I’m going to take a few minutes to rant about, MENTAL HEALTH!
Scary shit, huh?
However, as someone who has experienced panic and anxiety attacks for 40+ years, had OCD that was so extreme I used to alphabetise my canned goods! (I’m not kidding, I did!) And had a fear of leaving home (agoraphobia) that was so strong, my first born and I rarely left our neighbourhood, I think I have the right to talk!
I was fine (well I say “fine” who really knows?) until just after the birth of my first daughter.
My husband and I had moved away from our family and friends, when she was just one and a half months old. I fell into a new life, in a new place, with no friends, no family and no support system. It was just me and my 2 month old daughter for 8-10 hours a day… everyday.
I eventually made some friends; neighbourhood “moms,” in the same situation as me and I learned to embrace my new life… or so I thought.
Whether it was a form of Postpartum Depression (which I believe it was) or just the isolation and loneliness… my mind began playing tricks on me.
I remember my very first panic attack; I was in Publix, doing the shopping; my daughter was happily playing in the grocery cart… it was just a normal day. I was about half way through the store, when I was overwhelmed with an indescribable feeling of absolute terror.
I began to sweat, my heart raced, my head was pounding, I was frozen, the store was spinning… all I could think about was getting us out of there!
Rationally, (if I could have thought about it in a rational manor) I would have realised my behaviour was unreasonable and somewhat laughable (I was in the middle of a fucking grocery store. What was going to happen to us… a messy spill on isle 3?) It didn’t matter, I just knew we were in grave danger and I had to get us out of there. I left a half full grocery cart in the middle of the store and in a wild, frenzied, panic DROVE us home (probably not the best idea, in hindsight)
That was the beginning…
The panic and anxiety grew into full fledged agoraphobia. The agoraphobia morphed into depression. The depression created the OCD behaviour… it was a vicious circle.
The next several years were filled with intermittent doctor’s appointments, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, psychotherapy, group therapy, etc.
You name it, I tried it.
It didn’t help that my husband was a “workaholic” and had quite a penchant for cocaine in those days… We grew further apart and I deteriorated.
I don’t know what my turning point was, I have no idea… but thank God something forced me to begin to pull myself out of that hell hole, that I was so deeply anchored in.
It meant separating (and ultimately divorcing my husband) and getting a full time job, when my daughter was just 4 years old… but it was a good start.
As I gained my confidence, I began to feel more relevant and valuable. I was getting a handle on things. The world looked brighter!
No, the panic and anxiety attacks never stopped altogether (although they didn’t happen as often) and I still folded my towels in a very particular way, and my canned goods always faced front, but I could go to work, do the grocery shopping, have a social life and live normally (whatever that is!)
I have been plagued, on and off, throughout my life with what I have come to know as my high and low periods… When I’m stressed, you can be sure a trip to the mall, or any crowded, enclosed space, will bring on a terrifying panic attack. Winter finds me somewhat paralysed with SAD, until spring is sprung. And I’ve learned that I don’t handle grief well. On the outside I do (I’m strong as an ox), but apparently it unknowingly eats away at me, from the inside out. So if you can help it, please, don’t die on me. I’ll understand if you have to, and will even help you cross over, but I’d rather you didn’t!
The bottom line here, is that our mental health is freakin important!
It’s just (if not more) important than our physical wellbeing. We all need to be vigilant and keep an eye on ourselves and on our loved ones; because it can effect anyone!
We’re all only human and it’s not a sign of weakness to admit your mentally struggling… it’s actually a very BRAVE thing to do!
So on this World Mental Health Day, 2019, do something, say something, make some effort to help breakdown the social stigma surrounding mental health issues.