Updated: Feb 9
If you've never experienced any of the above, consider yourself very blessed! I honestly believe the norm has at least experienced one. If we are alive and breathing, it's hard to imagine that someone never experienced at least one of these in their lifetime.
More than half of the people with mental illness don't receive help for their disorders. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently. That's because stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness is still very much a problem. Stigma often comes from lack of understanding or fear.
Those who lack the knowledge, understanding and compassion of it should not be so verbal about mental illness. Do we judge someone who needs insulin because that person is diabetic? Do we discriminate someone going through chemo for having cancer? Diagnosis's that can be seen visibly on a scan or through blood work is acceptable but something you can't see isn't a real illness? How is there still stigma in 2022?! Mental Illness has been around for a long time and it's only now that people are coming out talking about it. Given the way the mentally ill were treated back then, I can understand why it was kept a secret. It was inhumane!
Being open about any type of mental illness, is uncomfortable. To this day, I still don't really talk about it in depth. I still feel embarrassed and ashamed. Lucky for me though, I blessed to have a support system in my siblings. They are the only ones I can really talk to about this.
I was always an anxious person starting at a very young age. For me, it's hereditary and also from my upbringing. When I was 16 years old, I experienced my first panic attack. I had no idea what it was or that it even had a name. All I knew at that time, was that something was happening to me. It just came out of no where and very sudden. I still remember running out of my room to find my mom but, I stopped myself. I had no idea what the heck was wrong with me so how would I even begin to explain it to my mom. So I suffered in silence and prayed that it wouldn't happen again. Wishful thinking.
My next panic attack occurred when I was 20 and residing in a college dorm. I clearly remembered that awful feeling(even though it was years later) and I started to think I was going to die. My roommate was asleep so I sat there looking out my 3rd floor window in a full blown panic attack. I started having intrusive thoughts, so I backed away from the
window until it FINALLY passed. Those 5-10 minutes of hell feel like an eternity. During this time I still had no knowledge about what this was.
By the time I was 21 years old that is when my panic attacks were happening more frequently. It spiraled out of control around the time my grandfather passed away. One night as I was staying over my sisters house, I had another attack. She walked with me outside and began telling me what this "thing" was. This was when I finally learned that I wasn't losing my mind or dying. I also learned that most of the women in my family had experienced panic attacks. I would like to say I felt relieved but at that point I didn't feel like myself at all. I just wanted it to stop! I was having panic attack after panic attack. I was experiencing sweating, rapid heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, heavy breathing, flushing and chills, and a sense of doom. These alarming symptoms can mimic a heart attack. I couldn't sleep, I wasn't able to eat because I felt like my throat was closing. This caused me to lose a lot of weight. I was afraid to drive, attend class, go to work and be around people. I wanted to avoid any place where I had an attack and places I was afraid to have an attack. This fear was controlling my life. Often times this can lead to agoraphobia if you let it go long enough. All this avoidance also brought on depression. My boyfriend at the time was young and immature so he didn't know how to be supportive, let alone understanding. Unfortunately not many of them since him were supportive. I had one tell me to stick my head out the window while I was having a panic attack in his car. Another one said to me, he wonders if I'm being who I "truly am" with the meds. These are just some examples of why I was to embarrassed to tell anyone, other than my siblings.
Once I was put on medication, it took about a week for it to start working. I wasn't on this brand for very long because it made me very groggy. All I wanted to do was sleep. My doctor changed my meds due to the side effects. Finally I was starting to get back to my old self again. What a relief! Around a year or less, I took it upon myself to stop the medication without consulting my doctor first(very bad mistake). In my young and naïve mindset, I thought I was back to myself and no longer needed to be medicated. Well, lets just say seven months later I was suffering badly once again(lesson learned). My doctor put me back on the same meds but this time my insurance only covered the generic kind. That did not help me whatsoever! I went from bad to worse. Once again my meds were changed, which is the same brand I've been taking ever since and I am not ashamed to admit it! Everyone has their own take on medication and I say to each their own.
My panic attacks now are far and in between(thank goodness). When they do arise it still freaks me out. Not a feeling you can ever get use to. When my panic does pop up, it happens more often when I'm sleeping. Nocturnal panic attacks, which is the clinical term, usually last only a few minutes, but it takes a while for me to calm down and go back to sleep. Nighttime (nocturnal) panic attacks can occur with no obvious trigger and awaken you from sleep. That’s the scary thing about panic attacks whether it happens in the daytime or nighttime, it can just happen for no reason whatsoever.
Since 2018 my depression started to get worse. I was in denial of it to be honest. The signs were all there I just didn't want to admit it to myself. I stopped dating, I cut off contact with friends, I never had the motivation to go anywhere or do anything. I put on a lot of weight, which I used as my comfort zone. I didn't like the way I looked or how I felt. I used my weight as a reason and an excuse to not be social. I convinced myself into thinking that I was protecting myself from getting hurt. Meanwhile I was the one inflicting pain on myself. For several years, this went on. Finally, I had enough. I went to my annual physical and at that point I was completely and utterly beside myself. I've been avoiding scales so to see my weight up close and personal, well that was my wake up call! Enough was enough! I did a full 180 and since then, I haven't looked back. The person I am today, is the person I am proud of. There is help out there for everyone battling something, but it's up to us to actually ask for help. Always remember there is nothing in life that is ever permanent. That light is there at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel is. ❤❤❤