Reza Ramli is the Creative & Brand Director at My PCOS I Love You, an organization that focuses on creating awareness and becoming a one stop resource centre for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in Malaysia. Even though he is always radiant and cheerful in our conversations, it doesn’t mean that he is impervious to panic attacks. Following years of battling anxiety, Reza is seeking to normalise the public perception of the disorder. For Reza, the combination of therapy and medication has helped him deal with his battle against anxiety. ” I didn’t know how to absorb, analyse, or even understand the emotions that I felt. Therapy made me realise that I really need to get in touch with my own emotions.”
When did you realise you have anxiety?
I realised I had anxiety when I was in my previous relationship. It was a relationship that lasted eight-to-nine years before it went south six months later. There was a point where the question of marriage was asked by the family, and I distinctly remember how I felt at that time. I experienced something like a dark cloud that came over me. But I didn’t understand the feeling.
In the same year, I got diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). I had to watch what I eat. My stomach was churning with acid, and I had to go to the hospital numerous times to have it checked. I was experiencing a series of heartburn, muscle aches, and dizziness. I didn’t understand what was going on with my body. But life changed for the better after I met my wife, Dina.
She knew what I was going through, knew the kind of medicine that I need for my GERD, and eventually our relationship blossomed into marriage. Throughout the entire time, my anxiety wasn’t as bad as it has become over the past two years.
How did anxiety impact the other aspects of your life?
After our honeymoon, that’s when I noticed a decline in my physical health. One day, I was running around the neighbourhood, but I had to stop because I was panting so hard. My heart felt like it was coming out of my chest. I was about 200 meters away from home, and I was terrified thinking that I’m going to pass out on the street. I remember praying to God saying, “Please don’t take me away, I’m not ready to die now.”
Thankfully, I got back home safe and started calling my family. The thought of dying crossed my mind. My blood pressure was through the roof, my heartbeat was high, so I went to the closest clinic. That was when the doctor informed me that I had experienced a panic attack.
From that moment on, I started to realise that my anxiety manifested even more as time went on. Physically, I was completely fine, as I wanted to make sure I was okay by doing several check-ups with various doctors. While I was fine physically, trying to get back to physical activities proved to be a challenge for me. I think I was scarred by the panic attack that I had experienced earlier. And because I stopped working out, I noticed a sharp decline in my physical health.
How do you cope with anxiety?
Since then, it has been a process of trying to figure out what works for me. Recently, I went to the same doctor because I was really frustrated by the fact that I could not get a hold of my anxiety. It reached a point where I was experiencing symptoms like heartburn and bloated stomach on a daily basis. Eventually, the doctor prescribed Xanax to ease my condition.
I wanted to find ways to ease off the Xanax because I didn’t want to be dependent on it. Supplements like magnesium helped, treatments like acupuncture also provided relief, so I’m looking for solutions that can help me deal with anxiety in the long run.
In addition, I’ve been in therapy once a week for the past year. Therapy has made tremendous progress for me. Through the sessions, I realise that I’ve always been a suppressor. All my life, I’ve been that guy who’s focused on work all the time. I was constantly in the mentality of being positive all the time, while ignoring any sort of negativity. I didn’t know how to absorb, analyse, or even understand the emotions that I felt.
Therapy made me realise that I needed to get in touch with my own emotions. It is so important to take it step by step, and every time there’s something new I kind of just let it out during the sessions. Thank God for Dina that she’s around because she understands what I’m going through, and if it wasn’t for her, I don’t know how I would deal with it.