I’m taking 5 minutes to talk about mental illness.
Those of you who know me may be shocked to know that I suffer from a “mental illness.” (My good friends are laughing at the thought of anyone, really knowing me, not knowing that fact!)
Anyway, after the birth of my oldest child, I experienced PPD also known as Postpartum Depression. I didn’t experience the severe feelings of despair and depression, like many women do. Oh no, I’m way too much of an extrovert to sit alone and suffer in silence… My mental illness manifested itself as full brown, unpredictable, uncontrollable, undeniable panic/anxiety attacks.
Now when I say “full blown,” I mean crippling; heart racing, head pounding, sweating, can’t breath, chest pain, feeling of absolute dread. A feeling that slowly washes over you, setting your nerve endings on fire and paralyzing you in your tracks. Attacks where you are 100% absolutely, positively sure that you will die within the next few minutes. And when that realization kicks in, the adrenaline really starts surging through your body and your mind goes into this weird “fight or flight” mode. I gotta tell ya, I have run out of more malls, grocery stores, sporting events, and concerts than I can count! (Which really sucks, because they don’t give you your money back, for reason of: “Panic/Anxiety Attack. Believe me, I’ve tried!
For more than 40 years I have lived with the thought that at any given minute, prompted sometimes by nothing at all, I could possibly flip out and lose control. (Yes, it’s true… the thought of having a panic/anxiety attack can actually bring on an attack…. how fun is that, right?)
When I was younger this imperfection really bothered me terribly. I struggled to deal with this “flaw” in my psyche. I often felt like a “freak,” an kept my hideous, little secret hidden from friends and relatives. I learned fairly quickly what some of my triggers were. Enclosed spaces, with lots of people was always a trigger for me… so I stopped going to the mall; sent my husband to the grocery store; and “Hell no, I don’t care if the Beatles are playing, I’m not going to a concert”
With time (and age), things have changed. Nowadays… I’m much better. I don’t worry about having panic/anxiety attacks so much. And when they do come… I know in my heart of hearts, they will go almost as quickly as they came. I have come to know, that the possibility of an attack killing me is remote. And if it does, it does. As for people knowing my deep, dark secret, I don’t really care anymore, i.e. “My name is Melissa and I have (and still do) experience panic and anxiety attacks.”
“Time to Change” is England’s biggest program which challenges mental health stigma and discrimination. They promote an anti-stigma campaign run by the leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Today’s “Take 5” campaign encourages people to take 5 minutes out of their busy day to talk with someone (anyone) about mental illness. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personality disorder, anorexia, depression, insomnia, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, the need to self harm… if it has effected you, a friend or a loved one, talk about it. There is NOTHING to be embarrassed or ashamed about.
Only by bringing these mental illness skeletons out of the closet, can we shed light on them and empower ourselves to take control over them. Only by de-stigmatizing them and accepting them as part of some people’s lives can we help people overcome them and move forward.
What does your day look look…. got 5 minutes?