[Tanya Rodriguez, as told to Charlotte Hilton Andersen | Shape]

It all started with an invitation to my sister’s wedding. Weddings can be a source of stress for many people, but I had an extra reason to worry: I hadn’t left my house in a year. I’m not sure exactly what triggered it, but a year prior I’d started having debilitating anxiety attacks, complete with dizziness, hot flashes, and a tightness in my chest that made it feel like I couldn’t breathe. As my panic increased, my mobility decreased. I became terrified that if I left, something horrible would happen to me. So I just stayed inside—it was easier than dealing with my fear. And at just 31 years old, I had become a prisoner in my own home.

But as I thought about my sister and how much I loved her, I knew I couldn’t miss her wedding. Something was going to have to change. I realized that who I was now—a person who was mentally and physically unhealthy and who was too afraid to enjoy life—was not who I wanted to be.

I made it to the wedding, which was great, but when I saw the pictures from that happy day I realized that my journey back to health was just beginning. That girl in the picture looked just as sick and miserable as I felt. The next day, I made an appointment to see my doctor. There she gave me the hard-to-swallow news: I was obese, pre-diabetic, and well on my way to full diabetes. But what’s more is that she also diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. (If you’re experiencing everyday anxiety, try these tips for calming down.)

[Read More]