Hi everyone! Today’s post, I’m talking all about my experiences with mental health, mostly anxiety.
May is mental health awareness month, and while I missed mental health awareness week earlier this month, I still wanted to add my own story in here. I want to thank Elsie for sharing her story and inspiring me and encouraging me to share my own story.
A few quick points before I go on. May is coming to an end, which means #BirthMay is as well. I decided to blog every day in May to celebrate my birthday (May 12th) and really enjoyed it. I’ll be sad to see it end!
Also, I am by no means an expert or professional in mental health. I can only talk about my experience and what I’ve learned during my journey. I’ve also never been diagnosed so this is only my best guess based on the research I’ve done.
Now back to the matter at hand.
This post is very strange for me to write. While I don’t try to hide that I’ve suffered from anxiety, I haven’t made a post specifically about it either. This is the first! And this is for a few reasons. The first is that I feel bad if I talk about it because I eventually have to say that I haven’t had a panic attack or felt overwhelmingly anxious in nearly two years. I feel bad because I know there are people who are going through anxiety all the time or at the very least right now. Am I a jerk for talking about my experience with anxiety even though I haven’t had a panic attack in two years? I sure do hope not.
The next is something Elsie and I talked a bit about in the comments of her post. I have avoided this subject many times because I worry it’ll cause my anxiety to return full force. I only mention it causally and I no longer read articles and other posts about it (unless someone I follow writes about it). I also have a lot of videos saved in my “watch later” YouTube playlist about anxiety that I have avoided watching as well. On one hand I know this is bad in case it does come back, and I do expect it to. I would love to watch the videos or read the articles so I feel more prepared to handle it when it comes. Yet I still avoid it. Anyone else feel that way?
So about my anxiety. It all started in March of 2015, or at least that’s when I had my first panic attack and I really realized what was going on. I was on a crowded train to Chicago over St. Patrick’s Day weekend and I suddenly felt like I had to get off the train. I was getting off the next stop anyway but I needed off now. Because I couldn’t get off the train I started panicking. I spent the rest of the weekend in the city fearful of another panic attack, and even had to skip brunch and wait outside the restaurant for everyone. Then when it was time to go back onto a train, the place where I had been for my first panic attack I stalled and took a later train just to try and avoid it a little longer.
From then until about November perhaps of 2015 I continued to have daily panic attacks and extreme nausea as as result of the anxiety. I could not go a day without having to run to the bathroom with nausea and even carried plastic bags everywhere with me just in case I felt sick and couldn’t find a bathroom or if I was driving to work and couldn’t stop because I would be late (I was working in a customer service call center at the time so I couldn’t be late at all). It was hard to go places and plan things for nearly the entire year because I didn’t know what kind of state I’d be in. I got a haircut and the lady probably thought I was nervous to get my hair cut when I was just nervous that I would have a panic attack in the chair! And it was tough because I had just finished my year of “trying new things”. If you have read my year 26 post, I make a yearly goal every year for my birthday. But as a result of my anxiety that year my new yearly goal because “do more of what makes me happy”. This did seem to help and I even braved the train again and continue to do so without a problem.
Luckily I did have awesome people surrounding me. Remember that brunch I went to? It was actually for a friend’s birthday. All our other friends there had studied or were studying psychology in school, so they understood I couldn’t help it and wasn’t pretending or anything. Their support helped me so much. That friend and I had a falling out so I never see any of them anymore (and don’t intend to, I’m not worried about it) but that was very nice of them. My parents and sister tried to help out as best they could although my parents really aren’t that aware of mental health to begin with. They’re super old school but they try and that counts for me. And I will say that ever since that friend and I had a falling out I haven’t had a panic attack so I don’t mind.
I suppose I have always felt that I seemed to be more anxious about life than many of my peers. I was constantly worried about the day, before school or during the day. I thought sweating and a pounding heart was normal and just adjusted best as I could. But of course gradually I started to become aware that it may not be. I remember once I came across a Facebook friend’s status where her therapist suggested her nausea in the morning was connected to her anxiety about the day to come and I remember thinking that was interesting because I’d always had nausea in the morning but thought that was normal. Somehow I still ignored it and didn’t think much of it until I started having panic attacks and remembered it years later. And that level of anxiety that I thought was so normal before is my current level of anxiety now. Constantly worried but making it through each day.
That’s why I still say I have anxiety. Because even if I’m not having panic attacks every day I still think about it all the time and worry every day that I’ll have another. I have not had a single day in the past two years where the fear of another panic attack doesn’t linger in the background of all my thoughts. Luckily I have found a few things help me. I step outside away from people if I can. I always carry earbuds because I am very receptive to music and it calms me down. This is the most reliable thing I’ve found that helps me.
Something I haven’t quite figured out if I did experience or not is depression. In February of 2013 I graduated a semester early from college. I didn’t even look for a job, to be honest. My whole college experience had been stressful and I really needed a break. I remember school fondly and have great memories of my school but overall I was just burnt out. However I remember I was just feeling overwhelmingly uninterested in life and experiencing new things. I never wanted to leave the house, was always tired, and just felt hopeless. I honestly didn’t do much at all during the next few months until I finally forced myself to get a retail job in a department store nearby. That was honestly all I could handle and that ended up really helping me. I haven’t felt the same since though, so I don’t know if it was or not.
May is nearly over but even outside of the month, awareness can still be spread. Elsie did her post as part of a tag for mental health awareness week/month, and left her nominations open, so I’ll do the same. If you’re interested in sharing your story, please do, and tag me so I can read it!
If you are suffering from mental health problems, don’t feel like you can’t talk about it! You can find support in your family, friends, mental health professionals, or even your fellow bloggers. I’m always available if anyone wants to chat, and even though I’m not a professional I will listen. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out through my social media. Whichever you want! The more we talk about it and talk openly, I do believe that we can break apart the stigmas.
Of course, ultimately we are not the mental illness we live with. It’s only a small part of us and we can get through it.
If you’ve read my entire post, thank you! I know it was long. I ended up having a lot to say. And funnily enough, instead of making my anxiety worse, I think it actually helped! (Thank you Elsie, you were totally right.)
Thanks for reading!