With mental health there is no one size fits all in my experience. When I am brave enough to admit to people “I suffer with anxiety” people are shocked. It’s usually accompanied with “you? But you’re so outgoing, happy”.I function pretty well most of the time. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider myself someone who “struggles” with anxiety. Except when I do. And when I do…well, those moments truly are the worst thing ever.
I think mental health issues are harder to deal with in this day and age. Yes there is so much less stigma attached to it, more resources available to help and give you the coping tools. What I mean is social media has so much to blame. You are bombarded on a daily basis of other people’s perfect life. I know it’s only a snapshot of others but when you’re feeling anxious it’s hard not to compare. I only post the best bits of my life.
In reality nothing posted on social media is as it seems, unless people out there really do have the perfect life. People say to me “you always look so happy in your photos you post” smiley pics are so much more popular than miserable ones. When I’ve been having a panic attack or feel like I can’t cope with life, I’m not feeling very photogenic and definitely couldn’t muster the word cheese.
There is never a specific trigger when feeling anxious or having a panic attack, just a bunch of little triggers that all add up. To what? To an anxiety attack. A big, huge, heart pounding, sweat inducing panic attack. I wish there were triggers I could recognise I really do.
Here’s what people who have never suffered from anxiety or depression don’t understand ― one minute you can be totally fine and the next, you aren’t.
You feel like you fail at life and that everyone else in the room thinks the same. None of your life’s accomplishments matter, you feel like a fraud and you feel like a failure.
“What does a panic attack feel like?” people often ask.
Bluntly, it feels like hell.
More specifically, your mind starts spinning. It can’t slow down.
You start to second guess every single decision, word, hand gesture – assuming everyone is judging you for choosing the wrong one.
You start to breath differently. Short, fast, then slowed down because that’s what you are supposed to do and you can’t really so you start to hyperventilate as you try and regulate. Praying it stops.
You think that you are failing everyone around you.
You are making them all unhappy.
You are making a fool of yourself.
You are an embarrassment.
And in my mind, while I know that none of that was, in fact, true, it didn’t matter. The anxiety mattered. When suffering from an anxiety attack can be one of the most isolating and debilitating experiences ever.
That’s why it’s never a good idea to tell someone with anxiety to “relax.” It trivializes the issue. You wouldn’t for example tell someone to walk on a broken leg.
How do I cope? CBT counselling helps along with the support of family and friends. When you’re in the eye of the anxiety storm, almost all coping mechanisms go out the window. What I have learnt is things are never as bad as you think they are.
I’m trying to do more of less. Spend more time doing fewer things and less time racing from one thing to another. Very much work in progress. Getting a dog is definitely going to help.