For the last 9 years of my life I have struggled with a periodically severe anxiety disorder. Not the kind of anxiety where you here a person say ” I have a test coming up, I’m so anxious! ” No, it’s the kind that chips away at your entire life and slowly takes away pieces of yourself that you can’t get back. It’s the kind that makes even the simplest tasks seem terrifying and it’s the kind that can isolate you and make you fight a losing battle with yourself. Why periodically? Well I’ll explain. When I was 16, a close family member of mine passed away and that for me was the beginning of what will be a life long battle with anxiety. Now I don’t think that the passing of him was the cause of my disorder but I do however think it was the trigger that allowed the anxiety to really form itself and begin to flow freely. Mental illness is a powerful thing and it’s important to know that you don’t have to fight it alone. The truth is there is no all fixing anxiety cure. It’s something that you need to stay on top of and work at. The very first step is to speak to someone and get properly diagnosed. That may sound harsh but it took me more than 8 years from my initial diagnosis of general anxiety disorder to be properly diagnosed with Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Contamination Disorder. Getting a proper diagnosis was the best thing I ever did. Anxiety disorders and real illnesses based on extreme fear. I have anxiety and this is what I want people to know about mental illness.
1. It’s okay to seek help:
Psychiatrist is just a scary word for someone that has profound knowledge and understanding of my condition that can listen to me, understand how I’m feeling and walk me through my illness and most importantly comfort me. Being proactive. Seeing someone and getting a proper diagnosis is really the best first step you can take. Anxiety is such a vast and large thing and there are so many different types of anxiety and if you don’t know what you specifically have, treatment won’t be as effective or beneficial to you. Not to mention that once you know what you are up against, and you have more of an understanding that what are you dealing with is a medically diagnose-able disorder and that most importantly you are not alone, you will already begin to feel hope.
2. Even if you think you have complete control over your mental illness, you probably don’t.
What you don’t realize is that you have become so accustomed to the way that you function daily, you don’t realize that your illness impacts every decision that you make. What this means is from a simple decision such as going for coffee with a friend all the way to taking on more responsibility at your job, your illness is deciding for you what you are going to do in these situations whether you realize it or not.
A couple months ago, when I was at my worst in my illness than I have been in over 8 years, I would never have imagined in a million years to start a blog. The thought would be terrifying, all I would be able to focus on was what other people would think. Without even realizing it I was always so worried about my thoughts, my appearance, my opinions, my entire being simply because I was so overwhelmed with anxiety and what everyone was going to think of me. Only now that I am on medication that is working for me and allowing me to live a life filled with much less anxiety than I have been for years do I realize that the way I was living wasn’t healthy and I didn’t have to live that way for so long!
3. The worst case scenario in any situation is the most likely one.
4. We’re not being rude or anti social, I promise!
When I am having anxiety, I am so wrapped up in my own mind that I hardly see the world around me. All I see are my insecurities.
What if they don’t like me? I have a headache, do I have brain cancer? I’m starting to feel dizzy, oh please don’t let me have a panic attack here! I shouldn’t have said that thing last month. People are looking at you, they must thing your weird.
I promise you if I ever seem distant or of putting that it’s unintentional and I don’t even realize that I’m doing it.
5. The stigma is only there because we as a society put it there.
A mental illness is just as real as a broken arm. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken arm to “calm down and get over it” would you?
I was out with a friend and we somehow ended up on the topic of my mental illness. When the conversation was over and they had left, the gentleman sitting next to me told me he couldn’t help but over hear my conversation and that he was a retired Mental illness therapist and he was very surprised to hear me speaking about my anxiety disorder so openly. I told him that I didn’t think a mental illness was anything to be ashamed of and that the astigmatism behind it is crazy to me. In any given year 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health crisis. The stigma needs to end now.
6. A panic attack really can feel like you’re dying.
I know to most people a panic attack may not many any sense but to the person experiencing the panic attack it is very real and extremely terrifying.
When I have a panic attack It feels like I am suffocating. I start hyperventilating and gasping for air, my throat feels like it’s closing and no oxygen is getting through. My hands, arms and face tingle and my entire scalp feels like it is burning. I get severe chest pains and heart palpitations.
I begin to feel extremely heavy and nauseous as if I’m about to pass out and I begin sobbing because in my mind I 100% believe this is the end and I am going to die. Then, after what feels like a long time I get my first deep breath and start to get the feeling back in my hands and face and the moment finally comes where I am able to really believe I am okay. Each panic attack makes you more fearful of the next.
7. Having an Anxiety disorder is not: just stressing out, being a “neat freak” , an excuse to get attention, a choice, a sign of weakness or a character flaw.
8. You are not alone.