I've personally struggled with anxiety for most of my adult life.
I've also suffered from bouts of depression.
I first noticed it during my senior year of college. I was anxious about everything from my classes, the retail job I hated, my apparent inability to maintain healthy relationships, and anything else you could think of. While all of that was racking my brain, just the thought of taking the next steps into adulthood would leave me clutching my knees in defeat on my apartment floor. I never really talked about it with anyone back then. I just concluded I was a sorry excuse for an adult and I dropped out during the second trimester of my senior year thinking this would alleviate some of my mental anguish.
I was wrong. It only added to list I had created about how I was failing at life and my anxiety was at an all-time high. I say all this to say that you never truly know the severity of what people are going through, especially as it relates to mental health. Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues, be it short-lived or a lasting condition, has probably had someone express doubt or indifference to their condition. Below are just a few of the unfair generalizations people with mental health issues experience.
"You're Being Dramatic"
I had a friend in high school who used to have anxiety attacks. I always thought she was a little on the dramatic side, so I figured this was just a part of the package. I'd eventually realize how judgmental I was being. Fast forward to my 20's, life was happening, and not how I planned. Eventually, my circumstances overwhelmed me and I had my first anxiety attack.
It started out as a normal day. I was standing at the sink washing dishes, quietly fighting with my ruminating thoughts. From time to time, I'd glance at my two little ones playing in the hall. They had such a pure, happy and worry-free existence. I felt unworthy to be in their presence. "I'm such a sh**ty mom," I said to myself. In an effort to calm myself, I attempted to take a deep breath.
I tried to take another breath. Nothing. It was like I had a cap on how much oxygen my lungs could take in. I started getting dizzy. I rushed past my toddlers, oblivious to my condition, grabbing at my legs for hugs. I clambered to sit down on my living room couch. Tears began to stream as I hurried to call my mom. In a defeated breath, I struggled to explain what was happening. My parents quickly arrived and my dad whisked me to the ER while my mom stayed home with my little ones.
It was terrifying. I felt like I couldn't breathe, and every time I fought to take a breath, I felt like I was draining what little energy I had left. I was super lightheaded and I just felt (as dramatic as it sounds) this sense of doom. After a trip to the ER, I was given a clean slate of physical health. After another visit to the same ER for the same symptoms, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was told to follow up with my regular doctor and a therapist/counselor.
Although I didn't do it right away, I noticed the benefits of talking to someone immediately.
"Pray It Away"
I can't remember the last time I set foot in a church, but my relationship with God has done nothing less than thrive. I won't say it has been a perfect road but it has made me seek my own relationship with God on my terms. I understand wanting to congregate with like-minded souls. That's beautiful. But the hypocrisy and judgemental air that exists in a lot of congregations makes me less than enthused to wake up early Sunday morning, drape myself in my Sunday's best and head on to church. I realized I could find solace in singing my favorite spiritual songs, reading from my devotionals and having a one-on-one time with God.
This has made me view myself as more spiritual than religious. I will say I am a believer in the power of pray. I understand that a talk with God can do wonders. But I also believe that some people want another human being to talk to. Someone that walks this earth and sees and experiences the surroundings like they do. I believe that God places people in our lives for a reason.
Some people are blessed with an exceptional ability to understand, sympathize, and help us find solutions to our mental, emotional, and physical struggles.
I've been in a place before where the thoughts are so loud that you need to see, hear and feel someone physically. Whether it be a hug while you cry. An empathetic ear to listen to your troubles. A human gaze to see your pain. Rather than saying, "God will fix it, they'll be fine," ask God how you can help someone. Take the time to let someone know you are there should they need you.
"It Will Pass"
True. To an extent.
An event or moment will pass because technically you can't live in a moment forever. Moments end. Some of those endings feel like a defeat. Some of those endings are traumatizing. Some of those endings bring about lingering negative side effects that need to be addressed and worked out. This takes time.
While some people can do this without assistance, others may need to seek help. There is absolutely no shame in that.
I expressed all that to say this: don't judge. You never know what someone is dealing with. You never know what someone has been through. Brave faces can hide a tortured mind. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please take the time to talk to someone. Whether it be a trusted close friend, family member, a doctor, therapist, or counselor. Show up for yourself and your mental well-being.
Your life is too precious.
If you are someone you know is suicidal please reach out to someone you trust or The National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They also have a chat-room you can use to speak with someone.
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