A few years ago, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I had been in and out of hospitals for months before I was officially diagnosed.
During one of my anxiety attacks, I'd experience heart palpitations, increased heart rate (about 160 beats per minute), dizziness, difficulty breathing, dry mouth and numbness in my arms and hands.
The symptoms were sometimes mistaken as the beginning stages of a heart attack and my mind would trick itself into believing that it was just that—a heart attack!
Often it was my fear of dying that would heighten the attacks. I was given a prescription for Ativan to help control my attacks, but all it did was make me sleep more.
My disorder was beginning to control my life, and it was tearing me apart. I'd go through periods where I was afraid to be in the house alone. Picture that: I was a grown man practically begging people to come by my house because I was scared to be by myself.
My self esteem was non-existent. It didn't help that I'd stopped exercising because I was afraid to participate in any activity that could increase my heart rate. I often felt like a terrible trainer, considering how I was putting clients through intense workouts, but was personally afraid to exercise. My clients didn’t know the personal torment I was dealing with every time I trained them. I wanted to exercise so badly but was too afraid.
I was depressed and lonely. The only person who could relate to what I was going through was my good friend, Daryl, because he had an anxiety disorder as well. At the time, my only comfort was in knowing that I wasn’t the only person who had experienced this.
What I didn’t know was how common anxiety disorders were, nor did I know that they were classified with other disorders such as bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Within the first six months of my diagnosis, I lost over 20 pounds. I was never a heavy guy, so losing 20 pounds was very significant in my appearance, especially considering that I weighed about 155 pounds at 5’7” with only 7% body fat prior to my diagnosis.
I remember one incident specifically when my mother came to visit. We'd planned to go out for lunch that day. I had been looking forward to getting out of the house and getting my mind off of my issues, but something came over me that day. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing that my mother was there, or maybe it was my own realization that I had enough of being a victim. Maybe it was a combination of both, but whatever it was, I just remember sitting on the floor by my bedroom window with my knees to my chest and my head hanging down, crying.
I wasn’t crying because of my weight loss, I was crying because at that moment, I realized my anxiety disorder had taken over every aspect of my life!
I knew then it was time to bring some order to my disorder.
The first thing I had to realize was that I wasn’t crazy. I was made to feel like I had some deep-rooted psychological disorder that could only be treated with medication and by seeing a psychologist. That couldn’t have been further from the truth!
The second and most important thing I had to do was accept it. I had to accept the fact that I have an anxiety disorder and that it was okay. I could still lead a normal, productive life. I had to understand that my disorder didn’t define me, rather I defined it. I could control the effect it has on my life and thats what I did.
I still have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but for the first time I can honestly say that I don’t suffer from it. Having GAD has introduced me to an entirely new way of living. It was the inspiration behind my decision to try yoga. Now yoga is not only a part of my lifestyle. Soon I’ll be a registered instructor, helping others experience the many benefits of yoga.
With just a little self-realization and some belief in yourself, you can take something that used to control your life and turn it into something that changes your life. Never doubt the power of your mind and don’t allow fear to consume you. Stand up to the challenges that life may present to you and know with complete confidence that you are able to conquer anything.