My Mental Health Story

Anxiety in a picture

My name is Alex Costa and I have anxiety and go through panic attacks. I am more than anxiety and panic, I am a hard worker. I’m loving, confident, and thankful. 

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I broke my femur in football. That year I also went through my 1st big heartbreak. I almost lost my father and on top of that, we had a couple of deaths in the family that were recent. Talk about life throwing you a curveball.

I remember sitting in class and getting dizzy. I felt more of an off-balanced feeling. I would be sitting in class and get really hot out of nowhere so I would always start wearing shorts even on the coldest of days. I wore shorts and was freezing cold going to school but I knew if I would go through this feeling, I would always get really hot and start sweating. So at least I wouldn’t be sweating during class.

Senior Year

I remember getting so scared. I thought I had things wrong with my head and started googling things which only made it worse. I would go to school and be worried about if I’d have these feelings come up again. It even got to the point that I was being more careful about playing football. I thought if I had hit my head, it would get worse. It affected my junior year slightly and my senior year heavily to where I was always concerned about what would happen if I took a hit to my head. There was no way I could play the game feeling like this. You can’t play football and play scared, it just doesn’t work. Football was my life and as my senior year came to an end, it felt like I watched my dream slip away right in front of me. At the same time, I had a relief feeling because I didn’t like my coach my senior year, he ruined football for me so I was also excited to be done. 

It wasn’t until my senior year I talked to the girl I was dating and completely opened up. I left nothing on the table and she mentioned something about anxiety. I had heard of the term before and never thought much of it till that moment. Her mother was a psychologist so we talked to her and she explained more about it to me. As I found myself opening up about this and finally getting a name for what was wrong with me, it was such a huge relief. It felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. 

From that day on, I started to make small progress. 

Fast forward a couple of years after I graduated high school and tried college. Notice how I put “tried”. It was not for me. I had anxiety in class and sometimes felt like I had to leave early. My heart would be racing, I would be sweating and have that dizzy feeling at times. It was impossible for me to focus with that. Oh yea, did I mention I was diagnosed with ADD when I was younger? So trying to focus on tasks for school was never my strong suit. I failed out after my 1st year which I never really talk a lot about. So this is me being open with it. It just wasn’t for me, I was distracted because I was talking to a girl I liked, I was going through anxiety, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in and its year one in college so I was always hanging out with friends. As I received my letter saying I was kicked out, I felt like a complete bum. I would wake up early, go workout, come home and nap till 12. My life felt like a joke. Finally I dedicated myself to a career path after speaking with a mentor of mine. I never looked back and was fully locked in.

Lets fast forward again, maybe a year or 2 later. One day I was at the gym. It was before I was about to leave for DC to see my sister. I was sitting on the bench and started feeling my heart skip beats and felt very off. I had felt this before but for 1 split second. This was happening and wasn’t stopping. I instantly jumped up and was in a panic. I ran to the front desk to inform them about this, they were about to call the ambulance and I told them to wait. “Let me go outside and get some fresh air” I said. I calmed down and now was worried about my heart health. Woo, another thing to add to my anxiety. It happened a year after that again and it was one of the scariest days of my life. I remember laying on the ground outside of my gym at 5am and looking up at the sky thinking that was it. You really do see your life flash before your eyes in those moments. I wasn’t ready to go yet, I was like 21, I had so much to do still. 

I scheduled an appointment with the doctors and went to a cardiologist to do an ultrasound, EKG, and blood work. Everything came back okay and again, a huge relief but not satisfied because I didn’t know what the hell was going on with me. Was I broken? Was there something the doctors missed? 

Well, for your reading pleasure, let’s fast forward one more time, shall we? It’s August 21st, 2020, a year we will all remember for the rest of our life. It’s summertime and my friends invite me to stop over and hang out. I go over, we start talking and playing pong. My buddy and I were doing pretty good, although you guessed it.. My anxiety was also on my team. Let me paint you a picture of what happened next.

My heart starts to get faster, I have a feeling in my gut like I just finished eating a thanksgiving meal. You know, like where you feel so full you can barely move, breathe, and want to do nothing. Well, I finally said I needed to make a call. It was 12am so people probably thought I was a drug dealer at that point. I go out to call my parents because I was typically able to calm myself down. Well, no one answered and I call my sister, by this point my heart rate is getting faster and faster. I instantly think to myself, “oh no”. Yea, don’t do that if you have high functioning anxiety because it typically is like pouring gasoline on a flame. 

Well, the 2-minute drive back home felt like 200 miles away. I was speeding the whole time and every symptom of panic, anxiety, and fear showed itself. Heart rate is still speeding up, I’m losing my breath and can barely get a full gasp of air. There is something about not being able to breathe that sends your fear and anxiety through the roof. Oh yea, cause it doesn’t seem normal.

As I pull into my house, I remember unhooking my seatbelt and trying to get out of my car before I even put it in park. Raced inside and you would think everything settled down right? Wrong, it went down as the scariest panic attack I ever had. My heart was palpitating, skipping beats and wasn’t slowing down. I would dump ice cold water on myself and start hyperventilating as it shocked my system. I was praying, and wishing for it to stop. I remember thinking that maybe this time we would have to call 911. But would they even make it to me in time? I lost my breath every time my heart started to palpitate and skip.

Well after 30 minutes or so, it calmed down. It felt like 3 hours and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. My chest felt sore and I felt as if I looked death in the face that night. It was honestly traumatizing and was a huge set back for a while. To be completely honest, I am still recovering from that as I am writing this now. It was a downhill spiral of panic attacks and anxiety. But with this came a lot of positives.

I learned more about the topic of mental health than ever before. I watched video after video. Read article after article. Book after book and talked to a lot of great people in that time to understand this more. I felt completely hopeless at one point. I felt that I would never return to “normal”. That I was going to have this feeling of being trapped forever. Well again, WRONG. I am living proof that this mental barrier that you may be going through is temporary. The storm may come through but that sun will always come back out to shine on us.

As I learned more, I realized that I was doing this all wrong. I was fighting everything, most importantly, I was fighting myself. I was my own worst enemy. I learned a lot about going with the flow, not trying to make these symptoms stop but to simply ride the wave. I learned more about brain health and by doing so, your mind will follow. 

I am here to help you and show you that everything will be okay. I promise you will make it through it but the first step is making the initial effort to get help. And let me just say, there is NOTHING wrong with asking for help. I want this stigma to end. I am working with 2 councilors, I reached out for a psychiatrist. I am taking anxiety medication. Talked to doctors, talked to my family and it took a while but I finally reached out to my friends. These steps were the best thing I ever did for my mental health. I also started to learn more and create more awareness. I started to take care of my mind and body through better nutrition habits, mindfulness, exercise, and getting help. 

I am not here to say this is an easy fix because it typically isn’t, but I am saying you ARE WORTH IT. This is worth it. I am so happy you are here because I know how hard it can be. Please don’t lose hope. I am telling you, there is so much to try and so many things that can work. It just takes time and effort to find what works for you. This is why I wanted to bring the mental health page to Costafitness. I want to spread awareness, give you hope, give you things to try and I want to build a community that makes us feel at home. 

Let’s become mentally and physically healthier together. You are not alone and either am I. I love you, keep up the great work.

-Alex Costa-

Things will get better, I promise. Please keep trying and don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

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