Today I feel the need to just vent and express my story. I’m being very vulnerable but I think this needs to come out, and I hope it helps even one person realize they aren’t alone in whatever they are going through.
I’ve had a lot of feels lately. Not just with just the politics (has really been bothering me a lot these last few days), but having overwhelming anxiety due to stress. I have a long list of things to do with no drive or motivation to do it all, all on my last 4-5 months left of my Phd. I have senioritis. Or, I’m so done with this all, I’m ready for the next step-itis. My brain is so busy, I have so many things to do, it just seems that I’m just so spread thin. It’s not that I can’t manage my time well, there’s just only so much time in the day to do everything that needs to be done.
And honestly, sometimes it all just seems so irrelevant and unworthy of stress, when there’s so many horrible things going on in the world; world drama that I won’t specifically name, leaves me feeling helpless; hearing how our administration signed a gag order for federal scientists to not communicate their science, among other things, sat on my brain for too long. Communicating science is one of the most important things. This, along with other things, made it feel like the world as I knew it was crashing down. Yesterday I was depressed; I sat in my car in my garage when I got home and cried.
Did you know that about 60% of grad students at UCLA go to counseling services for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues? That is a staggering statistic, and the university has only made more and more cuts in the amount of visits and help students can get, thanks to budget cuts.
I developed anxiety when I moved across the country from my family. I was scared, alone, and in a new intimidating environment, in classes with the best of the best. And that’s how my body responded: panic attacks. Some days I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My mind would jump to the worst case scenario, that I would die, that I had some kind of sickness that the Drs. were missing. I ended up in the ER a few times before I was handed some informational pamphlets talking about panic attacks and anxiety. I was afraid of dying. I was afraid of missing out on the rest of life, feeling like I was stuck in a perpetual cycle of being a student. I thought to fit in with others I had to drink. A lot. Sometimes it wasn’t even intentional, but I wanted to be social, and the crowd I surrounded myself with was into the party scene. I gained a lot of weight. I ate like crap, I had fat sandwiches every weekend, spent Sundays recovering from the weekend, feeling like crap and going to school on Monday not ready to take on the workload. I hit my rockbottom.
In addition, I was relentlessly bullied at the beginning of grad school, by other women who decided I was their target. I had never experienced such negativity and toxicity as I had in grad school. It was worse than high school and middle school, honestly. I never had any issues with people before then. It was like an episode of mean girls was taking place in real life. I didn’t realize it and identify it as bullying until last week when it all finally made sense in my head. The hate and shit talking I experienced that contributed to my anxiety was actually bullying, and that’s how it needs to be identified. Insecurities bring out their ugly heads and other women can relentlessly tear down other women for simply EXISTING. I heard people talking about me not being good enough to be in grad school, not being smart, or oh she’s talking to a counselor for anxiety, hah! Or the best one was throwing things in my face in front of strangers, things I had confided in someone I thought was my friend, oh that i hospitalized myself (because of my anxiety). These bullies were meddling in my relationships (romantic, roommates, other people I didn’t even know), and it was getting out of hand. I could no longer deal with the childish drama. So many things have happened that I can’t and won’t list here.
I started developing migraines with auras from my stress. I had never had a migraine before in my life, and now I was getting them with AURAS, where you start to see physical warnings of the debilitating headache. My vision would blur, I would see squiggly lines, I would get tunnel vision, my hand would go numb, my lip would go numb. It was a very very scary time. I thought I was dying or having a stroke. All of my medical exams checked out normal though, I was having classical migraines with aura. I was also diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That really put it in real terms. I had a real problem.
But I had to do something; I had to put myself first. My health was deteriorating fast thanks to my overwhelming stress and anxiety, the physical stress that I was putting on myself was interfering with every inch of my being. For goodness sake, I gave myself migraines with auras, signs similar to stroke.
I quickly realized that life is too short, and there’s no room for the toxic. I was killing my health. I had to remove the toxic elements immediately. I put up with a toxic environment too long, and it prevented me from growing as a person.
My anxiety didn’t define me. My anxiety was because I was putting up with things for too long. I sought help.
I talked to a counselor, I meditated, I worked out, I surrounded myself with only great people.
There should be NO stigma associated with people who need and seek help, and I hope this makes you realize you aren’t alone. Help is there if you need it. Seek it.
Once I deleted the toxic from my life, I realized I had real, supportive, friends and an amazing boyfriend I could confide in, friends I could stop in the middle of their experiments to go for a walk with me while I calmed down. Who would listen to me while I bawled my eyes out. Who could relate to me because they also were going thru similar things; they too were being bullied and manipulated by the same people. I joined an amazing community of people invested in their health and fitness, I delved into books and books of personal development. Immersing myself into the positive and surrounding myself with positive people was THE BEST thing I could’ve done for myself. A year later after joining this community and bettering myself while trying to help others, has been the most amazing thing.
I stopped drinking. I committed to working out regularly. To listening to my body. To nourishing my body and cleaning up my diet. I lost most of the weight, I got stronger, and my migraines disappeared. I get the warning signs of a migraine every now and then, but I know that is my body’s signal to back off and release the stress. It’s just NOT worth it. It’s not worth stressing and being anxious just to hurt my own health. A lot of the times we can’t control things; I’ve come to realize that we can’t control other people and their actions, but we can control how we process our reactions, thoughts and anger.
If you are going through similar things, go talk to someone. Message someone. Vent. Talk to a counselor. There’s absolutely no shame in admitting you have a problem and need help. There are SO many services available, take advantage of them. There’s no need to be alone and miserable. absolutely no need.
If you want some tips on how to deal with anxiety, check out my video for tips HERE—> How to deal with Stress and Anxiety
While I’m in a much better place today, five years later I still have my moments. But the difference is I know how to deal with my anxiety much better; I can stop a panic attack in its tracks. Sometimes people don’t understand and just think anxiety is something you just get rid of. I don’t think my anxiety will ever fully be gone; it will get pretty damn close though, I can tell you that, but it takes a lot of time. You won’t see overnight results. Just know that.
I can’t help but think back to what a horrible yet fantastic journey grad school has been. So many ups and downs, but when I look back at my journey, I only remember the highlights with the people who mean the most to me and the experiences that really helped shaped me as a scientist and a person. My PhD is not only my degree to show my expertise in biochemistry and molecular biology, but it symbolizes all that I have gone thru and grown as a person. And NO ONE can take that away from me. I am a completely different person than the girl that started grad school in 2011.
Have you dealt with anything similar? Have you battled anxiety and depression? What are some tips you can share/what are some takeaways from this?
Are you interested in joining my amazing positive community of getting healthy and taking care of yourself while also helping others reach their fitness and wellness goals?
Let me know in the comments below. I have also added the infographic below for some facts about Anxiety and some more tips how to help deal.
Hope you can relate.
Dear Andrea, I read the post just now, don't know why Bloglovin didn't deliver it to me, but I came here as I always do, cause I missed your posts – and then there's this courageous post here, I am proud of you! I read about your anxiety, how you were in your car and cried, being a grad student and so on, but what really shocked me is that in 2016/17 there are still horrible people bullying fellow human beings. I am glad that you did something to diminish your anxiety, and the fact that you still have some moments can be used thinking that 1. People who bully do this because they don't like themselves! Simple like that. It's in fact nothing really against someone else, but against themselves – their inability of being what they really want to be, so they direct their frustrations towards someone else; 2. Not only they are insecure, they are also cowards, and this talks a lot about their characters; 3. To diminish someone they fear – because bullying is their fear of competition, of someone that, in fact, thy admire – so, to diminish someone they fear, and to seem to be bigger, they bully. In fact, they envy you; 4. If they don't like this or that person, it's their problem, not yours; 5. The best answer to this kind of people is your success; 6. Only stupid people will think that mental issues are a taboo in 2017. It's normal and there are treatments for that, never think of yourself any less because you face anxiety. Some face cancer, some face diabetes, some face anxiety. We are just ALL the same in the world. 7. I am so angry at those girls, they are exactly the opposite of who we want to be, right? Besides, it's exactly what you said – for the few girls that bother you, there are many people who love you, who care for you, your boyfriend, your family, your real friends, and NO ONE has the right to bother others – and no one will take your degree for you. "With the stones someone threw onto me, I built my castle" 🙂 I really really hope that whenever you feel anxious, you reach for help, that's no taboo, that's the right thing to do. And whenever you feel like sharing it, please count on me, write me whenever you want. I am very proud of you, you are a brave beautiful girl, inside and outside! Many hugs, and please, relax a bit and see how life is a present and how important you are!
Omg thank you so so much for your beautiful kind words Denise!!! Sorry I'm just replying to this! I haven't had much time to blog lately, Ive been going thru a lot mentally and at work, but I am hopefully back again hehe you are so right, everything you have said is so true, and thank you for being there for me!! <3 <3 <3
I've dealt with an anxiety disorder since I was 9 years old (I'm 34 now), so I completely understand. Just like you, people suddenly started reacting weirdly to it when I started my PhD, even though they weren't people in my program. I received a lot of "you're just an anxious, stressful person…that's who you are", which really stung. I talk to you my therapist about it (I had to go see an LCSW since here in Canada there are waitlists for psychotherapists), who gave me advice that might help you put it in perspective, especially if people are giving you crap for it: You're not an anxious person; you have an anxiety disorder & those are two separate things.
Thanks so much for sharing that Aileen! Yes, exactly! People tell me I just need to stop stressing out, and its just not helpful and that doesn't do anything! Glad you are able to get thru it, and seeing a therapist is the best thing to do! <3 xxx
Stay strong as well, my friend!