When I was a teenager I noticed something was… different about me. I couldn’t quite pin-point what it was. I was trying to figure it out and I was keeping it to myself. It became debilitating. It was like I could never rest or relax. I lived with never ending fear, worry, panic, you name it. I had no control over my thoughts. When I couldn’t control my thoughts I would end up taking uncontrollable actions. It just didn’t seem normal, per se.

I was also un-intentionally making life hell for those close to me. I was having unwanted mood swings and depression. I was destroying my relationship with friends, my girlfriend at the time, and family. I finally learned to block it out, in a unhealthy way. I created a wall of over-the-line humor and superficial happiness. It helped, but it never really solved anything. I kept thinking “Surely this isn’t the way life is supposed to be?” So, as anyone with my condition would do, I googled it. I found that what I was going through was actually really common.

You see, I have a General Anxiety Disorder. In a really broad sense, I worry about things that will, most likely, never happen. I am also Obsessive Compulsive. So the things I worry about get placed on a mental carousel that never stops spinning. It spins the same thoughts ‘round and ‘round. Trying to stop the carousel is near impossible. The only way I knew, at the time, to remove a thought from the carousel was to take action. I’m not talking normal, healthy actions though:

  • Sometimes I would drive 45 mins, at midnight, to go back to work to pull on a locked door that I had already locked, and checked, at 7pm.
  • I would drive around in circles to make sure I hadn’t hit someone with my car because I felt a bump in the road.
  • I eventually would just leave the windows down/radio off whenever I would drive anywhere.
  • I would get particularly scared that I have some life-changing disease.
  • I would, and still do, worry that every single action in my life is offensive, or straining, to relationships I have with friends and family.
  • Every time I push code to a server, I have a slight panic that disaster is about to ensue. Though this has gotten better with Test Driven Development.
  • I fear emails because obviously the only reason someone would email me is to tell me something awful has happened.
  • I just get anxious for no reason.

You probably read that and thought, “That’s Stupid.” You may even ask “Why don’t you just think about something else?” Well, I ask myself that quite often. It’s not that easy. If it was that easy, I wouldn’t be writing this.

These thoughts lead to panic attacks that can become very debilitating. During a panic attack it becomes hard to communicate with people. I lose the ability to focus. Then I feel guilty for worrying. I feel like I’m giving myself too much attention, and not those around me.

I’ve been told many times that it’s just because I’m not ‘trusting God’ with it enough. Meh. I’ve prayed for years for this to go away and it doesn’t just go away because I trusted God with it. As a Christian, I’m not downplaying God, I just believe that sometimes God may want us to also take other action.

I’ve also been told to just take medication for it. This has been hit and miss for me. The first medicine I was put on made me very angry, I stopped taking it after a week. The second medicine I was given sent me to the hospital for uh… just know I stopped taking it, but it’s kinda funny. The next medicine I was put on caused my heart to start doing weird things. I stopped taking it too. Finally I was placed on a medicine that helps me quite a bit. It, like any other medicine, doesn’t fix it, but it helps me control it.

The real help for me came when I also started to see an amazing counselor. He has changed my life in many ways. I would say this has been one of the most important parts of my journey with anxiety. I can tell him all the crazy things that go through my head, and leave his office feeling like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. He has also taught me the power of breathing exercises. Anytime I start to go into a panic attack, I just lay back and breathe.

It’s 2016 and I’ve come a long way. I’m learning to separate the anxiety from the normal. The medicine helps with the smaller, day-to-day anxieties. Whenever things get bad, I know to go see my counselor. When I sense anxiety or a panic attack coming on, I take time to breathe and fight what’s happening, and take the proper medicine, as needed. I have amazing friends who allow me to ask honest questions to help ease my mind. Most importantly, I’m not scared to talk about it any more. I don’t want people to feel alone.

I don’t think you ever fully defeat anxiety, you just learn how to control it.

  • Anxiety is nothing more than thoughts.
  • Thoughts can affect the rest of your body.
  • Thoughts can be difficult to put aside, but it can be done.

It’s okay if you experience this

  • I didn’t know it was okay to talk about these things. I thought I was alone.
  • Find the right people to help you, they are out there.

This is a real thing.

  • I didn’t know it.
  • You can’t fight it without realizing there’s something to fight.

Jason Charnes is a contributor to the Prompt blog, our sticker sponsor, and a developer who suffers from anxiety. We thank him for his contribution and for starting a conversation about mental health in tech.