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Rebekha Nieves, 25


Photo of Rebekha, provided by her.

Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Rebekha Nieves is a 25-year-old who suffers from debilitating panic attacks caused by her generalized anxiety disorder. 


Nieves was raised surrounded by her extended family. Her paternal grandparents, both from Portugal, have always lived with her family. After losing her grandfather almost ten years ago, her grandmother continued to live with them. As she put it, her family life was always extremely normal.


Yet, there was something wrong that she could never explain. “I’ve had anxiety my entire life, since I became conscious…when I was younger, like literally like five or six years old, I used to wake up gasping for air,” Nieves said. 


This continued throughout her life, but she never really knew what it was. It wasn’t until she went away to the University of the West Indies in Barbados that she found out what it was. “ I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my whole body was tingling, my heart was racing, I felt like I was suffocating, I was pacing up and down,” Nieves said. 


That night, she asked her friends to take her to the hospital, they gave her Valium to calm her down and she said it was the best she had ever felt in her life. She went back to her house with her friends, slept until it wore off and woke up again in panic. 


The next day, she went to a physician that diagnosed her with generalized anxiety disorder. Almost thirteen years after her first panic attack, she finally had answers. She left shortly after her diagnosis and went back home to live with her parents. 


She took a year off to be at home. Her mom took her to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist who put her through art therapy as well as on medication that she is still on today. “I did a lot of therapy, my mom was really supportive, my dad just didn’t believe in it,” Nieves said. 


Nieves’ family spent thousands of dollars in therapy for her. She stayed on a strict medication routine and was finally ready to go back to school. She decided to come to Canada, where she had family in British Columbia. She was in her element, she said it was great for the first three years that she was here. 


Nov. 30, 2019, right as the news of COVID-19 was spreading in China, she traveled to the U.S. to buy gifts for Christmas before heading back to Trinidad. She was involved in a horrible car accident.


Nieves went back to Trinidad, and has been there since. She was back into therapy to come to terms with the accident which with the help of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), she was able to feel comfortable getting into a car again. 


Since then, she has never really settled back into her life, with COVID-19 she said she entered a whole new ball game. “Because I suffer with generalized anxiety and I have really bad health anxiety, so I was just scared out of my mind having multiple panic attacks a day I was exhausted so I’m really only now getting back on track,” Nieves said. 


She is at a place now in her life where she isn’t yet at peace with her anxiety, a love-hate relationship as she put it. “I hate it, some days I literally hate it and I just feel to rip my brain out, like if I could open up my brain or if there was a switch in my brain I could just turn it off and just like unconscious from my thoughts and everything, then I would,” Nieves said. Other days she said, aren’t as bad and she reminds herself it is something that she has to live it. For her, she is grateful that anxiety has given her the chance to be intuitive and empathetic towards other people and their feelings. It has made her more open-minded and aware of how to treat people because everyone has their “crossed to carry,” she said. 


Nieves wasn’t diagnosed until she was 18, and like her many people have to deal with family members not believing in mental health struggles. There is an explanation for everything, for Nieves it was anxiety, it explained everything she had dealt with for her. It is something she continues to deal with.



Photo of Rebekha, provided by her.

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