathing techniques and other small steps helped me overcome the mind trick that is anxiety, and it eventually led me to start experiencing the world again.
Start slow and work your way up to the things you never thought you could achieve. Once you have something in your head, it is possible to achieve it. The same goes for heading into an exam or getting pumped before a big sports game; if you don't have the right mindset, you are never going to accomplish it headstrong.
Just remember this: Anxiety is a game. You can either play it headstrong or let it win. Always choose to play it headstrong because no one else decides your happiness more than you.