I’m dedicating this post to anyone that suffers from anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue. This post is me venting and expressing my personal struggles with mental illness.
Throughout my life, I have struggled with anxiety. When I was younger, I didn’t even know what it was. I thought something was wrong with me. I didn’t think I was normal. Why didn’t I ever want to meet new people? Why didn’t I want to go to the movies with my friends? I wanted to, but I was always worried about being in uncomfortable situations that could quickly become awkward… Well. It took my graduating college with a degree in psychology to recognize that I was normal, but I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. Even before I was “officially” diagnosed by my doctor, I knew something wasn’t right. I realized that I would get nervous in normal situations, and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I would be in the grocery store, and I would suddenly start getting hot and clammy. My hands would shake, and I would become hyper-aware of everything around me. I would get mega insecure and very irritable. The only thing that I could do was leave. That was the only way I’d be okay. To some people (which is where the venting comes in), it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But if you’ve ever experienced it, you know how paralyzing anxiety could be. Not only that, but it often leads to depression because people cut themselves off from others to avoid the uncomfortable/ awkward/ anxiety-inducing situations. My anxiety would keep me from going out, and I would just stay in the house because I was worried about having an anxiety attack. For a social person, it was hard for me to be in social situations. Quite the paradox. Luckily, I had friends and family that understood me and how I felt, so instead of going out to spend time together I could always meet them at their house or the could come hang out at mine. Without that support, I could easily have fallen into depression. And some people don’t have that support, and I can imagine how it must be for them.
What really upsets me is that people will say to get over it or to work through mental illness like it is so simple. Well, it’s not. Anxiety or Depression isn’t simple. You cannot force yourself to get through an anxiety attack. Sure, you can count to ten or focus on something else, but unless you completely remove yourself from the situation, you can’t get through it as easily as some people believe. I want to say this – and this is important – mental illness doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. The stigmatization surrounding mental illness isn’t as severe as it was when I was a kid, but when you tell people that you are seeing a therapist, and they’ll probably look at you like your crazy.
What I’m about to mention is the most shameful, regretful thing I have ever done as a parent, and it made me realize that I needed help with my anxiety. I couldn’t control it on my own. It was not getting better. My son had a school movie night last December to watch Polar Express. There was going to be popcorn and refreshments provided by the school. They were even going to have hot chocolate!!! Anywayyyyy (chocolaty yumminess isn’t the point here), my son wanted to go to this movie night. So, for weeks I tried to build myself up to be able to go. I would constantly think about it over and over. I would worry about how many people would be there. I would worry about where to go when I got to school. I didn’t know if it was in the cafeteria, classroom, gym, etc. I didn’t know which door to use. What if I made an alarm go off? What if we got there too early? What if we got there too late? All these things were making me nervous to go to a movie at my son’s school. Finally, on the day of the movie I was dreading it. (I sound terrible, I know… it gets worse). When I got home from work, and my son got home from school I asked him if he would rather stay at home at watch a movie and drink hot chocolate with just the two of us, or would he rather go to school. He decided to stay home with me, but I felt so bad. I hated myself for not being able to do this one thing for him. I cried. It hurt my feelings. I felt so guilty for talking my son out of his movie that I realized just how bad my anxiety has become. That’s when I decided I needed to talk to my doctor about it (I just realized I sound like a medication commercial….)
Moral of the story is that people who don’t have anxiety don’t know how it is or how it feels. It’s more than feeling insecure or embarrassed. There are physical symptoms that happen during an anxiety attack that prove that it isn’t just “in your head”. After getting help from my doctor and starting medication, my anxiety is under control. It didn’t change what I was insecure and anxious about before, but my medication just helped me embrace who I am and not care about anything that made me nervous or anxious before. Maybe, it did change who I am.. For the better? I don’t know, but I do know I feel better.
Okay.. Rant over. I just wanted to get this out because I know how bad this can be and to let everyone that suffers from mental illness that you are not alone. And you are not crazy, and there is nothing wrong with you. You just have something more interesting about who you are, and I hope you learn to embrace your true self, so that you be truly happy. 😊