Hey there, my name is Elise Schreiber, and I’m the person behind the AnxiousSquirrel.Club. I started this blog as a way to reach out to people like me who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but with some help I’ve managed to get mine under control.
Now I’m not here to tell you one magic surefire way of getting rid of your anxiety, I’m afraid it’s not going to be as easy as that. But what I can do is to share what I have learned from my own experiences with anxiety, and hope that it can help you as well.
I first felt the pangs of a panic attack clutching me when I was still a college student, late for the submission of a draft of my thesis proposal. I still remember how terrified it made me feel when I began to lose my breath and everything seemed like it was falling apart and that I had no control over it.
It wasn’t that a panic attack was something I didn’t know about, as I have witnessed one of my friends having similar attacks before.
No, I was terrified because I didn’t realize how much a panic attack grips you and shakes your core so bad that you become so helpless.
What’s more was that I never expected it to happen to me.
Looking back now, the situation was hardly something as vital as how my body’s response made me feel it was. But the fear that seized me then was very real and overwhelming.
Since that day, the attacks became more frequent. Often having something to do with being late, which I unfortunately was a chronic expert at. But over time, the anxiety started to grow and spread throughout more of my activities, even some I’d been able to do okay until the anxiety worsened.
I later found out that I was beginning to show symptoms of social anxiety. For such a long time I thought that these were normal quirks, that people didn’t submit their exams first because they didn’t want people to look at them when they do, until I came across some posts online where people shared similar experiences and then someone pointed out that these were all symptoms of anxiety.
As an introvert, I’ve always preferred being in my own company or with my small group of friends as compared to being in a crowd. But my anxiety began to seep into that too, to the point where I got anxious on phone calls, whether or not I knew the person on the other end.
In public, I began rehearsing my orders long before I was at the counter, because I didn’t want to fumble and embarrass myself in front of the cashier and the other customers. My face became red hot when it took me more than a few seconds to cram my change into my wallet and get my order to my table.
Even when I knew the answer to questions my professors posed in class, I didn’t want to recite because I didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to myself. The only time I did so was when no one else raised their hands, which irked the professors. I preferred not to be subjected to an irate professor, so in order to ‘satisfy’ their questions, I answered, albeit having to compose myself both before and after I spoke up.
Here’s the funny thing, I don’t get scared when I’m actually the center of attention, like during a report in class. In fact, I owned those things. What made me anxious were the moments when I was thinking that people were paying that much attention to me, when in reality they’re not.
That made it hard to deal with people, mostly anyone who wasn’t part of my closest circle, which basically comprised of my parents and my one best friend. On a larger scale, it was hard to function as a part of society, considering a lot of things require socialization in order for you to survive in the real world.
The panic attacks that came in moments of extreme stress (luckily none that were ever as a result of being the center of attention) were especially hard. In truth, the social anxiety I could manage from time to time. But the attacks were sudden, and they crept up on me when I was already feeling worthless, further weighing my feelings down.
I wanted the panic attacks to stop coming, but I didn’t know how. The frequent trigger was stress, and telling a college student not to be stressed is like telling a dog not to bark. It’s the natural state of things.
And for a while, it stopped. Admittedly I took a leave of absence from school, because how else would a college student stop being stressed, right? During that time I devoted myself to doing some creative therapy to get the stress out of my system, and I spent those months doing arts and crafts and getting some writing out of the way.
So I figured, hey, I’ve got a better control of this now. I can probably go back to college next semester, as now my source of stress is not being able to graduate on time (I inadvertently did that as a result of deciding to leave school in the middle of a semester). After all, just another two years and I’ll finally graduate, I’ll manage ‘til then. Besides, I missed school…
You can probably guess that it didn’t end well. Being back at school meant being back in stressful situations, and now that I was repeating some subjects without my best friend in there with me, it just became a little harder than before.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret leaving school for a while when I did. But bouncing back was another challenge altogether.
So I was back in school and back with dear old anxiety. To boot, my panic attacks were back with a vengeance.
It was also time to go back to my thesis proposal, a major contributor to my stress during the semester I decided to leave. It was stress upon stress upon stress. I was coping, but not well enough.
It was then that I came across a resource called Panic Away, which helped me to better understand my anxiety. Even better, it helped me to bring my panic attacks in control. It took me more than a year to manage, but it helped me a lot.
I learned a lot from Panic Away, and it helped me wrestle away some self doubt about being a weakling for allowing myself to succumb to anxiety. It gave me better control over my fear, and in doing so I was able to better deal with the things that caused me to be anxious and panicked.
I got my panic attacks under control just in time for me to finish my thesis proposal and thesis itself, and I was able to graduate just a year later than the initial schedule. I still have anxiety, both general and social, but on most days I can deal with them.
At times I still prefer staying at home to avoid socialization, going so far as making false excuses to get out of prior commitments, but it’s not as bad as it was before. I’m still an anxious little squirrel, but I get by from day to day easier now.
So that’s my story, and I learn more about anxiety with each day. Trust me, some days are still worse than others, but I’m coping. And you can too. And that’s why I made this site in the first place, to be able to share what I have learned through tools like Panic Away and other strategies I’ll discuss in the blog to others who go through the same things.
Because I know that it’s no easy thing to be an anxious squirrel in this world.