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A young person is sitting in a wooden chair with their legs folded up against their torso. They are holding their legs with one arm and their other arm is holding onto their head. They appear to be in distress.

Dealing With Anxiety

anxiety mental health Jul 14, 2023

Written by a CSUCI student.

Anxiety has never been an easy thing to deal with. For as long as I can remember, I have always had this anxious feeling I could never shake off and feeling like I was always on a deadline. This was normal to me; at first, I thought everyone felt like this, but now I know that is not the case. I used to think everyone lived their life feeling worried and not being able to completely focus on one thing. It was always the shaky leg, the nail biting, and the insomnia that became a part of my daily routine. I just never really understood why it was that I always felt this way. 

When I was in my senior year of high school, I took a sociology/psychology class that really opened up my eyes on everything. I had a bit of prior knowledge to these topics, but I had never taken a course and learned so much. This was honestly one of my favorite classes that I took in high school. This was not only a great learning opportunity for me, but it helped decide on what I wanted to major in in college. I entered CSUCI as a psychology major, but quickly learned that sociology was the right major for me. Although soc and psych go hand in hand, I was able to connect with sociology a bit more. This, however, did not take away from how much I loved the psychology class in high school. Especially on the mental health unit. I learned about various eating disorders, as well as sleeping disorders, and of course, stress disorders. When the class got to the stress disorders, I found myself identifying with many of the symptoms of anxiety, but I also knew not to self-diagnose. The more I learned about anxiety, the more it became clear that this is what I had been dealing with my entire life, and all of a sudden everything made sense.

One of the hardest things about having knowledge about mental health issues and dealing with mental health issues is that I tend to invalidate my own feelings. I tend to just say things like “Oh I feel anxious, but it’s not anxiety” or “I definitely am not depressed.” I would say this because in my mind, I had to check off every single symptom in order to have that mental health issue. This is definitely something I have had to deal with and learn that everyone experiences things differently. I don’t have to check off every symptom in order to have anxiety but having been 17 years old when I learned about anxiety was something I didn’t fully understand.

I still remember when I had my first panic attack. I was home alone at night and my parents had recently gone to Mexico. I had just gotten home from work, so like any normal teenager, I was on my phone. Suddenly, I began to feel like I couldn’t breathe nor catch my breath. My chest began to feel tight and all of a sudden, I felt myself getting dizzy, as if I was going to faint. I had never experienced this before, so I texted my friend, who was also my neighbor, and she and her dad rushed over to my house. They found me on the floor crying because I couldn’t breathe. Luckily, my friend knew about panic attacks and was able to help me calm down. She waited with me until I felt better let me know she was there for me. I will always be grateful for her.

One of my biggest panic attacks happened when I was at work. That shift started off like any other and up until the moment before my panic attack I was fine. This is something no one ever warns you about when having anxiety, the sudden panic attacks that come with it. All of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe, and I felt dizzy. I went up to my manager and told her what was going on. My mom got to my workplace and 911 was called. I will never forget the look on my mom’s face, knowing how scared she was for me. 

My parents never knew about my anxiety and it was never something I could talk to them about. The stigma behind Hispanic families and mental health issues is something that is not talked about enough. Mental health problems in a Hispanic household are never taken seriously and are never dealt with. It is something never seen as a mental health problem and just seen as exaggeration or disregarded as something else. This is one of the reasons why many Hispanics are misinformed and do not know how to deal with mental health problems. It is important to speak up and inform everyone about mental health problems, especially those who are stigmatized.

It is not easy to deal with anxiety, especially through change. I still remember how depressed I was when I first enrolled in CSUCI. I wasn’t sure of my decision about having committed to going there and second-guessed myself. I now realize that CSUCI was the school for me, but looking back, I didn’t know what to expect. Change can be difficult, but it is even more difficult when dealing with mental health problems. Depression made my experience there 10 times worse, but I was still able to make the most of my experience.

Reflecting now, I feel that it is extremely important to overcome the mental health stigma and educate everyone on the reality of mental health problems. I wish I would have been more educated on this topic growing up, but I am glad I know more about it now.

For mental health resources for youth and young adults, visit NAMI's website here.