Therapy? Counselling? Wine with a good friend?
All reasonable ideas if one is struggling with their thoughts. I, like many friends and family, have always struggled with the idea of needing to seek help. Yes, yes… commence the eye roll. Nothing new here! I am not going to sit at this table and type a repeated rhetoric about how brains are misunderstood or join in the mental-health-stigma-assassination parade. While they are valid causes, I have never felt particularly close to them. Until recently, I never really gave mental health a second thought.
My late father suffered from depression and post traumatic stress disorder, while my mother continues to suffer from depression. Mental health issues were never a taboo topic in our household, in fact “happy pills” regularly graced our weekly shopping list. No, much the opposite. I think because my parents had such an open channel of communication with my brothers and I regarding their sanity (or lack therof), we were conditioned to relate our own health – mental, and physical- by their standards. As such, our ‘conditions’ paled in comparison to theirs, and thus, were insignificant.
Of course, now I know this to be a foolish line of thinking. But I still haven’t picked up the phone to the free helpline my work provides me with.
I go through a few stages of thought:
1) I do not require the service nearly as much as people like my father/mother/friends/etc, for they are truly suffering and are unable to cope in their day-to-day
2) Just because I have one bad day, doesn’t mean I am in need of help.
3) Everyone experiences moments of helplessness, I am not different nor deserving of special care.
4) What would my family, colleagues, and friends say? I have never shown any need for help beyond my own capabilities, and certainly they have all experienced similar situations and gotten through – why should I be any different?
5) A person should have a valid reason to suffer depressive or anxious episodes. Without one, I am just being a bit pathetic and ought to get over it.
I like to think that I am pretty good at compartmentalising my private emotions from my work life. Yes, I get grumpy if I’m having a bad day, but I used to pride myself on my ability to stay focused on work and not allow bubbling feelings to take over.
That is till a couple months ago. I knew something was off from the moment I woke up, I considered calling in sick but felt as though I couldn’t. So instead, I went into work and before I even sat down with my first customer, my heart started to pound, my breath caught in silent hiccups in my through, as tears threatened to weep from my eyes at any moment. The overwhelming feeling of panic began to take hold and having only experienced very violent, inability to breathe sort’ve attacks previously, I was desperate to escape.
I took off at a run, through a crowded hall, to find a manager – upon finding one, the only words I could utter were “I need to go home”. The depth of my embarrassment, even now, has no bounds. My excuse seemed flimsy at best and yet, if it had been a friend, I know precisely what I would say.
You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You work hard, you support everyone and you try your hardest but sometimes, even you need a break – take a mental health day! Every single one of your colleagues and friends have been here before, you are not alone.
I pretty much ran home from work that day. My dear husband ran me a bath (which I typically hate and avoid) and I locked myself in the bathroom for over an hour. I sank myself deep into the water, willing my heart to stop racing. I played classical music, focusing on cadence and rhythm alone, meditating on my breathing and the gentle whir of the pipes on the wall. Even after an hour and a half, water slowly chilling, eyes puffy from their contribution to my epsom salt bath, I felt on edge.
I am relatively new to the concept of anxiety and panic attacks. I am no stranger to flashbacks, my own PTSD, but I always had a grasp on possible triggers and how to avoid them. These anxiety attacks come from no where. They seemingly have no rhyme or reason. No excuse. And take no prisoners.