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I can remember walking through the park one day as exercise. The weather was perfect. The Florida skies were blue, the birds are chirping. I could hear the fountain in the background as I jogged in place. My plans were to walk for 45 minutes to an hour which would have put me at around 4 miles. I absolutely love walking, It’s the greatest thing ever. But on this particular day things did not go according to plan. I sprinted from my car and headed over to one of the wrought iron park benches where I begin to stretch. I felt so relaxed and so calm. It always feels good when I can get out of the Sun and get some of that vitamin D inside of me. Since my doctor has told me I’m vitamin D deficient.

I looked at the clock on my phone and checked the time. It was a quarter past the hour. Perfect. I started my walk nice and slow and I expected to pick up the pace. I am a speed Walker. I honestly don’t know how to walk casually.

I was listening to music that gets you pumped up and on the move. I was beginning to break a sweat and I was starting to feel really good. I made my first round and was headed on My second. I passed an elderly couple who were holding hands and looking content. I smiled at them in return and continued my pace. I successfully made it pass round two and was headed to three. Everything was going great until it wasn’t. My heart gave a hard thump. A bit of a palpitation. That’s quite normal. Once your heart starts beating a little more rapid you should be good to go. I’ve had my heart checked thoroughly, so I know my heart is good. I had not had any caffeine. So I inhale deeply and remind myself that everything will be just fine. It wasn’t.

I’m realizing now that I must slow down drastically. And I’m getting extremely frustrated. Because I don’t like anything to interfere with my workouts. My workout time is my private time to let go of all the Steam and let go of all the stress. And this thing is interfering with my quality time. All of a sudden I start hearing things. “You’re going to die. They are going to find you on the ground. You are going to collapse. You are having a heat stroke.” I am paralyzed with everything I am hearing in my head. I literally cannot walk anymore. But I’m too far away from my car. I am halfway around the park but I realize I cannot go forward. Now this may seem strange to you but even though the distance was probably exactly the same, to me it seemed more rational to go back instead of Forward.  I could not push through. Anxiety was winning again.

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It has been winning for a long time.

I silence the voices in my head and continue to speak and think positively until I can make it back in the vicinity of the parking lot. By the time I make it back towards the parking lot my stomach is turning, my skin is clammy, my vision is blurry.  I am in a full-out panic. I managed to get myself into my car safely, because Safety First. I sit there for a moment. Then I struggle inside of my purse to find something to control my heart beating. I swallow that pill immediately. I began to breathe and relax and close my eyes and think of a better place. I let my seat back up after reclining it for a few minutes and decide I can make it home. That was a bad idea. I am heading down the street and I start to feel it again. The sweating starts up again. I am literally stuck in traffic. I am looking around For an Escape. There is no way out of this traffic. I begin to panic even more and I’m feeling hotter and hotter and more and more claustrophobic in my clothing. I start removing articles of clothing and tugging on my t-shirt as if it were choking me to death. It wasn’t, but in my mind it was. I have my AC on full-blast but it is making no difference. I’ve got to get out of there. I am now about 3 blocks away from my house and I don’t think I can make it. But I am determined to try. My throat feels like it’s closing and everything is still looking fuzzy. Finally after almost shutting my car off in the middle of the street and climbing out onto the ground,  I am a block away from home. And all I have to do is make that turn and I’ll be there. I made it. I’m so glad I made it home. I didn’t hit anyone on the streets and no one hit me. I made it home safely.

I park my car and sit there in Terror. I can’t believe the horrible ordeal that I just endured.

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Oh the horror! How dare this thing come into my life and try to take over? How dare I let it? It’s almost like cancer like I have no control over it. It just comes and goes whenever it wants to and I have no say in the matter.

What are the Publics perceptions of people with anxiety? What do they think about us? Do they think we’re making it up? Do they think it’s in our imagination? Never judge something you don’t understand. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. Or maybe I would. Either way it’s one of the worst experiences that I’ve ever had to go through in my life. I’m finally able to talk about it because in the past it’s been extremely embarrassing. Actually right now it is still extremely embarrassing. But I’m putting it out there because I think maybe I can help someone else. Because I think that personally we are here to encourage each other, so my life is an open book. I really don’t see any point in dying with this inside of me when I can talk to you guys about it.

Do you struggle with anxiety and how do you cope with it? Do you feel that there are triggers in your life that caused it or is it just spontaneous? Have you found that there are medications that cause it? I would like to extend a dialogue with my readers to determine whether or not they have any answers and what their answers and experiences are. Don’t be shy.

Thank you for reading.

Ericka Courtney