In August 2012, President Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, changing my life for the better. I got to apply for scholarships and grants, which made it possible for me to attend San Jose State University. It allowed me to get my driver’s license and legally work for the first time. I had been living with the anxiety of not being able to do those things for almost 15 years, and that anxiety was so intense it manifested into debilitating physical symptoms. I had chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, night terror, and panic attacks. The worst part of it was that I thought there was nothing I could do about it.
In high school, my teachers woke me up during class regularly. During my senior year, I was called into the counselor’s office several times to discuss why I fell asleep in class so frequently. My counselor didn’t understand why I was not getting any sleep most nights. In the rare occasions that I was able to sleep at night, my sleep apnea would sometimes wake me up gasping for air, or an episode of night terror would cause my body to thrash — once even lunging my body off the bed. Often during the day, I would suddenly be unable to breathe because of some minor inconvenience, or because of a small mistake I’d made, or any negative thing that happened. I’d have to isolate myself from my setting and often needed help to calm down and breathe.
DACA cured most of my physical symptoms in one clean sweep. It made me optimistic, less anxious about the future. However, I knew that DACA was a temporary solution. Plus, I still had the same anxiety factors that everyone else had, such as homework, grades, money, relationships, etc, so my therapist at San Jose State prescribed medication. If you can believe it, pills were not enough all the time. It made me feel like I was perfectly fine while my anxiety stayed bubbling up just below the surface, until something bad happened triggering it to erupt like a volcano. When that happened, my head hurt, and I would feel dizzy and nauseous. I would stay up thinking too much about possible outcomes, and depending on the gravity of the issue, panic attacks returned.
About a year ago, I started using a natural herb, Kava extract as a supplement to my prescribed medication. Kava is an herb with muscle-relaxing and stress relieving effects. It has not only allowed me to stay calm during potentially triggering situations, but also made me incredibly good at problem solving, more productive, and even raised my self-confidence. I hope to eventually wean myself out of the prescription and use Kava exclusively. A year ago, I struggled to deal with problems and challenges without being rattled by them. Kava has helped cure my anxiety with no side-effects.
So many physical health problems are caused by mental health issues, and for me, this is definitely true. Overcoming my anxiety has made me feel physically healthier, and more than that, it has shown me I am not broken. If you suffer from anxiety, you don’t have to just live with it, especially if you live with physical health issues that may be linked to it. There is no shame in seeking medical help, and doing whatever helps you feel healthy and whole.