Working in The Spotlight,
Battling With Anxiety:
How I Took my Life Back
Working in The Spotlight, Battling With Anxiety:
How I Took my Life Back
I’ll never forget the moment it happened for the first time.
I was sitting in the anchor chair, ready to anchor the 10 p.m. news. My hands were shaking. My palms were sweating. I couldn’t catch my breath.
I had no idea what was wrong with me. When the newscast started I could barely read the teleprompter. I was dizzy and nauseous. I thought I was going to pass out on live television.
The producer asked me if I was OK. I didn’t know what to say. When I tossed to a package, I quickly started chugging the water next to me.
I was having a panic attack.
This would be the beginning of a very dark period in my life. The beginning of my struggle with anxiety. A struggle that I’m still fighting.
My anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t even go into a store with my boyfriend. I couldn’t eat at a restaurant, I really couldn’t do anything, but sit in my bedroom and pray the anxiety and panic would just disappear.
I had to toss to commercial break several times in the middle of newscasts, and I always felt like I was going to pass out. My biggest fear was that I was going to die.
I hated myself, because I thought this was all “in my head,” and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just make the anxiety and panic go away.
I would squeeze my hands together really tight while anchoring newscasts, hoping it would distract me from the panic, and I would take a lot of deep breaths, hoping it would help with the breathing issues. In reality, those deep breaths were making it worse. They were causing me to hyperventilate.
Whenever I was on assignment, I would make sure I could find the closest exit so that I could get out of the area when my panic got out of control. One day, my news director told me that if I couldn’t handle the job, he’d find someone else to do it.
I didn’t recognize myself.
I had always been an outgoing, enthusiastic, happy person. Now, I was a shell of my old self. I had no confidence because I never knew when the panic was going to set in. I thought I was broken, and I thought I was going to get fired from my job, because I couldn’t get through even one block of a newscast without a massive anxiety attack setting in.
One night, about a year after the anxiety started, I was in my car outside of the station, and I couldn’t stop crying. I was so dizzy I thought I was going to pass out, and I was so panicked that I knew I could not drive. I knew I needed help.
Finally, I went to the doctor.
When I told the doctor what was happening, he immediately told me I was suffering from an anxiety disorder. Hearing those words scared me and relieved me. I was scared because I was embarrassed to hear that there was something wrong in my brain, yet I was relieved because I finally had an answer.
At first, I decided I didn’t want to take medicine to help. I still believed it was all made up in my head, and I could just ‘get over it’.
I went to a few meetings with a therapist—but it never helped. So I gave in, and decided to try medication.
For me, the results were nearly immediate. Whether that was a bit of a placebo effect or my body just had a really great reaction to the medication, I don’t know. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
The medicine made me feel so much better. I could actually go to the grocery store without having to leave after 5 minutes. I could eat at a restaurant without panicking. Most importantly, I could get through an entire newscast!
I felt so good, that after a year I thought I didn’t need the medicine anymore. I thought I had been cured.
So, I stopped taking the medication cold turkey. Trust me, that’s a TERRIBLE idea. I felt fine for a week or two, because the medication was still in my system a little bit, but then anxiety and panic came back with a vengeance.
Not only was I panicking and not able to go out in public, I was also itchy. My entire body was so itchy that I thought I was going to rip my skin off. I had splotches of dry skin all over my body, and I would cry all the time.
It was time to get back on the medication and seek help, again.
I’ve found that a lot of doctors don’t take anxiety seriously.
It took me years to find a doctor who truly listened, and treated my anxiety the way I needed it to be treated. I learned that when I eat clean, healthy meals and take the time to exercise, my anxiety nearly disappears. I still take my medication, too.
I’ve also learned some ways to calm myself down when I feel anxiety creeping in. For me, listening to music, playing a game on my phone, or even playing with different Snapchat filters distracts me and allows my anxiety to float away.
For years, I was so ashamed to say I had anxiety, I tried to hide it from people and I would never talk about it.
I felt like I was a failure, I felt like people would judge me and think I was weak. I felt like I was the only person suffering.
A lot of celebrities like Dan Harris, Kristen Bell, Carson Daly, and Emma Stone have talked about their struggles with anxiety and/or panic attacks.
When I realized that even big stars had the same problems as me, I felt a little more ‘normal’.
Then, I started talking about it.
I would tell friends about my struggles. They were always supportive, and some of them even opened up to me about their similar issues. I can spot someone who has anxiety. I’ve noticed many people in my newsrooms who have many of the same symptoms I’ve had and still have.
Many of my coworkers have shared their anxiety and panic struggles with me. I’ve even been able to help encourage some friends and coworkers to talk with an expert and get some help.
For me, medication was a life saver. For others, therapy and meditation work best.
If you are suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, please don’t feel ashamed. You are not alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults. The ADAA also says that less than 40% of people with anxiety actually get treatment for it. Statistics show that 6 million adults suffer from panic disorders, and if you have anxiety it’s also common to suffer from depression.
For me, getting help and talking about my issues, has helped. I’m no longer embarrassed when people find out I have anxiety. I still have my moments when the panic sets in, but now I know how to handle it better.
If you need help, talk to someone. Share your story. There’s no shame in asking for help.