Anxiety & depression are two things that i’m VERY familiar with.
The mind can be the most beautiful place ever known or it can be the most torturous hell you can ever imagine. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum very vividly.
I’ve dealt with mental issues throughout my entire life. As i’m sure many of you can relate. Which is why I wanted to write this article. It isn’t easy being vulnerable & discussing these type of real life topics. I’ve been guilty of hiding them from others in the past.
Quick preface though, please don’t take any of this as me trying to portray myself as a victim. I’m not looking for your empathy or anything of the sort. I’m simply telling my story in order for you to learn more about the real me AND to help others realize that they aren’t the only ones who deal or have dealt with similar issues as to what i’m about to discuss.
Over the past year i’ve begun opening up about these vulnerable topics & have had an awesome response in return. I think it’s very important for me to do this for a number of reasons.
As a society (especially men), we don’t like to talk about our issues. In the past, it was looked down upon even more so than it’s today. It’s seen as a weakness. As society continues to evolve though, it seems to be much more welcomed & praised. Which is awesome. But at the same time, we’ve gotta make sure we don’t go too far with it.. Creating issues that don’t really exist & blasting them out there to gain attention from others. Or creating that victim mindset which can be very dangerous as well. This is a whole different article though.
Over the past year i’ve been making a conscious effort to break this mold. I honestly believe that I have a responsibility to do so in a weird way.
I’ve been blessed to be able to build up a small social media following across a few platforms over the past years. It’s a very ‘deep’ following that I consider family. I take pride in that. They know so much about me through the numerous articles, podcasts & videos that I have put out. Being very vulnerable & real has allowed me to build this depth with all of you.
I want to continue to utilize this blessing to the best of my ability by being real. Something that most people on social media don’t do very often unfortunately. Often quite the opposite. Portraying a ‘perfect’ life through social media. A perfect life that makes everyone else feel as if they’re failures if they don’t live up to this same standard.
Maybe some of these people do live perfect lives .. Most of us don’t though. Myself included. My goal is to truly impact others on a very positive level through social media instead of using the platforms to just boost my ego.
I was guilty of this at first as well. Until I started to open up on the podcast that I do w/ Zach Homol & received an overwhelmingly positive outpour of response from the listeners. So many people were dealing w/ the same issues that I dealt with. They were so relieved to hear someone else talk about them. They began to realize that they weren’t alone in the battle. As did I ..
It was very comforting for me to begin opening up about these demons that I had buried deep within me for so long. Just talking about them openly has helped me deal w/ them so much more effectively.
It started on the podcast, but it then spread into my social media & writing as well over time. I’ve begun to be much more real & open about my life on social media & in real life w/ close friends & family. Which wasn’t easy at first, but over time it has become much more natural for me. It has not only helped me cope w/ certain issues much more effectively, but it also seems to be having a real impact on a large number of people that follow me on social media.
I’m beginning to realize that so many of us deal with the same issues. On different levels of course, but nonetheless, similar issues. Through communicating these issues, I think that we can make a ton of headway towards mitigating them & being able to live with them much more freely.
As I mentioned, this all began on the podcast. Podcasting is one of my favorite forms of communication to the people that follow me on social media. It’s such a real & direct way to articulate my ideals, feelings & issues that I deal with. I feel like it allows you to get to know the REAL me. It’s tough to be fake when you’ve done 70 plus podcasts. Each being 30-90 minutes long.
You’re forced to talk. There’s no room for stints of silence. You just gotta keep the conversation rolling. Zach and I have gotten pretty good at this since we first began. I highly recommend that you start a podcast !!
Writing is right up there w/ podcasting for my favorite way to communicate my true feelings. I’ve gotten pretty deep about my life on the podcast, but have never gone fully in depth. I’m gonna do my best to document my journey through anxiety & depression in the following few pages. Hopefully a few of you can relate to my journey & this helps you just a bit !!
So let’s get deep ..
My earliest experiences with social anxiety date back to elementary school. I NEVER liked getting up in front of the class. Even just going up & writing on the whiteboard scared the hell out of me. Or being called on to read for the class. I would have rather done hours of homework than be forced to either speak in front of the class or be the center of attention in any way.
There’s one specific encounter that I remember very vividly. I was in 4th grade. I can’t even remember my teachers name .. It’s wild how our memories begin to fail us as we get older & stuff more & more info into our heads.
Anyways, we were forced to do a class play. Something to do with animals. I was assigned to be a goddamn owl of some sort. Pretty sure that they went all out & even put wings on me. How embarrassing.
I dreaded this play for months leading up to it. Then the night of the show finally came & EVERYONE was there. My family, classmates & their families. I was horrified.
Reluctantly, I got up there & did the damn thing. Dressed up as an owl. Hating every second of it. Terrified the entire time.
I kinda remember an even earlier experience of extreme social anxiety in Kindergarten as well, but it’s a little foggy. I’m pretty sure we had to do some bullshit dance in front of our parents. HATED that too. Again, terrified the entire time.
When I got into middle school I didn’t even go to any of the class dances that they organized for us kids. At the time, that scared the hell out of me. I remember thinking about my wedding one day & how terrified of being in front of everyone for the formal wedding & then the dance portion I was. That’s how my brain worked.
Long story short, for as long as I can remember i’ve been terrified of being in front of people. Kinda just terrified of people in general to be honest.
This issue only got worse as time went on, until it eventually began to get better. Which we will discuss towards the end. But first, I wanna go into some more mental health issues that I dealt with throughout my early years so that you guys can get to know the real me a little more.
I don’t really remember a whole lot between this bullshit play in 4th grade & 8th grade. Aside from being nervous around people & specifically when I was on the spot in class. Other than that I was a happy kid. I had a great childhood. Couldn’t have asked for better parents. Never went hungry or without cool toys.
I didn’t deal with the issues that I know so many kids deal with. Crackhead parents. Divorced parents. Going to bed hungry every night. None of that. All of my issues were internal. My mind was holding me captive.
As I mentioned though, things were generally good through my early years, aside from the general anxiety. It wasn’t until 8th grade that I really started to deal with some dark internal issues.
This is gonna sound weird, but it all seemed to start when I cheated on an algebra test. I’ve always had such a guilty conscience.
Technically, I didn’t even really cheat .. Well, kinda. Maybe.
It was a multiple choice test & someone had all of the answers written down prior to taking the test. Not even sure how they got them. An hour before the test I memorized every single answer & was able to remember them all when I sat down to take the test. I didn’t even write them down, just memorized them in my head. So would that even be considered cheating?
I considered it cheating, which was all that really mattered. I spent the next few weeks feeling absolutely terrible about this. I felt so guilty & didn’t think that I deserved the A+ grade. I couldn’t stop thinking about it .. It consumed my mind all day every day. When I awoke in the morning it was on my mind. Throughout the entire day it was on my mind. I had this weird butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach pretty much non stop. It was debilitating.
This was my first real experience with my overly obsessive mind. Which was only going to get worse as time went on.
About 2 or 3 weeks after the test, I finally decided that I needed to come clean. It was the only option that I had. I was going crazy thinking about it.
So one evening I sat down with my Mother & told her what I had done. I don’t really remember her reaction. I imagine that she was pretty surprised that I would confess about something like that. It’s not like I committed some sort of crime. I cheated on a lousy math test.
Looking back, I realize how ridiculous this was. In the moment though, it felt like the biggest deal in the world. I felt like I had committed a murder.
After speaking with my mother she recommended that I come clean to my teacher & put this to rest. Everyone makes mistakes & deserves to be forgiven. So I did just that.
The next day my mother told the teacher that I needed to speak w/ him (I assume she had already told him the situation). That same day during class my teacher, Mr. Muck, called on me & asked me to come out into the hallway with him. I knew what this was all about. I was so nervous. But at the same time I was excited to put this in my past right then & there.
I gave him the run down & apologized very sincerely to him. He immediately forgave me & thanked me for being so honest. I was very relieved that I had gone through with the confession & gotten it off of my chest.
I assumed that confessing would solve all of my problems & would allow me to feel normal again. This was unfortunately not the case. Very far from the reality I was about to face head on. Things were about to get much worse for me within my head ..
My brain went from obsessing over this single issue to becoming obsessive over pretty much EVERYTHING. I began to develop something that I later realized was referred to as ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. It wasn’t until many months later though did I realize that this was a documented disorder that thousands of other people deal with. Which was kind of relieving to know that I wasn’t the only one.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly phrased as OCD, is referred to as a common, chronic & long lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over & over.
Let me try to explain it through my eyes though ..
The root of my OCD was an overwhelming fear that terrible things would happen to my loved ones if I didn’t follow through with these compulsive actions. Actions such as flipping light switches a certain number of times, cleaning my hands obsessively, avoiding cracks in the sidewalks, tapping my hands a certain number of times etc etc.
I remember spending hours on end certain nights flipping light switches because my mind was telling me that my parents would die if I didn’t continue to do so. There was this overwhelming urge within me that was so strong. I had no option but to follow through with these requests that my brain was making to me.
The obsessive hand washing got pretty out of hand as well (play on words there). I was washing them so much that they were going raw. Often washing them every few minutes for no other reason than the little voice in my head was telling me that I had to. There was no option but to follow through with these requests.
Looking back, I realize how ridiculous all of this was. As a 13 year old kid though, I had no clue what was happening. I couldn’t even begin to process the situation. It was terrifying. I was being held hostage by my obsessive thoughts. My own mind had turned against me.
I never spoke about this to anyone. Not to my friends, family or anyone at all. I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t though. That part of my memory is a little blurred. I may have just been embarrassed. Not realizing that this is a documented illness that hundreds of thousands of people deal with on a daily basis. I’m not really sure why I did not seek help. Looking back I wish I had seeked help.
I dealt with this issue for months on end. I wasn’t sure if it was ever gonna go away to be honest. I was at war with my own mind. I was determined to keep fighting though. I had no other option really ..
The exact timeline is blurry, but i’m pretty sure that the OCD was in full force for at least 6 months or so before it began to get better. It just seemed to get less & less severe over time. I was starting to feel almost normal again. ALMOST.
Until the next event came up ..
It was the first weekend of summer vacation before my freshman year of high school. My best friend & I decided that we were gonna throw a little party at his house. We had some older friends that were able to get us alcohol & cigarettes. I had drank a few times prior, but very minimally. Maybe once in 6th grade and again in 7th grade. So it wasn’t the first time I had done this.
We were about to be big kids in our minds. We had just finished the 8th grade & were preparing to enter high school. It was time to celebrate !! We got the alcohol & cigs and were ready for a wild Friday night.
All of our friends got together that Friday evening & let loose. I remember getting pretty shit faced. We had an absolute blast. Playing video games. Watching movies. Walking down the country road that my friend lived on smoking cigs. We weren’t hurting anyone or causing any disturbances. Just experiencing life.
Eventually passing out in my friends camper that was parked in his parents back yard. When I awoke the next morning I had a really weird feeling deep down in my gut. Something much stronger than the slight hangover I had.
It was that same butterfly feeling deep within my being that I had felt after cheating on the math test. It was back.. Ready to wreck my life once again.
The weeks passed by & this terrible feeling continued to persist within me. I couldn’t get it off my mind. I obsessed over how bad I felt about that drunken evening for weeks on end. Similar to the math test, I thought about it every waking hour of every day. Until I was forced to confess once again.
I remember telling my Mother about what I had done. Initially only telling her about the alcohol. Excluding the part where we were smoking cigs as well.
She was pretty upset with me, but she understood. Kids make mistakes & do kids stuff. It wasn’t the end of the world in her eyes.
Similar to the math test confession, although I had come clean, that guilty feeling deep within me continued to persist. The OCD had also come back in full force.
Here I was, 13 years old & about to enter high school, trying to enjoy my summer break and all I could think about was my OCD and crippling depression that had resulted from what seemed like pretty minuscule fuck ups for a kid.
I was so lost. Hopeless. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn. I seeked comfort through spending time with my mother mostly. Although I never fully expressed the issues I was dealing with with her. Looking back I wish I had.
I spent pretty much that entire summer hanging out with my mother.. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast spending time with her, but it wasn’t exactly how I had planned on spending my summer prior to high school though. I seeked comfort in spending time with her. That was really the only time I felt somewhat at peace it seemed.
As a result, I didn’t spend a ton of time with my friends doing normal 13 year old stuff. My social skills began to lack in certain areas. I wasn’t dating & learning how relationships worked. My growth was stunted in a number of areas of life due to these mental issues that I was dealing with.
Time passed & the wounds healed. Well, kinda. They more so were just covered by a slight layer of skin. Ready to be peeled back at anytime. Which they would in due time.
Throughout high school I don’t remember any real big issues in specific. The overwhelming OCD had dissipated & didn’t really cause me a whole lot of issues after that six month spurt the summer prior to high school. The normal social anxiety continued to persist though. I was still terrified of being in front of the class or being forced to read aloud.
My fear of public speaking was so bad that if we found out the first day of class on the syllabus that we would be giving a presentation the final week of the grading period (I think grading periods were like 9 weeks long or something), I would stress about having to give that presentation every single day of the period until I finally had to do it. Which meant I would sometimes stress it for 9 weeks straight. Absolutely terrified.
Let’s fast forward to the day of graduation though ..
This was supposed to be a day of celebration. A day of reflection on the past 18 years of life. A day in which we celebrated our accomplishments before we jumped into the real world.
It ended up being the beginning of a string of panic attacks that would lead to me dropping out of my first semester of college though .. I had had panic attacks prior to this, often when I was forced to do a presentation in class, but this was the most memorable one up to this point though. Likely because it was in front of the entire school & our families. Not just a single class.
It started when we were in line waiting to fill into the gymnasium where our graduation was being held. I remember just standing there sweating uncontrollably. Shallow breathing. Trying to gather my thoughts which seemed to be caught up in a whirlwind of negativity that I couldn’t control.
Once we got into the gymnasium we all found our assigned seats that were placed on the basketball court in the center of the gym. I just remember sitting there, awaiting my name to be called in fear. I knew that once my name was called I would then have to stand up, walk all the way up to the podium, shake the principles hand, walk across the podium & then back to my seat. All the while everyones eyes would be on me.
I didn’t even have to say a word .. Just walk up, grab my diploma & then proceed to walk back to my seat. It didn’t matter though. The idea of everyone watching me at once struck the utmost fear into me.
I realize how irrational these fears are. But in the moment it doesn’t matter. You’re in flight or fight mode. My primal brain was convinced that I was about to be in a fight for my life. So it ramps up, releases a ton of adrenaline & who knows what else, and prepares to fight to the death. When in reality I was just accepting a graduation diploma in front of a bunch of people who are so happy to see me succeeding.
It was then that voice on the microphone brought my fears to life. As the words came out of his mouth, “Jay Azeltine”, my heart began beating uncontrollably. The sweat began to flow through every single pore on my body. As I stood up I began to feel faint. I sucked it up though & began walking towards the stage. Nervous, sweaty & cherry faced.
I grabbed the diploma, shook the principles hand & quickly skirted back to my seat. Thanking God that I hadn’t passed out & totally embarrassed myself. I quickly forgot about this incident & moved on. Hoping to leave it in the past.
It was now the summer prior to leaving for college. In between working throughout the summer, I was looking forward to enjoying some free time with highschool friends that I wouldn’t be seeing once school started.
The first few weeks of summer went according to plan. I was working during the day & then spending time with my then girlfriend and friends. Soaking up those last few free months before college started. Then the unexpected happened..
My childhood home caught fire one evening when no one was home. It burnt to a crisp. Leaving everything inside either desinegrated or colored black from smoke damage. We had lost everything. Including our cat.
We were left with only the clothes on our backs for the time being. Thankfully we had really solid insurance on the house that covered everything. We were able to go out & begin buying new clothes the following day.
It was quite a process though for months on end. Especially for my parents as they had to handle everything with the insurance company. Spending thousands & thousands of dollars on everything we lost in the fire & then waiting on the insurance to reimburse. I remember seeing them constantly stressed over this.
This event could have been much MUCH worse. I don’t think it impacted me on too deep of a level, but it certainly didn’t help as I was dealing with a number of other issues at the time.
A few months after the fire it was time to head off to college. I was going to be attending Kent State University, which was about 3 ½ hours from home. I thought I was ready to finally get out of the house & move a few hours away. Becoming my own person.
Boy was I wrong ..
I was in a weird place in my young life. I don’t wanna say that I was unstable mentally, because I feel like that insinuates that I was suicidal or something, but I certainly wasn’t in a great place mentally. My social anxiety was at an all time high & now I was moving 3 ½ hours away from home. To a place where I didn’t know ANYONE.
Extreme social anxiety makes it pretty difficult to meet new people ..
I remember being dropped off at college like it was yesterday. My parents drove separately from me so that I could have a vehicle there at school. So I had a long drive to think about everything. I was nervous about the move, but I thought I would be fine. Again, I was wrong.
My parents helped me get everything moved into my dorm room & my mother helped do some decorating. Once everything was set up they were ready to make the hike back home. Shit was about to get real. We said our goodbyes & they were on their way.
I remember my mother crying when she said goodbye. Her little boy was off on his own. I held it together until I got back to my room. It was then that I started to get a bit emotional. In that moment I felt so alone. Vulnerable. Unsure of what to do next. That was a rough day for me.
The next day my roommate moved in & we hit it off pretty quickly. We came from different backgrounds but found common ground. It was relieving to finally know someone there on campus. We moved in on a Thursday & classes didn’t start until the following Monday, so we had a few days to check out campus before school started.
We had orientation & other first year events to attend those days between moving in & class starting. I remember meeting a lot of cool people & knowing that I wouldn’t have any issues finding friends here. The issue that would eventually lead to me dropping out were my chronic panic attacks though. They were relentless ..
That first week of classes was a living hell to be honest. Every time I would enter a classroom full of people I would immediately enter a panic attack. The full body sweats would ensue. I couldn’t breathe & the room would start spinning. To make matters worse, we had to do those ice breakers where each person would stand up in front of the class & introduce themselves to everyone. Talk about terrifying.
I couldn’t even enter the food hall without entering into a panic attack. The only time I felt at peace was in my dorm room or walking between classes. Which could be super stressful at times as well.
The first week of class felt like it may never end. At last it did though. One week felt like an entire month. I was ready to go home after just one week. So I jumped on the first opportunity to go back home. My friends that went to a local college were heading home & I hopped a ride with them.
Little did I know that the next time that I would be on campus I would be packing my things up to move back home. Funny story ..
So when I got home I heard about a local party being thrown by some guys I went to school with. The party was out in a field where one of my friends lived. I grew up in a pretty rural area you could say.
We got to the party & the drinks started flowing. There was music playing, a bonfire going & there also so happened to be a rope attached to a tree .. It was attached to a branch about 12 feet up in the air.
My friend successfully climbed the rope & when he got back down he challenged me to do so as well. Which I quickly accepted of course. I had climbed similar ropes in the gym & wasn’t one to turn down a challenge.
So there I went .. climbing the rope just like I was in the gym. Feet extended out in front of me to ensure I didn’t use my feet to cheat my way up. Before I knew it I was at the top. A foot or so away from the branch. I called down at my friend, mocking him before I began the descent back down to the ground.
It was then that the rope SNAPPED .. Resulting in my body free falling to the ground. I layed there on the ground in shock. Everyone else watching in awe.
Remember how I climbed the rope with my feet out in front of me because I wanted to be cocky? Well, I landed on the ground in that same position. Except I tried to brace my fall with my hands instead of bringing my legs down underneath of me & landing on my feet. My wrists took the full brunt of the fall.
I immediately grabbed for my right wrist & knew something was wrong. Within a few seconds it was as swollen as a baseball. I couldn’t move it without excruciating pain. Even with all the alcohol in my body it still hurt like hell. I was sure that I had broken something.
Long story short I ended up in the ER that evening. Still kinda drunk. I almost didn’t even go because I was underage & wasn’t sure what would happen. Thankfully I did.
A few hours later I came to the sobering realization that my wrist was broken & I may potentially need surgery. Which was an issue because it was Saturday morning & I was supposed to be heading back to school with my friends the following day.
Another issue was that it was my right hand .. the hand that I used to do everything. Including writing & typing (you use both hands for typing but you get the point). Two things that are pretty common in college.
Here I was, one week into college & I had broken my hand while at home for the weekend. Unsure whether I would need surgery & also unsure of how I was going to keep up with my classes being down one hand. I had no idea what to do.
I remember my sister or mother saying something about potentially withdrawing from school for the semester since I would most likely need surgery. Even if surgery wasn’t necessary it would be 6-8 weeks before I could use my hand again. I would have to have someone take all of my notes for me & would struggle to even take tests since I only had my left hand. Which is pretty much useless by itself.
To be honest I didn’t really want to go back to school before any of this happened. Seeing how my first week went I didn’t see it getting any better for me there. So this seemed to be the PERFECT excuse to not go back. I jumped on the opportunity right away.
To save myself some typing & you some reading, i’ll summarize the rest of this little story. I ended up heading back to school that following week & moving out. Heading back home for the semester.
Later that week we found out that I didn’t need surgery on the hand, but I was indeed in a cast for 7 weeks. I’m sure I would have survived with one hand, but I was so relieved to have an excuse to come back home.
Between moving back home again & getting a job there was a solid 2 month gap where I was just hanging out. I only had one hand so I couldn’t really get a job (kinda an excuse to be a bum). I had a lot of time to sit around & think. Which eventually led me to therapy to try & figure out some of these issues I had been dealing with.
I’m sure that not all therapists are created equally, but I didn’t get a whole lot out of my sessions to be honest. In total I probably attenended five sessions.
I don’t really remember a lot of specifics from my time with the therapist. It was kinda like the movies though where you sit on a couch & they ask questions. Jotting down notes in their notepad. Most likely just doodling.
What I eventually got out of the sessions was that I was gonna have to live with my anxiety & face it head on. I needed to continue to expose myself to stressful situations in order to be able to cope with it. He recommended that I join a club like toastmasters where you’re forced to stand up in front of big groups & speak.
This wasn’t exactly the answer that I was looking for. Looking back I respect it a lot more now. In the moment I wanted the quick fix though. So I asked him about anti depressants. Hoping they would solve all of my problems.
The therapist was unable to prescribe medications, but he told me that it could potentially help. He recommended that I schedule an appointment with my doctor & see if she would be willing to set me up on some medication. So I did just that.
Within a week I was set up on a drug called Paxil. Paxil is an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) designed to treat major depression, OCD, social anxiety & everything in between. It’s one of the more popular antidepressants on the market.
Unlike something like xanax, paxil takes a while to make noticeable changes. You’ve gotta take it for a few weeks or months prior to noticing any changes in mood, anxiety etc. I began to notice some changes a few weeks in. My anxiety seemed to have decreased noticeably. I wasn’t experiencing nearly as many panic attacks as I had been. It also came with some downsides that only got worse as time went on ..
I began to feel kinda like a zombie. I never got too high or too low emotionally. I was pretty much unaffected for better or worse by anything. Life became kinda dull. Worse than anything though was my ability to focus. My brain just felt so foggy. I had a hard time recollecting memories or reciting information. I would catch myself daydreaming way more than usual. Having to shake myself back to reality quite often.
These were just a few of the issues resulting from the drug. As I mentioned, they did a great job of mitigating general anxiety, which was the reason I continued to battle through the side effects. Taking them for about 2 ½ years before I decided enough was enough. It wasn’t worth it to me anymore.
I couldn’t deal with the constant fog that I was living in. So I spoke with my doctor & began the withdraw process. You’ve gotta be very careful when withdrawing from an antidepressant. Going cold turkey can be very dangerous & is highly discouraged.
The process took about 3 months if I remember correctly. Every few weeks the dosage was decreased until I got down to zero. I remember feeling miserable at times during this process. It’s kinda hard to explain, but randomly throughout the day I would feel this strange shock type feeling run through my body. It was kind of a blend between an electric shock & that feeling you get when it seems as if the breeze is running through your body.
I eventually got completely off of the drug .. but it wasn’t quite what I expected.
I certainly felt much more clear than when I was in the midst of taking the full daily dosage, but it wasn’t what I had expected when I got completely off of them. I thought to myself, maybe it will improve as the months pass by. Which it did. But again, not to the extent that I presumed it would.
It has now been over three years since I stopped taking the Paxil & I still feel that weird brain fog on a daily basis. I can’t prove that it was directly linked to the drug, but i’m confident that it did some sort of permanent damage on my brain. Something that I will forever deal with.
When I finally got off the drug, my anxiety became noticeably stronger once again. Which I had expected of course. It wasn’t nearly as bad this time around though. I was about three years older & had learned a lot about myself & life in general since that first week of college when I was eighteen years old.
My confidence levels were much higher. I had a really solid job & had just recently completed a long prep for a fitness shoot in Canada which I crushed. This boosted my confidence a ton & helped me deal with these issues much more effectively.
I would still experience random panic attacks, but it wasn’t like it once was. I didn’t get them every time I walked into a class. I was able to talk to classmates without being absolutely terrified. It was still a struggle though..
Fast forward. I’m now 24 years old. I still deal with these issues on a daily basis. They haven’t gone anywhere & I don’t expect them to anytime soon. I’ve just learned how to deal with them more effectively.
It’s kinda weird .. I’m naturally an extreme introvert. People terrify me. BUT through constant exposure to people on a daily basis over the past however many years, i’ve kinda started to become an extrovert (kinda .. not really though). The advice that the therapist gave me years prior had actually worked.
My first part time job at the age of eighteen was at Muscle Pharm as a Demo Rep. This was probably about 6 months after I broke my wrist & left school. I would go to gyms & supplement stores and hand out samples for a few hours. Asking people if they would like to try a sample (fweeee sample !?!) & then explaining the products to them. This was a great way for me to get out of my comfort zone & learn people skills.
My next job at MP was in customer service. I was in charge of taking pretty much every single call that came in. Continuing to get out of my comfort zone. Prior to this I HATED speaking on the phone (still do). Especially when someone was in the room listening to me talk on the phone. I was forced to do this between ten to thirty times per day. Answering questions on the spot & dealing with upset customers at times. Being exposed to my fears all day everyday.
Throughout this process I learned a lot of essential people skills & also learned how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I was beginning to realize that the therapist was probably right. I would always deal with these anxieties & fears, so I would have to learn to live with them. Exposing myself to them was building my confidence.
Learning to battle these fears eventually led me to creating my personal brand on social media. Which was a big step out of my comfort zone. One of the biggest things that held me back from doing this for so long was the fear of being on camera. Eventually I decided that this fear wasn’t gonna hold me back any longer & I made the jump.
Don’t get me wrong though .. People still kinda terrify me. I still need my alone time. I still get nervous to take pictures or record videos. Just being around people can be draining for me because of my constant anxiety. I can’t really relax when I’m around people. My brain is moving a million miles per hour. But it’s nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past. I still have my moments & days in general.
Moral of the story here is that your issues may never go away. You may always deal with those fears & anxieties. They’re totally normal. Our brains aren’t programmed to deal with the realities that we deal with on a daily basis. You’ve just gotta get comfortable with dealing with them. I know it’s super cliche to say, but you’ve gotta get comfortable being uncomfortable.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek help though either. I believe that therapists can be extremely beneficial to so many people. My first go around didn’t do a whole lot for me, but as I mentioned before, not all therapists are created equal. To be honest I can see myself going to a therapist again at some point. Just having someone to listen to your thoughts & help you walk through them can be invaluable.
I’m also not here to say that you shouldn’t take antidepressants. That’s your decision to make. I just have very strong feelings towards them because of my experiences with them. They still have an affect on my life years after weaning off of them.
I think that as a society we need to realize that problems are totally normal. There’s no such thing as feeling perfect. We all deal with issues.
As Buddha was quoted, “life is suffering”.
We must learn to embrace the struggles instead of immediately shying away from them & looking for the magic potion that makes everything feel good. Without the struggles, we can’t appreciate the good times nearly as much. We need the yin to have the yang.
Something else that I feel I must touch on really quickly as well. No matter how shitty your situation, try refrain from having a victim mindset. That’s the WORST thing that you can do. It immediately puts you on the defensive. When you are on the defensive you aren’t seeking out ways to improve your situation. Stay on the offensive.
Well, if you’ve read this far, kudos to you. When I set out to document my journey through anxiety I did not intend on the article being nearly fifteen pages long. Thank you for taking the time to read this. If it helps even just one single person relate to the daily struggle of anxiety, depression & mental issues in general, then it served its purpose.
Honestly there’s a lot more that I could dive into in this article. Things that I didn’t even talk about. But I don’t wanna keep you any longer.
If you deal with similar issues & need someone to talk to feel free to message me on social media OR shoot me an email (JayAzeltineFitness@gmail.com).
Keep fighting the good fight.
Until next time,