Mental Health Awareness Month
This is a bit different from anything I've written and probably will write in the future but I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should write about this for weeks. So, here we are and I'm going to admit, I've never really talked to anyone about this but I think it is so SO important that nobody ever feels alone in this like I did. It's Mental Health Awareness Month and I think it's important that people feel like they can share their stories so this is a little bit of my journey with mental health.
I have had anxiety and panic attacks since I was a teenager up until now, which loosely translated means I've been dealing with this for most of my adult life. I remember the first time I had a real panic attack. It was in the midst of my dad's cancer and I was in the car with my mom. We were in a fight and while I can't remember exactly what we were fighting about, I do remember sitting in the car with her feeling like I couldn't breathe. I had that feeling you get when your foot falls asleep but on every inch of my body. I was scared and even though my mom was in the car right next to me, I felt alone. It's a scary thing, having a panic attack. Imagine having your first one with the one person who is supposed to help you through it and make you feel better except all they're doing is yelling at you to stop and that you are fine. It doesn't help and it didn't exactly lay the foundation of dealing with these attacks the way I should have. Instead, I kept it all to myself.
It is exhausting, feeling like you have to live your life according to your anxiety. When you feel so isolated and alone, there isn't much you're thinking but to let it win. I pushed people away, I actually isolated myself from people who meant so much to me because I couldn't stand the idea of possibly having an attack in front of everyone.
I didn't have the confidence to talk about this back then. I wasn't strong enough and I had let it completely take over my life. There are days still when I am completely under it. I've skipped out on dinners with my boyfriend's family, going out with friends, even interviews, not because I didn't want to go, but because I felt so anxious I could hardly talk to anyone. The hardest part is feeling like you're alone. Feeling like if you do have a panic attack, everyone is just going to tell you to suck it up or you're being dramatic, embarrassing, or making yourself feel that way.
There is such a stigma against mental health and for what reason? Not talking about it enough and treating it like it's a choice is why so many people feel like they're alone in this. I'm not writing this thinking it's going to change the world. I am writing this to make me feel better. I wish I had talked to someone back then. Honestly, I wish I had talked to someone last year. Some days are harder than others. We all have mountains to climb and rivers to cross but we never have to do it alone. I have the most amazing support system. I can never express how grateful I am for the people in my life. But they can only do so much. The thing about mental health is you are the only one with the power to take control over it instead of letting it control you.
Take care of yourself. It's not enough to care for your hair and nails and clothes. The most important part of you is your mind and I think it's easy for everyone, myself included, to forget that. Don't be ashamed to talk about it. Don't feel like asking for help is the worst thing you could do because actually talking about it, acknowledging it - it goes a long way and it's never too late. I am proud of how far I've come and I'm proud of how far the world has come with this, but it still has a long way to go. I am here for you. I still struggle and it's a day to day thing for me but I am here and you are not alone.