Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day – share your story or just tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk and they will donate an additional 5¢ to mental health initiatives in Canada. Break the stigma, let’s talk about Mental Health. I had no real desire to share this blog post I wrote 4 months ago until today. The fear of sharing it was holding me back.. and I’m trying to overcome my fears, so I hope you’ll allow me to share my battles with you and know that you are not alone.
I’m not overly vocal about my anxiety outside of my “inner” circle, it’s always just been something I’ve dealt with. It’s crushing sometimes, to the point of feeling like the world is crashing in on me from the outside. I’m a hider, I will hide in my little hole until the crushing feeling goes away most of the time – but it’s hard to do that as a blogger. I didn’t take into account when I started this blog that I would actually need to talk to people outside of my computer screen and some days – this terrifies me.
When I tell people I struggle with anxiety, more often then not I get the “well doesn’t every parent?” and a off handed laugh. No, not everyone does. Yes, most parents worry – that’s a natural maternal and parental instinct. It’s people with anxiety that won’t sleep for 3 days because they can’t stop worrying. It’s people with anxiety that will analyze every situation to find a reason to worry. It’s living in a constant state of awareness, fear, and panic.
I struggle with generalized & social anxiety which cause some challenging panic attacks – which is funny because most people think I can be such a social butterfly. Fact is, I’m just super good at hiding how petrified I am in that moment talking with someone. I’m good at hiding the cues that I want to RUN, like really fast, far away. Fact is, the situations are very hard for me and I dread them. Not because of the company, not because of the event – in fact I love both of those things – it’s the unknown and the fear that overshadows it all. My anxiety controls the situation more times then I would like it too, and often robs me of the experiences I really do want to enjoy! Often times it can take me hours to “psych” myself up enough to get out of the house to go to an event or place with a lot of people I may not know, other times I bring a buddy and some unfortunate times – I just don’t make it.
With those I know, and have build a relationship with I’m not so bad but when it comes to meeting new people there’s a few “off” things people notice about me;
- I don’t do eye contact. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. I will look everywhere but at someone’s eyes. So if it feels like I’m staring at your nose – chances are I am.
- I like being touched even less, hand shakes are short and clammy. Hugs? Out of the question. I don’t like hugs. If I feel like I’m shrinking into a ball, chances are I am. Even my closest friends know I don’t do hugs and they respect this after having witnessed the paralyzing fear.
- I’m also not super great at selling myself. When I’m put on the spot about why I do what I do, it’s hard for me to focus outside of the fear of judgement enough to give a confident answer.
- I ramble, a lot. Mostly because my brain is trying to analyze the situation and I can’t keep up with it, and the conversation.
- I may physically be shrinking away, standing in the farthest corner of a room or shaking. That’s my fight or flight mechanism, and it shows up whenever it wants to.
- To round this all up, essentially I come across as either awesomely socially awkward, or exceptionally snobby (I promise I’m not, just give me time!).
I sound like a bucket of fun don’t I? I’m not alone though. There’s millions of people who suffer with anxiety in one form or another. A lot of times, people don’t talk about it either. There is such a stigma surrounding mental health and how something is “wrong” with you if you don’t fit into a perfect circle. There’s nothing “wrong” with me, this is me. My past and daily experiences make me who I am. My anxiety however, does not define me.
The fact is – some days are better than others for me. I can seem like a social butterfly one day, and the next I feel like a scared kitten.
So how do I cope on the bad days?
First and foremost, having a support system is invaluable. Find someone you can talk to about your fears and concerns. A close friend who can talk you down during a panic attack, someone who can just be on the other end of a phone call or text message when you need them at any time. I have also found it incredibly helpful on the good days to make a list of things I have going for me. While they may seem small today – tomorrow they may be exactly what I need to hear.
Schedule time to be with yourself (self-care), find something that you absolutely love doing and do it. Escape from the craziness of everyday life for long enough to focus on something that makes you happy. Do you love to hike, or be outdoors? Do you love to write? Scribble down a story. Do you love to colour? I hear they make amazing adult colouring books. Do you love to sit under a tree and stare a rock? By all means – whatever makes you happy. Do this often, don’t wait until things are bad. YOU are worth the time to self-care.
Next, erase the negative. Whatever is holding you back and gripping you with fear – let it go. Are you holding onto a pair of skinny jeans from high school and comparing yourself to them everyday? Throw them away! Do you stare longingly at a started – yet not finished – project at home that you’ve lost interest in? Either put it out of sight until you feel well enough to give it another try, or get rid of it. The feeling of failure is an easy one to slip into, and an even harder one to get out of.
Try to avoid the “what-ifs” – this is my biggest pit fall, A what-if situation that snowballs into a catastrophic event. I am especially triggered by natural disasters and the fear of being unable to care for my family. To avoid this, I generally avoid the news or allowing myself to research anything that may be a trigger. This was pretty hard for me when Vancouver was struck by an Earthquake a couple of weeks ago, hard to ignore the “what-if” what your bed is rolling. I’m working on it though.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – seek professional help if you feel that you cannot manage your symptoms and triggers. There is absolutely no shame in taking medication to help you get through the rough patches, or even long term. Do what is best for you.
Lastly, realize that every single day is a new day, and you have the power to change it’s outcome. I won’t lie. Some days are terrible for me and I don’t end up leaving my bubble. Some days will absolutely crush every ounce of motivation I could have possibly had. I stare longingly at laundry that needs to be folded, work that needs to be done, and a kiddo who needs mom, and I hide. It’s okay though, because each day is a new day and I know that tomorrow I can try again. One step at a time.
If you’re struggling with any mental health battles and need to talk, please reach out. Either to a professional, a family member, or friend. You are not alone, and you are so loved.