By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer

There was a time in elementary school when I recall a teacher saying “We wouldn’t overthink how we breathe, right? It just occurs naturally.” Yet, there I sat in the classroom wondering, “How is it that we breathe?” And for the rest of that day my normal breathing pattern turned into the most irregular, strained inhales and exhales I could have ever taken.

Since then, anxiety has followed me like a shadow, dragging me into a darkness from time to time without warning.

As ridiculous as this may sound to some, it’s minor occasions like so that can get the best of me due to overthinking. For as long as I can remember, this struggle I’ve had with attempting to control how I think out situations has been around for quite some time and without any improvements.

It was while I was trying to fall asleep one night in middle school that my sudden shallow breathing and the feelings of lightheadedness, nausea, cold sweats, and heaviness that grew upon my chest served as signs that I had overthought too hard as I experienced my first anxiety attack. All due to constantly stressing about keeping up with some reading assignments, there was nothing I could do but cry and hope the dreaded feeling would go away as I stayed up late with my mother to let the television distract me from my jumbled thoughts.

Thankfully, I’ve only had one other anxiety attack since then but anxiety itself has continued to take a toll on how I function on a daily basis.

Since starting my studies at KCC in 2016, my anxiety levels were high since taking on the position as a staff writer for Kapiʻo News. Though the idea of being able to write was inviting and brought out my deepest passion for this area of specialty, I was panicking as I would walk around the campus in circles desperately trying to bring myself to speak to students on campus to do interviews for Voices and Views (V&V) and Word on the Street (WOTS).

They were the simplest tasks I could have ever been assigned, yet every step I would take to a student felt as if I had to drag a ball and chain from my legs just to approach them. Seeing that this had been affecting me for two years, I was losing hope thinking that I would never find a way to cope with my constant anxiousness.

But then my third year started in Fall 2018, and with the first WOTS assigned to me for the semester, the increased heartbeat I would normally feel was suddenly non-existent as I approached the first student I saw standing alone. After that, interviewing other students was a breeze.

I was shocked by how suddenly was I was able to overcome this obstacle I had been struggling to jump over for so long. Whether it was the long, stress-free summer break or much-needed trip that I took to Big Island that helped, I felt as if I had been cured.

Of course, as time went on, I knew that my anxiety was still lingering around just waiting to find the perfect opportunity to pounce at a weak spot. But this past fall semester was different from my other ones. I was socializing with friends more, building stronger connections with those who I would simply wave hi and bye to in passing. I made better attempts to attend get-togethers after finals week to relax. To top it all off, my boyfriend helped me to throw my first big birthday party (coincidentally, for my 21st) on New Year’s Eve with the company of amazing friends to celebrate it with.

Since Jan. 1, controlling my anxiety has been a work in progress but has also improved with the help of those around me. Whenever moments of panic struck, this belief that I should keep it to myself and refrain from bothering others is what — I have now realized — only hindered me from getting the relief and care that I needed.

Being able to reach out to others for reassurance has only benefited me after seeing that people are more understanding about this disorder than I thought they would be. To my amazement, sometimes it is the people who are going through the same struggle like me who are the most wanting to help and offer comfort. Knowing that I am not alone in this fight, it gives me hope to know that if I can slowly stand up against it then others can, too.

Though I am unsure of how my anxiety will carry out from now on, I understand that I can continue to fight it by working to find balance in my life. With family, school, my significant other, friends, work, and other factors that have an effect on me, determining what stresses and makes me overthink the most and finding stability between them is what I hope will bring me to a point of everlasting peace.