Fear Stirring in My Chest
Maddie M. White
What mental illness do you suffer from?
I have suffered with Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Depression.
When was the first time you noticed it and how?
I can always remember being anxious as a child. I had a hard time being away from my parents especially after experiencing the death of my papaw. I had a fear that everyone around me was dying. For several years I spent Sundays in tears, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I did have a few years that it sort of went away. I still didn’t like the idea of being far away from home and my parents, but it was something I could do.
Death always seemed to be a trigger for me. After my other grandfather passed in 2011, I started experiencing panic attacks. They were mild at first, but enough to scare me.
Senior year of high school I spent 2 months homebound because of panic attacks. I couldn’t leave my house for fear of having another one. They were severe at this point. I felt like I was literally dying. I could feel the fear stirring in my chest and sweat beading up on my forehead.
Spending all of that time alone (and truly feeling alone even when surrounded by people) allowed depression to creep in. I sat on my couch and cried hysterically, but put on a smile when people were around.
How does it affect your life as a whole?
I wish I could say that it didn’t affect me that much, but it did. For years, I was a different person. I was very withdrawn from activities and people that were in the confines of my home.
How does it affect your day-to-day?
Some days were easier than others. I felt hyperaware of my body. Was my heart beating to fast? Was I going to pass out? Am I going crazy?
What have you learned about it?
Anxiety, depression, and panic attacks are REAL. They’re as real as a having a heart attack. The fear and emptiness that I felt in those moments were as real to me as any other sickness I’d had.
What has is taught you about yourself?
That I’m not perfect. My mind is so powerful and sometimes that’s not always a good thing. It’s also taught me how strong I can be.
Have you found anything helpful in coping with it?
Counseling and medication has been a successful formula for me, but it’s different for everyone.
Describe a time in which you felt empowered after doing something in spite of the disorder.
I believe that you can feel empowered in the “small victories”. I can remember a time I wouldn’t walk down the street to the Post Office, I wouldn’t drive far alone, and I wouldn’t stray away from my “safe people”.
I drove farther, I walked down the street, and I spent time with others. These things left me feeling incredibly proud of myself.
If I can leave you with anything, just take that step and talk to someone. I am ALWAYS here to listen. You are not alone. Someone loves you and wants you here. Be courageous and have faith that it will pass, because it will.
Maddie M. White is a young writer and mental health advocate. She has several published flash fiction pieces in various magazines. She has a monthly feature called Joined Journeys that interviews people about their own struggle with mental illnesses in NECROPOLIS, a blog by Rhythm and Bones Webzine. She is married to her best friend and high school sweetheart, Shawn. She hopes to create a safe place for readers within her books that inspire them to better themselves and follow their dreams.