The Moment I Thought I Was Dying
Coming to terms with my first encounter with anxiety and carving a path forward.
It was a cold snowy day in December 2018 when I sent a startling text to a close friend, “Hey, are you free? I need a drive to the ER.”
He responded promptly that he was on the way.
I had been studying for exams when I suddenly experienced issues breathing and tightness in my chest.
I thought I was having a heart attack.
With apparent concern on the nurse’s face, I was quickly admitted to the hospital. Following various standard tests, an ECG, X-rays, and hours of waiting the doctor’s diagnosis was conclusive…
Nothing was wrong with me.
I left the hospital that night concerned for my physical health and without answers.
Over time, I began drawing connections between when I felt those symptoms and what was happening in my life at the time.
A theme started to become apparent.
I was experiencing physical afflictions of anxiety during stressful or uncertain periods of my life.
The paradox is that I’ve never seen myself as a worrier.
I’m a go-getter. The guy who pushes himself and gets stuff done properly. The person who needs to be strong to support others, regardless of how I feel. The one who’s calm and responsive under pressure, not anxious.
I don’t think I would have realized that I struggle with anxiety if it wasn’t for the physical manifestation of its symptoms.
I’ve spent many thousands of hours working to improve my physical and mental state. Although I’ll never cease striving to progress further, I feel proud of how much I’ve improved in my physical fitness and headspace.
However, my ability to deal with anxiety is not on that list of accomplishments.
My current response to anxiety varies from mental self-talk that roughly translates to “suck it up buttercup” to productive actions like exercise, walks, breathing practices, meditation, or working through the matter that’s making me anxious, and sometimes destructive behaviours such as replacing worry with scrolling YouTube while ignoring the anxiety’s source and physical symptoms.
I might never be able to completely extinguish anxiety from my life, but I’m on a mission to effectively handle anxious episodes and I’m committed to being more consistent in proactively handling them when they do arise.
And, as always, please give me feedback. What did you like or dislike? What do you want more or less of? Other suggestions? Please let me know. Just respond to this email, leave a comment, or Tweet me @jackrossdixon.
I am you, Jack - just about 3 years later. I too never considered myself a worrier and I also felt like I had to be strong for others and keep powering forward in my career, but the life changes as a result of the pandemic has caused anxious episodes for me as well.
At first, I thought they were a result of low blood sugar. I thought maybe I was diabetic? Until I later learned, it was anxiety.
At the moment, I refuse to medicate myself, because I’ve always felt in control of my own feelings, but I am trying some of the things that you are: meditation and walking mainly.
I wish you the best and look forward to hearing about your journey, Jack!