Newsflash: anxiety disorder SUCKS
With this week (first week in October) being Mental Illness Awareness Week, I figured this is as good a time to talk about this that I am going to get. Also yesterday was mental health awareness day? But I’m never on time, and for those of us who deal with mental health issues, EVERY DAY is mental health awareness day, so just go with me here. We’re going to veer off our usual path here, but its a necessary detour.
I have a really, reallyyyy not fun anxiety disorder. I’m not talking feeling nervous about things here and there. I am talking debilitating anxiety attacks to the point where I feel like I am having a heart attack and dying. Its anxiety to the point where my throat feels like its closing up, like I could pass out, and feeling like I could vomit (which I have). That is when it is at its worst, but I also deal with less severe bouts of it regularly. It is absolutely horrible, and I honestly deal with a lot of it in silence.
Anxiety comes in different forms for different people. For me, it varies in its severity and consistency, but I still take precautionary measures every day. I take medication for it daily, and have for years. I avoid different things that I have figured out trigger my anxiety. I’ve done therapy, and frankly need to go back, but lord that shit is expensive. Its a combination of things now that helps, but in no way cures, my anxiety. And let me tell you, that was a fun thing to figure out. OH WAIT.
I started to be cognizant of it when I was a sophomore in college, although it had been prevalent for years at that point. And even though I was starting to recognize that something was off, I couldn’t properly put my finger on what exactly. It all came to a head when I was driving home at the end of the year, sobbing to my mom on the phone, and that’s when I realized I needed to ask for help.
I started seeing a doctor that summer, and I told NO ONE. At this point in my journey it wasn’t bad enough for daily medication, so an as needed one was fine. It wasn’t until months later back at school that I started to tell those close to me outside my family. I only told those few because I wanted them to be aware in case I had a panic attack. I was so embarrassed to have these conversations, because I felt it made me look weak. This is so much apart of the stigma of mental illness, still.
Nothing about having a mental illness makes you weak. It is not something you have any control over. More so, being able to recognize what it is, and ask for help, is one of the strongest things a person can do. But it has taken me a long time to come to terms with that.
The ironic thing about this is that I am very extroverted. My friends joke that I could make friends with a brick wall, and that is probably true. I don’t mind going places on my own. Actually, I ENJOY it. I just saw a Broadway show solo (Lifespan of a Fact, I just love Dan Radcliffe). And its totally fine. Social situations don’t make me nervous or uneasy, and I feel really lucky for that fact. But unfortunately, sometimes my anxiety is all encompassing and I want to do nothing but stay in bed.
You probably would never know I deal with this on a daily basis if I didn’t just tell you. And that’s the thing – you will never know what anyone is dealing with behind closed doors. I have many people close to be affected by mental illness, and they are the kindest and strongest people I know. But this really fun chemical imbalance we have makes the simplest things really difficult. Its true that I thrive in social settings, but my anxiety will hinder that often. I have left events early, not gone to certain events, and have run into the bathroom more times than I can count while out to take a quick Xanax so I can continue to be there. It is not fun, but its my reality.
This is also the reality for many. While I am grateful that some of the stigma of mental illness is starting to be stripped back, there is still a long way to go. I am grateful for the champions who have made it so this can be talked about more in the open. I am grateful for the medication that makes me feel sane. I am grateful for a supportive family and friends. It has taken me a lot to get to where I am, and I recognize that some are dealing with mental illness without any support. I hope by all of us continuing to talk about this, it then makes it easier for the ones yet to come.
xo xo sweet and snarky
If you or someone you know needs help, please see the following:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
National Alliance of Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org