After 25 years of living I have come to the conclusion that we are all crazy and insane in our own way. The ones who are the most sane are the ones who can admit they are a little crazy and can accept it. I’m not going pretend to be an expert on all forms of mental illness and personality disorders. However, I am an expert of my own mental illness and I hope that everyone hurting and feeling confused, alone, or trapped in their own mind could understand that it’s not just you. You can and WILL overcome this.
Mental illness and addictive behaviors run on both sides of my family. That’s something I didn’t notice until my bad habits and patterns were becoming clear to me. Luckily, because I’ve been journaling since age 9, I’ve been able to pinpoint when my first depressive streak occurred. A heartbreaking reality for me is that I have 8 years of regrets. 8 long years of why did I do that? What was I thinking? I wish I could go back. But an enlightening truth is that I’ve learned how to treat this illness and begin to actually live. I’m lucky that I was exposed to education on mental health at 22, when so many people go decades having no idea. Mental illness masks who I really am. Mental wellness is freedom to be the real me.
At the age of 14 my emotions were flat for extended periods of time. I literally felt NOTHING. I remember trying to figure out why I was sad. I’d write in my journal that it was because someone broke up with me or because it felt like no one liked me. Dealing with depression became a lot easier when I stopped blaming it on an event and just accepted that sometimes I struggle with feeling grounded and connected. It feels like I’m floating by, and basic human interactions feel obsolete and not good enough. Over time, this feeling of emptiness becomes unbearable. I start to unravel and look for something to give me a rush because these mediocre day to day events are just not enough to make me feel human. I can recall 9 years of consistently making obnoxious decisions that had almost no logical explanation and it was purely to escape the feeling of emptiness. If you’ve ever looked at someone and thought, “Why is she with that guy?” or “Why did he ever start taking drugs in the first place?” Just remember that they are NOT thinking, “Hey guys, I feel like ruining my life today!” They just may be thinking, “I’m not sure how much longer I can go feeling like this.”
Watching people we care about make mindless decisions can be hard, but when you look at the whole picture, that dumb decision he/she is making may be their version of a “healthy” alternative to fighting off suicide.
Sometimes turning off thoughts would be nice. What if. What if. What if. These words can make me sick to the point of feeling dizzy. My thoughts can literally suffocate me. My mind, heart, and muscles create a battlefield. My body begins to fight itself because the danger it is feeling is coming from inside. How do you learn to fight when you are your own enemy? These feelings can make it difficult to sleep, eat, concentrate, hold a conversation, and can ultimately suffocate relationships to the point of destruction.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that was talking so fast, there was no way to keep up? And then maybe thought, “Gee, that person was a little much.” Imagine how quickly their thoughts are constantly coming and going for them to have the ability to talk that fast. They probably spend hours on end trapped in their own thoughts.
I have overwhelmed friends, boyfriends, family members, and co-workers with word vomit of complaining, wishing, worrying and honestly I just wasn’t enjoyable to be around. However, with time, I became aware of this. I imagined the words I was saying floating by. If I started giving too much information I could see how this became overwhelming for people and was not how I wanted to come across. I learned to breathe, slow down, and recognize that less is more. I developed skills to be able to fight off the rushing thoughts. Just reading this probably sounds easier said than done. Absolutely. And every scenario is different. I’m summing up at least 10 years of how I handle anxiety and my entire lifetime of continuing to endure it. Little by little it becomes more manageable.
Panic disorder is a terrifying level of anxiety. Severe episodes of impending doom that feel impossible to live through. I remember being very young crying and screaming, feeling like I just experienced the worst thing that ever happened to me. I was told the same things over and over again while growing up, “You’re so dramatic” and “It’s not even that big of a deal.” Well in the middle of my panic attack I KNEW it wasn’t a big deal, but I still felt trapped and confused as to why my body was acting like it was. My panic attacks feel like an out of body experience. My sane and rational sides are standing and watching my body curl up in a ball while I scream and cry. When it’s a level 10 I can’t see very far in front of me, I close my eyes and it feels like darkness is closing in on me, laughing at my pain. If people are around I usually hear, “What’s wrong?” about a hundred times and it just makes it worse because I don’t know what’s wrong. I’d love to stop suffocating at any minute and go back to what I was doing. But instead I’m screaming and wondering if I’m going to live through this. My sense of touch, sight, taste, and smell all quit working, but I can still hear. I eventually came up with a script for someone else to read to me over and over until the panic attacks subside.
Safety Measures for a Panic Attack.
- Do not be alone. As soon as I feel one coming on I make sure someone I trust is close by to help.
- Keep kids away. It can be a scary sight and kids can definitely go into a panic attack as well by watching a parent go through one.
- Do not try to force your body to calm down. This has only ever made things worse for me. I will panic about panicking and how I’m supposed to be somewhere or be getting something done. Well, you’re busy surviving right now. It can wait.
- It WILL end. It honestly feels as terrible as child birth but it will come to an end.
- Recovery is exhausting. A nap or sleeping in is completely necessary.
It wasn’t until life got real. Marriage got real. Being abandoned got real. People got downright mean. My panic attacks became consistently worse and more frequent. My psychiatrist, who was very well known in the area and all over the world, said I had one of the worst cases he’d ever seen. At least two level 10 panic attacks per day. These panic attacks became so unbearable that I attempted suicide. TWICE. Because I would have rather been dead than live through another one. But guess what? I’m alive. I’ve been seeing the same psychiatrist for the last 4 years and I only have a panic attack maybe once a month! I remember at my first meeting with him he asked me if I thought I’d live to see 25 and I said, “Absolutely not, I plan to be dead before then.” Now I walk into my appointments with a smile, happy to see him. He asks how things are going for me and I say, “Really good. I’m so happy and grateful for all that I have and all that I am working towards.”
SO WHY AM I WRITING THIS? And why are you reading it?
- Accept the need for medication. In many cases, it’s completely necessary. Over the years I have needed smaller and smaller doses, but I still definitely need my medicine. Ask my husband what happens when I think I don’t need it anymore 😉
- To save a life. I didn’t write this for a pity party. I didn’t write this for recognition of a “job well done.” I wrote this for the people who’ve felt like I used to. I wrote this to save a life. To let you know that your pain won’t last forever. Keep looking for the good and remember that there is good in you. We all need you and everyone has something they can offer to the world.
- Love others. I also wrote this for the blessed, mentally healthy people out there. You truly are incredibly lucky. So do us mentally ill people a favor– Welcome us with open arms, without judgement, and full of love, because you have it so easy that loving others is not much to ask.
❤ There is no limit to how meaningful your life can be ❤