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Growing Up Anxious

Updated on September 2, 2019
Jennifer Solomon profile image

Jennifer has her M.Ed. in early childhood ed from Lesley University, is a first-grade teacher, and a proud mom of two.

I have always been anxious.

I had my first panic attack at the age of 12. I still shudder thinking about waking up that night in a cold sweat, heart palpitating, thinking I was dying.

An Emergency Room Regular

During college, I checked myself into the the ER more times than I care to admit, convinced I was in anaphylaxis having eaten a peanut butter cookie (I have no food allergies) or that I was having a heart attack, or, well, insert life-threatening disease here.

The Girl Who Cried Wolf.

I was always embarrassed about my anxiety. It was a source of constant ribbing from family and friends. So much so, that when I was actually sick, no one would believe me. Their eyes would roll, they would sigh, and dismiss it as me just being my crazy self. I never talked to a doctor about it or had treatment of any kind because I was too afraid of what people might say or think.

From Bad to Worse.

After my husband and I moved into our first apartment, things got really bad.

I was so afraid that someone would break into my our apartment that I would have to stay in a hotel anytime he travelled for the weekend.

I would sleep with windows cracked, even in the midst of a harsh New England winter, for fear of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If I called my husband and did not get a response, I was convinced something horrible happened to him. I would call obsessively until he would finally answer or arrive home, when I would learn that it was his phone battery that had died on the way home, not him.


Having struggled with anxiety most of my life, I forgot what it felt like to relax. There was always a potential threat. The hair on the back of my neck stood at constant attention, the pit in my stomach and knot in my chest were the norm.

So, what is a person who can find a way to worry about just about everything to do?

Have kids of course! Why be selfish with my worries? I have enough to share.

Sleepless Nights

My old roommate used to joke that if I ever had kids they would probably come out of the womb with bike helmets, safety goggles, and shin guards. He was not too far off.

Those first few days and weeks were the train wreck you might expect having read up to this point. I took sleeplessness to a new level, staring over my daughter’s crib all night making sure her little chest was going up and down, calling the doctor daily at the first sign of a sniffle.

The second child came along. And, all hell broke loose.

Home alone with a newborn and an 18-month old and the untreated anxiety disorder that I had (poorly) self-managed my whole life became too much. My OCD tendencies ramped up again. Panic attacks numbered upwards of 15 a day. I was in a constant state of terror.

It's Okay to Ask for Help.

Finally, I spoke with my doctor. She prescribed therapy and medication. It helped. The pit in my stomach shrunk a bit. The panic attacks went from hourly, to daily, to weekly, to once-in-a-while. I learned to read my body, to anticipate panic attacks and avert them with meditation or exercise or acupuncture, or Xanax if all else failed.

I also began to realize just how much of my life I slogged through miserably because I was too ashamed to ask for help.

You do not have to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.

I only wish I had sought out help earlier in my life. You can find relief with the proper treatment and support.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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