'I don't think they really realize what it's like to live as an anxious person'

<i>Getty Images</i>
Getty Images

As told to Gail Johnson

Camille Porter is a 42-year-old married Vancouver mother of three kids who are all under age 10. She has lived with anxiety for as long as she can remember.

A lot of people say they have anxiety, and I think to some degree everyone does. But I don’t think they really realize what it’s like to live as anxious person.

I probably didn’t really realize I had anxiety until I had moved in with Greg and we were living downtown [20 years ago]. I literally couldn’t be out when I knew he was home; I had lived in a tower where the windows weren’t built to code, and they opened out in a way that you could easily fall out. There was one time when he was on the balcony leaning over trying to wash the bedroom window, and that was it; it just set me off. Every time I was out and he’d be home I’d picture him falling off the balcony and I’d come home and there would be a police crowd and he’d be dead. That was when I realized something wasn’t right.

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It made me start to think, “Why am I like this?”

I did see a therapist, but I didn’t like him at all.

Then I got pregnant. I went to my doctor, and he made a comment about my son having a big head —just an observation. I went home and Googled “big head.” Not good. I lost it. I had a panic attack. I thought he was going to die, that this pregnancy was not going to work out. When I told my doctor, he set me up with another therapist.

The thing that works really well for me is to do what makes you super anxious — to do it. So if I’m worried about letting my kids go ride their bikes on their own, I let them do it. It helps a lot. Over time, the anxiety isn’t there as much.

But I still get really worried about my kids dying. I worry about when they start driving or hanging out with friends we don’t know.

I can even see it’s irrational, but I can’t stop feeling the way I feel.

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My physical symptoms start with a flutter in my heart and then it goes to my tummy, which ends up with me needing the bathroom. Then I get really antsy, restless. I can’t stop fidgeting, like tapping my foot.

It’s exhausting. I think it’s hard for people to understand how debilitating anxiety is.

One of my kids is really anxious. Lately we’ve been saying ‘Let’s worry about something for five minutes, then we’ll put it away.’ That seems to be working: setting a worry time. You worry then you can’t worry outside of that time.

I’ve never taken medication because I’ve never been offered medication. I try to control it as much as possible.

Anxiety has stopped me from doing a lot of things. The only reason I’ve been able to start moving past it is because I don’t want to put that on my kids. I don’t want to stop them from doing things because I’m worried.

It’s really hard.

During the month of October, Yahoo Canada is delving into anxiety and why it’s so prevalent among Canadians. Read more content from our multi-part series here.

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Abacus Data, a market research firm based in Ottawa, conducted a survey for Yahoo Canada to test public attitudes towards anxiety as a medical condition, including social stigmas and cultural impacts. The study was an online survey of 1,500 Canadians residents, age 18 and over, who responded between Aug. 21 to Sept. 2, 2019. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.53%, 19 times out of 20. The data was weighted according to census data to ensure the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.