A broadcaster’s journey with mental health and anxiety

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — This is the first part of a month-long series called “Anxiety 101”. As part of “Mental Health Awareness Month,” WFXR sportscaster and reporter David DeGuzman shares his experience with anxiety and what he’s learned along the way. Join him for a special live discussion on mental health Mondays at 11 a.m. EST on WFXR’s Facebook page throughout May.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience with anxiety. The fact that you’re even here means you’re alive, breathing, and probably curious about what anxiety is.

I have suffered from anxiety/panic disorder for several years. But this past year has been even more intense as I have been in therapy and learned a lot of tools that have helped me deal with my mental health issues.

The first thing I should note is that I am not a doctor, nor a mental health professional. Everything I write and share is based on my own experiences. That being said, I am happy to share my journey in these blog posts as well as in my online live chats that I will be having over the next few weeks.

What is anxiety?

That’s a very good question. The Merriam-Webster textbook definition is:

“apprehensive unease or nervousness usually in the face of impending or anticipated illness : a state of anxiety…

OR

“a mentally burdensome preoccupation or interest.

OR

“a strong desire sometimes mixed with doubt, fear or unease.”

Merriam Webster Dictionary

All are correct definitions. The example I usually give is when you’re hiking in the woods and you see a bear, you usually feel anxiety when your body’s fight or flight response is triggered. It’s a normal feeling of anxiety when you feel your life is in danger.

The problem is when you have this feeling, but there is no clear or present danger. The first time I remember having an anxiety or panic attack was when I was at the gym and I felt strange and weird. Because I couldn’t figure out what that feeling was, I ended up having the gym staff call for medical personnel. First responders took my vitals and saw everything was normal, so I thought maybe I had too much caffeine or pre-workout mix.

At that time, I didn’t recognize it as a panic attack. Years later, I had another episode over brunch after a long weekend of drinking and partying. My heart rate was accelerating, triggering shallow breathing and sending my mind into a spiral. Eventually I saw a doctor who again found nothing wrong with me. It was the first time I realized I was having a panic attack and had to do something about it.

A state of panic

This panic attack I just described happened in 2019. From then on, I would probably have about two panic episodes a year. The problem was that I dismissed the reasons for these attacks as something simple, like drinking too much caffeine or not getting enough sleep. While these conditions are probably true, they weren’t addressing the root of my anxiety.

Fast forward to the summer of 2021 when I had what I call “The Big One”. I was going on a road trip with some friends and before leaving, I downed a big glass of cold brew. (Fun fact: cold brew contains a lot of caffeine, which triggers anxiety). I remember feeling tingles in my arms and telling my friend to stop.

I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t calm down right away. I tried to eat something, drink water and meditate. Nothing was working to calm me down. Eventually I called another friend who had had similar issues. He walked me through the rest of the panic attack and told me to walk around and reassured me that I didn’t have a heart episode. Several minutes of deep breathing later (along with a virtual doctor’s appointment that concluded I didn’t have a heart attack), I finally calmed down.

This triggered an endless fear of panic attacks. I was so afraid of having this uncomfortable feeling that I was in a constant state of anxiety. It got to the point where I wasn’t eating because I wasn’t hungry (because I was anxious) and then had panic attacks because I was dizzy and had no eat. It became a dizzying downward spiral.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I had a panic attack at work during a meeting with my bosses and peers. The pins and needles sensation was felt throughout my body and that’s when I realized I needed professional help. I let anxiety take over and affect my life and work.

Find a solution

From then on, I found a therapist and learned tools that helped me deal with anxiety and panic attacks. I also delved into some of the underlying reasons why I had anxiety.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing these solutions and tools with you. From meditation to journaling, to the role of medication and therapy, there is a way out of anxiety. It’s different from person to person, but I hope my journey can inspire you to find your own solution to dealing with mental health issues.

You can also take action now. Exercise and physical activity go a long way in reducing stress and anxiety. I also cut out caffeine (which was hard to do at first but necessary as it always seems to trigger anxiety in me) and also cut down on my alcohol intake. Instead, I eat better by eating fewer processed foods and eating a cleaner diet, which has helped improve my well-being.

These are all decisions we can make now and hopefully by the end of the month we can all feel better about ourselves and our sanity. Either way, thank you for being part of the conversation and breaking the stigma on this topic.

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