Fighting for Happiness Amidst Anxiety
BY: ASHLEY JOHNSON
I am a firm believer that you cannot fully enjoy life without struggle. After all, the struggle makes the good parts in life that much better. While attending Northern Arizona University, I ran into a lot of mental health issues. Long days of classes, homework, work, and bad relationships quietly snuck up on me and before I knew it, I was in a downward spiral I couldn’t make my way out of.
Restless nights and constant knots in my stomach kept me from seeing things clearly and everyone around me knew there was something deeper going on — especially my parents. After sitting down one spring afternoon and opening up to them about my current struggles, it was clear I needed help.
Trying to save both my parents’ sanity and my own, I found the contact information for an on-campus counselor who a friend had recommended. I quickly got into my first appointment with the psychologist and upon meeting him, I knew things would work themselves out. For weeks, I sat in his tiny office as he walked me through a process of healing and recovery. We talked about my darkest thoughts, the subconscious memories I had always refused to unleash and the monsters that were trying to upset my everyday life. My last appointment with the man, I often refer to as my savior, was on St. Patrick’s Day 2016 and I left the psychologist’s office feeling elated. I had truly turned over a new leaf and everything began to feel right again — and then my apartment was broken into.
I won’t ever forget the night that truly shook me. It was sometime past 11 p.m. and I was home alone in my three-bedroom apartment, watching an episode of Medium and packing for a trip to Laughlin. That’s when the knocking began. What started out as a hard knock quickly became a constant and loud banging on the front door. Immediately feeling uneasy about the noise and who was making it, I crept out to the front door and looked through the peep hole — I did not recognize the man on the other side. As my stomach dropped, I backed away from the door, grabbing the biggest knife in the kitchen and quietly retreated to my bedroom where I locked my door and hid in the closet. While on the phone with the 911 operator, I couldn’t keep my voice or my hands from shaking. I was doing my best to hold the knife in one hand and hold the closet door closed with the other as I sobbed and begged the woman on the other line to get the police here sooner. That’s when he started kicking on the front door.
In a total state of panic, I was trying my best to tell myself there was no way he could get through the front door… and then he did. Kicking the door out of the frame, this strange man entered my apartment. His footsteps seemingly echoed through the small apartment, making their way to my bedroom. Knowing I was armed with a knife, the operator was telling me I was now fully in the right to stab the intruder. As my mind tried to attach itself to the idea of stabbing a living human being, his knocks on my bedroom door became violent kicks and just as I was getting ready to potentially fight for my life, the police finally entered the apartment — 10 minutes after the chaos had begun.
Whether it was adrenaline, fear or a combination of the two, I couldn’t stop my entire body from shaking for nearly an hour after his arrest. After that night, it began to feel like all of my anxiety and issues from the past had come back — except now I went into sheer panic mode anytime I heard a knock or anything resembling it. The sleepless nights were back, and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on the nightmares that were affecting me worse than ever before. At this point, I knew I needed help but talking my way out of the darkness no longer helped me the way it had before — I needed something more.
Visiting a psychiatrist that summer, I knew there was a possibility of beginning treatment with the help of a prescription. The first time I sat down with the doctor, we went over everything I had previously experienced and talked about the ways these events were affecting my mental health. About 40 minutes into a tear-filled appointment, she had diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, depression and PTSD from the break-in.
Prescribed an antidepressant medication, I began taking the 50mg pills once a day and slowly but surely, those magic pills kept me the calmest I had been in the past year. Over the next year and a half, I learned how to combat my anxiety and depression, eventually getting off the pills and learning how to cope with my issues on my own.
Overcoming these things and moving on with my life has, without a doubt, been the biggest victory of my life. It took me a long time to learn I shouldn’t be ashamed of having mental health problems. My brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin, making my levels of happiness lower than others’. Overcoming that road block and beginning to realize this was just another part of life I would have to conquer made my healing process easier. In the end, I learned I am stronger than I ever thought and asking for help is OK. Everyone deserves to feel happy and healthy. Don’t ever be afraid to fight for your happiness and appreciate the moments that challenge you because they’ll make the great moments that much sweeter.
Ashley Johnson is the managing editor of She Reads by day and an aspiring novelist by night. Blogging her way through college, Ashley graduated Northern Arizona University with a degree in English in 2017. When she’s not catching up on the best new reads from her favorite publishers, she can be found taking naps with her four loyal chihuahuas and claiming her rightful title of “VIB Rouge” at Sephora.