It’s been a while since I sat and wrote a blog post. I miss writing something for you guys that is inspirational, fun, or informative, but when you don’t feel that way it is hard to write about it. I must tell you that after the drudgery of the last year, it would seem like everything came crashing down around me. I literally wanted to find the nearest hole and crawl into it, only to come out when someone yelled into it that everything was right with the world again. As a wife and mother, no one never really asks how are you doing and coping in times of great stress, and you often compartmentalize the things you shouldn’t as a defense mechanism. That only makes the eventual break greater and more intense. Let me tell you, as someone with anxiety and a history of depression, I should know better. Just because you know better doesn’t always mean that you do better. You have a tendency to think that you can handle the things that no one else can because you have the superpowers imbued on you as a woman. Well the tether that held this woman together for the last year snapped and snapped so hard I had the mother of all panic attacks and had to talk myself out of dying. I actually felt like I was dying. I was in the shower and started to feel overwhelmed, overheated, and found myself thinking about too much. I was thinking about everything from the present to the past, and started to hyperventilate and feel faint. I found myself out of the shower, gripping the linen closet and willing myself to breathe. Talking myself into staying with myself. What do I mean? I felt as though I was leaving my body in some weird way, I was being pulled down and looking at myself from the outside. I was thinking, is this that way I’m going to go – wrapped in a bath sheet, on the floor of the bathroom, because she couldn’t pull herself together?
I’m not looking for sympathy, but to share with you that you have to take care of yourself. Your mental health is as important as seeing your family practitioner, getting your eyes checked, having a mammogram or a prostate exam. For example, if you had continuous chest pains – would you ignore it or would you see a doctor to find out what was wrong? The same goes for your emotional and mental well-being. If they suffer long enough, there will eventually be a break. I thought that I was doing the best that I could. Taking time away to do things that I love, like reading and finding a group of amazing people to share that with, but it wasn’t enough. I still had time alone with my feelings to dwell on what I needed to do, what hadn’t been done, problems, how to solve them, the lingering issues in my life, etc. When we hold onto things, they take root, grow, and fester like a gangrenous wound until the pain is unbearable and the infection has spread.
My suggestion to you is to seek help. Constant and supportive help that you can rely on. Talking to a friend is nice, but a medical professional is the best way to go. A friend can’t always help you through it unless they have a personal connection with what you are going through themselves. Sometimes, even those closest to you can be the most judgmental as well. Having an impartial person hearing your problems and helping you come up with solutions may be the best thing for you in the long run. Seeking out mental health professionals is not a sign of weakness, but it is literally for your peace of mind.
You need to find things that make you happy. Not what makes your partner or your children happy and do those things. Take some time out for you and do those things. Taking care of one’s self is not selfish, but it is an act of making sure that you are mentally and physically able to care of the one’s who need you the most. Everyone knows that saying about pouring from an empty cup. I will tell you, my cup was like a fake golden chalice, and it had become so empty and dry that the fool’s gold it was made out of had begun to flake and deteriorate right before my eyes. My relationships that meant the most to me began to suffer as a result. I thought I could walk around with this hardened shell as if nothing was wrong. I had this, “just grin and bare it” attitude. I even thought about going back to those old coping mechanism I used to employ, drinking way too much, digging holes I knew I wouldn’t be able to climb out of, and wanting to just disappear, but that was what I used to do. So instead of making an appointment, I made the worse decision I could have made and pretended to be alright. The worse we can do for ourselves is to pretend we are fine, that nothing is wrong. That’s when all that we leave pent up inside of us snaps that tether, that imaginary string that holds us together. I implore you, do not let your tether snap. It is a scary and most terrifying ordeal that will leave you feeling scared and even more anxious. After my episode, I was scared to go into my bathroom, I had to force myself into the shower, I actually had to do controlled breathing every time I stepped into the bathroom for the next 36 hours I would step in there for fear it would happen again. Traumatic wouldn’t you say? Here are some things that were recommended to me to help cope better when things get stressful.
Things that you can do to help your mood and lessen your stress:
- Do not claim your panic attacks. Claiming them makes them a part of your identity. Yes, I have had a panic attack, I have panic attacks because of anxiety, but it does not define me. It isn’t who I am. Allowing your mind to believe this is me, this is who I am allows it to become a part of you. I am not my disease, I am not my illness, I am not this weakness…this is what you tell yourself to overcome it.
- Relax. Let the tensions and the worries of the day go. They will be there tomorrow, so it is perfectly fine to let them go for just a night to get a peaceful sleep. I know that it easier said than done…believe me I know. I will take a hot shower, find some calming essential oil, and get lost in a book until I fall asleep. I’ve done that a couple of nights this week and it helped – if only for 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
- Meditation. I know that may not be for everyone, but meditation can be you sitting in your favorite spot and clearing your mind, and listening to 20 minutes of your favorite music. Meditation can look different for different people. I lay flat in my bed, with my earbuds on, controlled breathing, listening to spa jazz because it is relaxing.
- Fresh air and sunshine. Being outside aids in the regulation of cortisol, that hormone that makes you extra jittery and worry so much. You also get your dose of vitamin D and help improve your central nervous system and brain function. This is essential to the brain and how we process stress and how well we are able to maintain our mental health in the long run. So get outside and get some sunshine!
- Let it out! Stop holding things in. Suppression equals depression. We hold things in sometimes for the betterment of others, but the detriment of ourselves. I had a cup of tea the other night and it said, “In the beginning is you in the middle is you and in the end is you.” Everything circles back to you. It is not an act of being selfish, but self preservation. You can’t lose you for fear that you may hurt someone else, are they willing to do that for you? No one should have to choose losing themselves for someone is the answer.
What I am telling you today, after my time away is take care of yourselves. Everyone of you is special and I know that there is someone out there that cares for you and for your mental health as much as you do. Take the steps, heed the warnings, put in the work, talk, let it out, seek the proper help when necessary. When the string snaps, you may not be able to hold on like I made myself do, you may not be as determined, you may be ready to give up. I knew that I wasn’t ready to give up and I don’t want you to give up either. 💋💋 J