With May being Mental Health month I thought I’d try to make entries for the month, anytime I felt a little out of control. With any luck this will be the only one, but I know myself well enough to know that is only a hope.
I’ve been struggling with my mental health for years, long before I even realized it. And since I’ve recognized it over three years ago, I cannot say that it has gotten any better, but I can say I usually know how to deal with it.
But last night I was at a loss.
I woke up multiple times, heart racing, scared, I wasn’t aware what I felt I was out of sorts, and it was hard to go back to sleep and if I did, in a short amount of time I was awake once again, heart racing, mouth-watering, scared. When I woke up for work this morning I was on maybe two hours of sleep, heart still racing, and I realized that I could not go to work like this. Deal with people all day? Try to go to my job? How was I going to do that when I was barely upright trying to brush my teeth?
And to make matters worse this wasn’t the first time I needed to call out of work because of something like this, and I’d already been talked to about missing work a couple weeks ago when I was literally sick, hung up in bed, for two days, but you know the unrealistic expectations right? So the thought of calling out this morning only made things worse. I hoped that whoever answered wasn’t my direct boss so I could just have someone relay the message that I was “Sick” and not coming in.
It was a lie. I’m not “Sick.” Not “Sick” as they think. “Sick” like I’m vomiting, although I am nauseous or “sick” like I have a fever, although I am Sweating. Not “sick” like I can’t get out of bed because it hurts too much but because I physically can’t get my body to move.
My job, which I won’t mention, is very progressive in terms of inclusiveness and acceptance but yet I don’t know if I’d ever feel comfortable enough revealing that I struggle daily with my mental health. That I have these anxiety attacks, these panic attacks, with little to no explanation. How I have been in the middle of a shift and had one for no reason, how I have come to work not completely sure I’d make it through the day. I feel guilty of course, I have a job to do, but I also know that I have to take care of me… but I feel guilty for that too.
These attacks can drain me for days. I end up well enough to work the next day, but I’m still off, so off it’s easy to say “I’m better but not completely better” when someone asks how I am. Only one or two people even know that I struggle with this at work, and that was because one time I just broke down and they were there, but in terms of who I trust at work, I got lucky.
With all the progress that we’ve made in ending the stigma, why do we still feel so far away? Why can’t I just admit what it is? Say the words I’m having a bad mental health day, or my anxiety is winning today, or I had panic attacks all night?
Because as much progress as we’ve made, many still don’t understand. Even in my own home. They don’t get it. And I’m done explaining it. So I go through it alone. I know that sometimes music helps, sometimes yoga helps, sometimes focusing on my breathing, taking deep breaths and eyes closed will do the trick, sometimes I can’t breathe and I need to go outside and get as much air as possible, sometimes I need to sit in a hot shower for as long as it takes. But at least now I have some options.
Even though I know most of my triggers, the worst parts are when there is no trigger, like last night. I was just sleeping, I didn’t have a hard day yesterday, or a busy day today that would usually make it harder to sleep. It just happened, multiple times, in the middle of the night for no real reason.
I’ve heard of writing the thoughts in a journal when a panic or anxiety attack comes on, but I usually feel frozen, or stiff, or have so many thoughts that nothing actually manifests as something real. I have extreme emotional reactions to these attacks, not always irritable, mostly tears. I just cry. For no reason, for nothing, and for the longest time I never understood why. Why am I crying? I’m not sad, or mad or anything so why am I crying? I’d get asked what’s wrong, and I’d have no answer and be brought with “well there has to be a reason” “What is wrong with you,” and I don’t have the answer, so I don’t know. And having someone not get that, or even try, only made matters worse. I cried a lot today, a hard cry, and it needed to come out.
A few hours ago I forced myself to get dressed, throw on some concealer, and go out. Of course, I had too, we were out of toilet paper, and that’s kind of important. It is a beautiful day, the rain has finally stopped for now, so I though on some pop-punk music, which is the best at helping me cope with these attacks, rolled the window down and hoped that no one tried to talk to me as I ran this simple errand.
I’m home now and thought it was a good idea to write this out. Even if it sounded rambly, getting it out should help, and I guess it has, a little. My chest still feels tight, I feel clouded and off. But I’m upright. I have the energy to type this, and I think I good enough to finish up the homework I have that is due tonight.
I know it has helped me tremendously to know that I’m not the only one in the world who feels like this. So here’s a reminder you’re not alone. Social media can be a terrifying place, but it can also be the place to find help and community. There are campaigns such as NAMI, I Don’t Mind, NIMH, any many more with resources and assistance. And I learned not to be afraid of it when my doctor told me that all the feelings I was having were in fact an anxiety disorder I started crying because finally, someone understood what I was feeling. Understanding what you’re feeling can be a giant step in learning ways to help yourself.
“I Don’t Mind” sells merchandise to help bring awareness, and as mentioned 100% of the proceeds go to mental health organizations. By wearing this merchandise, it helps bring to end the stigma and get the conversation going. Check out their website at https://idontmind.com/ or follow them on Instagram @/idontmind.