I have been going to therapy for seven years, and I am not ashamed of it. However, if someone would have asked me about it, I probably would have lied or changed the subject.
I was 20 or 21 when I first experienced a panic attack at college. I felt this sharp pain in my chest and this weird out-of-body experience where I couldn’t tell if I was going to faint or drop.
I discovered in my first year of therapy that I had anxiety and signs of depression. Some of these signs dated back to my youth where I would have physical symptoms as you’d experience with a cold or the flu. I also had problems with chronic stomachaches.
For a while, anxiety left me paralyzed. I had symptoms like a rapid heartbeat that would stay with me until I went to bed. During my Christmas break as a junior in college, at one of my low points, I remember waking up and just rolling back over to sleep. I thought I had the flu. I didn’t realize it was anxiety. I remember my mom asking me if I was planning to get out of bed.
I think I started to cry and told her I was unsure. A lot of my memory, I’ve learned, has been blocked out. Even something such as a mental health disorder can be considered as trauma.
Through my anxiety, I’ve learned that it is okay not to be okay. There are stigmas when it comes to sadness, pain, and learning to cope.
It was only later that I learned my paralyzed feeling was part of what is called fight or flight. It’s what we might think of when someone has a panic attack and wants to run to a safe place.
I believe my safety net, during my last two years of college, was being at home. I turned into a hermit and became anti-social due to anxiety.
Today, I am still going to therapy and working on what is called cognitive behavioral therapy after being diagnosed with generalized anxiety, which comes from excessive worrying about life events, whether that is school, work, assignments, and more. The irony of going to therapy today is that I WANT to go. That has been a huge growth step for me. In the past, I would be terrified to admit or embrace my feelings, whereas, today it would be almost impossible for me to hide something from my therapist.
Now, I find myself having an anxiety attack without people even noticing. I have learned that anxiety is not always “visible” and that one in five people can have a mental health disorder. When I go to therapy now, I go to check in and make sure that I am taking time for myself.
I remember a time when my therapist said this to me – this was the last time you’ll feel this much pain. I realized at that moment that I wanted help. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness and something to never be ashamed of.
I believe everyone should try therapy at least once in their life. Don’t be afraid to try it out and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, that’s nothing to be frowned down upon.
Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning writer, director, producer, mental health and anti-violence/trauma advocate based in Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, she graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Radio-TV-Film from CSU Fullerton. Natalie has worked with multiple companies, including the Conan O’Brien Show, Opposing Views, CBS, Mandalay Pictures, and others. Many of her writing projects and films have been featured and screened throughout the U.S. and internationally such as Funny or Die, HollyShorts Film Festival, NALIP, Beverly Hills Film Festival. She was also a panelist at Google, YouTube, Hispanicize, The Mighty and more. Natalie is always open to collaborating with other artists and advocates. For previous and upcoming projects, please be sure to give her a follow Instagram @theextraordfilm, Twitter @theextraordfilm and Facebook facebook.com/