“Music is my outlet, my release, and it always has been. It’s where I go when I have anything on my mind. Whether I’m sad, stressed, angry, happy, in love, I go straight to an instrument and just play, or write a song. But what am I supposed to do when I can’t sing, or play clarinet in the marching band, or go up onstage anymore without going into a panic attack?
It was my senior year of high school, and though I’ve dealt with anxiety in the past, it’s never been like this. I’m horrible with change, and I hate not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. I’ve lived the same life every day for my whole life, and now, it’s all going to change. I’ll be 17 hours away from home, living in Nashville, TN, in less than 6 months; and my anxiety is going wilder than it ever has in my life.
I was having scary, intrusive thoughts about things that could happen to me while I’m away. I would get sent into these mental loops, going over these thoughts a million times in my head, trying to figure out if they were true. I would find myself laying in my room alone, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out these thoughts in my head. I’d constantly be looking things up on Google, trying to find anything that could make me feel a bit better. Am I insane? Are these thoughts me? Why am I having these thoughts? I felt guilty, scared, and out of control. It felt like a never-ending thing. And who would believe me? Who would believe that these thoughts aren’t me? They’re MY thoughts, after all.
I was convinced I was having heart issues for nearly 4 months. I couldn’t get through the day without having a panic attack, even if it was a Saturday and I had no plans. My heart was always racing, I had chest pain, I’d get lightheaded and nauseous, and some nights I couldn’t eat my dinner. I had no idea what was happening because I would go from being completely fine to not being fine at all at the most inconvenient times. There was never an identifiable trigger. And then, I was getting anxious over things I’d never been anxious for in my life; the things that I normally loved doing and was comfortable with. Suddenly the thought of being onstage doing anything or playing my music for anyone felt terrifying, because what if I got up there, and my heart started racing, and it all spiraled from there?
After finally talking with a doctor, I was told that my heart is perfectly healthy; I’m experiencing generalized anxiety and OCD. I’m having panic attacks. Knowing that alone helped rid me of a big chunk of my intrusive thoughts and anxious worrying. My body is healthy, but my mind needs some love.
The piano is my safe space. I don’t need to focus on how I’m breathing, my heart rate, or whatever is on my mind. I focus on the music and what I need to play, and I focus on my hands and fingers.
I listen to music. Listening to music for me is like taking a step out of reality and living in someone else’s stories.
I journal. Almost every day, I come up with 3 prompts for myself. Sometimes I repeat them because I like them. I ask myself questions about how I’m feeling and what I can do about it. I make a lot of lists. I think about things I’m grateful for and things that motivate me.
Meditation! Something I thought I could never do, but have grown to love. Even if it’s only for 2 or 3 minutes, meditation helps bring my anxiety level and heart rate down extremely fast. I typically do full-body scans, as it’s hard for me to just sit with my own thoughts. This helped my mind relax, but gave it something to do. I’ve been working toward doing it every day, but for now, I just do it a few times a week.
Mindfulness and self-care are important. Taking time for yourself and being understanding of how you’re feeling is important. I’m not completely better, my anxiety has not disappeared. But just doing these things helps me feel better.
I absolutely love Nashville. Having a change of scenery and being somewhere where I can express myself through music 24/7 is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am always writing music, and I’m back on stage performing without a second thought. I’ve found confidence in myself again, and though it’s been a long road, I feel a little bit better every day. It does get better.”