The first time I ever felt the crippling effects of anxiety was about 12 years ago on top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. I took the elevator up with my girlfriend (now wife) to the 70th floor. On the way up I started to feel something was off. When I got off the elevator my immediate thought was “Uh oh, I need to sit down”. I felt weak and uneasy. I was paralyzed. I needed to return to the ground immediately.
I didn’t think too much of that incident after, I just dismissed it as a one-off event. I assumed it was because I went up really high and really fast in an that elevator and it wasn’t a real phobia. However, as the years went on my anxiety would kick in more and more when I was elevated. I would start to ask myself the question “Should I be afraid right now?” any time I was more than 100 feet or so up. The threshold for my anxiety to kick in would get lower and lower. I eventually would start to feel anxiety just 4 floors up on a deck.
Heights wasn’t the only situation where my anxiety would kick in. I am an avid golfer and I try to play a state wide golf events. It is absolutely normal to get nerves when playing in these events, however for me I felt like it went beyond normal nerves.
In 2016 I was qualifying for the Massachusetts State Amateur Championship. I was 1 under par through 6 holes. I remember being on the 7th green and thinking to myself, this is great I am playing well and I am not having any anxiety issues. Then boom, I immediately felt weak and uneasy, as if I could just collapse at any moment. A familiar feeling I have had before. I wondered if I would be able to complete my round. Should I head in to the club house so that I could find some comfort? Instead, I fought through feeling and continued to play. Fortunately, I was able to hang on and qualify for my first State Amateur Championship. I was beyond excited.
That excitement quickly grew into anxiety. I was going to play in the biggest golf event I had ever played in before. I would be consumed daily by the thought of playing in this event. I remember about a week out from the Championship, I went and took a lesson from my teacher. During that lesson, I again felt weak and uneasy. I felt like at any moment I could lose my balance and topple over. Again, I fought through this anxiety leading up to the event.
I hated these feelings of anxiety I would get. I felt like I couldn’t do normal things. To this day I still call hotels in advance to make sure I stay no higher than the 10th floor. But my concern is that I will not always be able to control my environment like I do with hotels.
I didn’t want to take medicine. I hated the side effects from the drugs. Therapy had been recommended to me but I was unsure about it. “I am a man, in my 30s. I don’t need therapy”, I would say to myself (what a foolish thing to have thought). However, I was getting crippled in normal everyday scenarios. I couldn’t just keep trying to avoid these situations.
I decided, ok I will give therapy a try. I got recommendations from my doctor. But I never made the call to set up an appointment. Months would go by, and I still would not setup the appointment. And then I found out my 10 year old dog had terminal cancer. This put me into an emotional tailspin. I felt so helpless knowing that there was nothing I could do to help our dog who had become a family member. All I could do was sit there and watch him slowly regress and die.
That event was the catalyst that finally got me to pick up the phone and make an appointment with the therapist. I needed help.
I needed help to understand how to cope with death, but I also needed help to understand how to manage and treat my stress and anxiety. I am 4 months into my therapy sessions. I feel like I have learned a lot in that short time but I still feel like I am in an epic battle with my mind. I logically understand that some of my anxiety is irrationally, but even fully comprehending that I still get these anxiety attacks.
I share all of this with you incase you are someone like me. Someone who battles with anxiety or panic or stress. You are not alone and you don’t have to face it by yourself. Even though I had apprehension with seeking therapy initially, I think its extremely healthy to be open and honest about what is going on with your. It is ok to be vulnerable and seek help to improve yourself.