Hello everyone! I hope you all are having a lovely and beautiful morning. In honor of Anxiety and Depression Awareness week, I decided to participate in a mental illness tag that was suggested by Beccadoeslifethings. I have been struggling with anxiety and depression for about two years now, and although my depression is much more manageable, the anxiety of life is still a constant struggle.
My anxiety is based around my time inside of the Marine Corps, as well as, the lasting result of having a mother who is an alcoholic during my childhood. I suffer panic attacks semi-weekly, and I have a beautiful girlfriend who endures the worst of it with me. She is a blessing straight from god in my eyes! Anxiety often gets a bad rap as “over worrying” or often gets the response of “dude chill!” Well, as much as I respect someone else’s input, unless you have been in my shoes, you should kindly shut the F*** up! As my life exists now, I have taken myself off medicine, and use cognitive therapy and controlled exposure therapy to combat my anxiety so that one day I can fight the root of my anxiety, and coping will barely be necessary. My girlfriend will go out for fun with her friends, and the panic attacks will begin to flood. She stays strong for me, and every single day I struggle to stay strong for her! Anxiety affects not only the victim, but also the support system that surrounds the victim. Today I’d like to shed some personal insight on my encounter with mental illness.
1) What mental illness do you have? I have a history of panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GED), and clinical depression. One may think that I just have shitty luck when it comes to mental illness, but its actually all just interconnected! Lucky us right?
2) When were you diagnosed? I was diagnosed shortly after being discharged from the Marine Corps because of my chronic panic attacks. I began losing sleep, feared leaving my house, and lost all value of my life. It wasn’t until I was playing a guitar, having the string break, and begin crying for hours as a result, that I realized I needed professional assistance.
3) Who knows about it? Most people know that I suffer mental illness. I have become proud of the challenges I overcome and I use it as a tool to relate with others who experience mental illness. Just the other day, my friend, who also suffers from anxiety and depression said, “Only an irrational mind can understand another irrational mind.” I can honestly say that my fellow mental illness warriors and my girlfriend know to what extent that I fight every day.
4) Do you receive treatment for it? As I mentioned before, I am still in participation of weekly cognitive therapy, and I’m eager to begin my desensitizing therapy. Desensitizing therapy means to expose myself to my fear, going out with my significant other, in order to observe that the situation is much more rational than my brain lets on! I have taken antidepressants before, and I personally chose to get off of them to focus on the development of my problems off of pure willpower after I no longer wanted to feel the side effects of my medication. (I am not suggestion that medication is unnecessary, and I feel that it is a useful tool depending on the individual!)
5) Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything? My mental illness makes life a real pain in the ass, but I always make it a point to try and get out to do different things. It has stopped me from going out with my friends and loved ones in a “party” environment. That’s going to change soon enough though! My depression tends to make me extremely irritable, and this makes it harder for me to maintain consistent friendships. I therefor don’t always feel like I should partake in activities with my friends because I will feel guilty of my attitude.
6) Is there anything in particular that has helped you? You ready for an answer that you’d never expect to hear from a guy? Cuddling! When someone gives me a hug, or embraces me, I truly feel that I can open up my soul to them. The support system I have is by far the most important tool to combat mental illness. Friends, family, and loved ones who take the time to sit, take the time to listen, and take the time to reflect on what I’ve stressed can really learn how to help control my irrational thoughts. Furthermore, writing has provided me and outlet to connect with others just like me, and reassure me that I’m not alone. Finally, my therapist last week just gave me a coloring book….needless to say, it’s great to feel like a kid instead of feeling on edge!
7) Can you describe what it feels like to have a mental illness? For depression, imaging having a dark figure wrapping around you. This is death. He, yes it’s a he, is so loving and wants you to accept him. He wares you down like an eraser on a piece of paper, filling your head with words like hopeless, sadness, darkness. He wants you to believe that he’s your only friend and after a while, I started to believe him. I almost did. The pressure was bone crushing, and it seemed like years since I ever saw something worth smiling at. A light begins to burn him, this is love. Love of my father, love of my girlfriend, love of myself. I have so much love, but I know death is just waiting for his opportunity to cling back on to me.
Anxiety I feel is like a horror movie. Remember the scene where the hopeless victim is getting chased by a masked murderer, and your heart is pounding with fear and unrest? Imaging that ALL THE F****** TIME! It makes my stomach sick, it hurts my chest and my lungs during every breath. Now the panic attacks? I don’t know how else to describe it, besides that every thought, every smell, every image, everything I hear, is terrifying to the point where I am certain that I will die. I feel like I’m having a heart attack and my worst nightmares have resurfaced. In my head I constantly scream, “I want to die. I want to die. I want to die. I’m in so much pain. Why do I deserve this?” Every single fear, suppressed memory, and intangible idea is now a reality.
8) What is a common misconception about mental illness? One misconception is that I can just turn my anxiety and depression on and off like a bathroom light switch. News flash society, that not how it works! People associate words like depression and anxiety with dulled meaning like “worry” or “sadness.” During finals week especially, students around campus say how they are having a panic attack over their exam. Nope, no you are not. It’s also assumed that after a while of treatment, we should be able to get over our “issue.” It takes some people years and year to simply cope with their illness, and even after, the fear and anxiety of the illness making a comeback still loomed in the dark distance. Wouldn’t it be great if depression could be cured with night time flu medication?
9) What do you find most difficult to deal with? I find it most difficult to try and open up to loved ones so they can understand how I am feeling. Communication and patience is what I’ve learned is needed in a relationship, either intimate or friendly, to open up conversation about the issues of mental illness. Time after time I try to tell my girlfriend whats bothering me, but how do you explain something you don’t even understand yourself? How can I explain that I was afraid NOW for going out last night? It takes a special type of person to decode my irrational thoughts. It’s so difficult to not just close up emotionally because you feel that others shouldn’t need to “deal” with your “problems.” I learned very quickly this semester that a special bond, and covenant of trust, is created when you can spill your thoughts and feeling without being worried or judged about how they are being perceived. Both you and your significant other can feel this bond. The feeling is unlike no other.
For those who care for someone with anxiety or panic attacks ill say this: if they are open to it, hold them. Hold them as tight as possible like you will never let them go. Make them feel like nothing can hurt them. Give them time to open up once they are safe, and instead of telling them what is “rational” or “irrational” help them come up with a solution or compromise to create an answer, and put them at ease, regardless of how irrational their fear might be.
10) Do you have anything else you’d like to say? To those of you suffering with mental illness: It’s okay! I think that we were put on this earth because we are just a hell of a lot tougher than everyone else! Never be ashamed or afraid to speak up about your illness because it doesn’t control you, you control it. You have such a vast community to open up to, and every single person in your shoes will not hesitate to shower you with love and support. To family, friends, and loved ones who know someone with mental illness. You very well might be their rock. You are their space to feel loved, accepted, and anxiety free. This is the greatest honor you could ever have because in the grasp of everything, you are the 1% of people who are able to achieve this. Listen to them and be patient, because the deeper you get into their thoughts, the more likely you will be to love them for who they are. You have met the strongest person you will ever meet.
I hope you all enjoyed my post! Mental illness can vary on a huge spectrum, so I suggest you all share your stories so that we can work together to end the stigma on mental illness! I’d like to hear every single one of your stories, so please let me know. Even if you don’t suffer from mental illness, it is always helpful to hear from those that get to view mental illness through a separate perspective!