As it’s mental health awareness week, I thought it only appropriate to write about my own experiences with mental health.
Life is a funny thing. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes the life you desire for yourself can be a far cry from what you’re actually experiencing.
I’m not going to bore with you with the whole ‘oh, I’ve had a hard life’ thing, because so what?
Every single person on earth can experience mental health problems at some point in their lives, whether they’re rich or poor, black or white, from a good upbringing or a bad upbringing. It’s so important not to cast off someone’s feelings because of something you believe to be true about them.
Have you heard anyone say this:
“But you don’t have any money worries!”
Or maybe this:
“But you have all your parents, I don’t! You should be happy!”
While it’s absolutely terrible that there are ones suffering on earth in ways some of us can’t even imagine, mental health disorders are not picky! They’ll take anyone. Even the ones with good jobs, loving families, and a world of prospects.
Mental Health & Anxiety
I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, leaning more frequently towards anxiety, where it completely incapacitates me. Anxiety is described by the good people at the NHS as “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.”
But to really understand how people feel, it’s best to look at how panic attacks are described. Whenever my anxiety flares, I always have panic attacks. And sometimes it can be one of the worst feelings in the world.
- Racing heart
- Feeling like you could faint, or actually fainting
- Feeling sick
- Bad stomach pains
- Desperate need to go to the toilet (number 2)
- Chest pains (lots of people think they’re having heart attacks)
- Thick, heavy, pounding sensation in your head
- Shaking all over
- Feeling like you can’t breathe
- Feeling dizzy
- Getting pins and needles
- Churning stomach (instead of butterflies, it’s dragons flying around inside there)
- Feeling like you’re going to die
It’s impossible to think of anything else, do anything else, pay attention to anything else.
It’s almost like everythingisonfastforwardandit’slikearunawaytrainthatyoucan’tgetoff
Then times that by 100, shove 500 bees down the back of your shirt, and tell yourself you need to write a 2000 word essay in 20 minutes.
It actually makes me feel sort of panicky trying to describe/recall the sensations.
In my case, it’s usually stressful situations which spark my anxiety attacks. I’m a worrier. About every tiny thing under the sun.
- Getting to places on time
- Agonising over whether I said something wrong or what people are thinking
- Making sure I show people that I care
- Needing to know whether people are ok and are not dead
- Whether someone likes me
- Whether I have enough food in the house
- Whether I have a cold or a terminal illness
- When my family and friends will die (when I was younger this one became an OCD too)
- Whether I’m going to have enough money
- Whether I’m ever going to be happy
Sadly, relationships and the people I’ve chosen to associate with during my life have often contributed to my anxiety. Many of them have not understood how to deal with me, and have often made things worse.
I care a lot about people I’m with, but that means I worry about them nonstop. I need someone who will know how to tell me everything’s okay, but in a kind, appreciative, loving way. And that person will understand I mean well.
It’s so important to try to educate others about how these mental health disorders make people feel. Not because you want to ram it down their throats and say “poor me, poor me”, but purely so that they can help you to cope. And with a mental health disorder, learning how to cope with the symptoms and triggers can sometimes be the only thing you can do.
Mental Health: Anxiety Treatments
The main treatments for severe anxiety are often CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or medication. But I didn’t really have much luck with CBT myself. I’m not sure whether it’s because I just couldn’t get in the right mindset (I had anger issues too), but the techniques often left me irritated.
I have recently tried a medication (diazepam), but it was only temporary.
The best thing I have found to work is actually surrounding myself with people who understand and can support me when I need it. They don’t pressure me and they understand how to deal with me when I try to isolate myself.
I have also over the past three years become a better Christian by studying, reading the bible daily, and applying it to my life. This has helped me more than anything else in the past when an attack hits. Drop me a message if you want further info about this.
Other things which I have tried and tested:
- Ride out the attack – you know it’s coming, you know how you’re feeling, and you know that it will pass. Focus on something that makes you happy or peaceful, and remember it’s not life-threatening.
- Breathing slowly and deeply – this I find a bit difficult when I’m in panic mode, and if lots of things are going on around me, it’s almost impossible. If I’m somewhere quiet with access to a bed (like my room or flat), it’s easier.
- Counting – at my CBT I was told to count down from a large number, e.g. 378, 377, 376 etc. Apparently, if you count down from 10, you put yourself in a “ready for takeoff” situation, and this doesn’t help stress. Slowly counting down from a large number alleviates that. This technique, sadly, has never worked for me, but it might do for you.
- Aromatherapy – One of my friends relies on smelling salts to help her anxiety. It’s not really worked for me, but she swears by it.
- Talking to a friend or family member – This is the most important and effective one for me. My friends are caring and helpful, and they distract me when I need it. If you can find someone who understands what you’re going through and knows how to get you out of it, this is one of the most priceless treatments available.
Mental Health: Anxiety Prevention Methods
There are things you can do to prevent such bad anxiety attacks.
- Exercising regularly – this is definitely one of the best prevention methods. You generally feel happier after exercise (even if you might not feel so at the time of doing it!!) and it helps to use the pent-up energy, which I find often can trigger an attack
- Eating well – eating the right foods and reducing sugars (I feel like such a hypocrite writing this because I just annihilated two cupcakes) really affects what’s going on in the rest of your body, and importantly your mind. Being balanced in this area helps you to be balanced elsewhere too.
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, smoking, drugs – It kind of goes without saying that these substances affect your brain and what’s happening inside it. If you can cut these out, it will only be a benefit to you. Alcohol is a major one of mine which sets off my panic attacks because I become incredibly paranoid.
- Accepting the fact you have anxiety – This might be the key to happiness. If you can accept what’s going on and what afflictions you have, the better you can try to cope and live with them. By knowing your own weaknesses and addressing them as such, you can be aware of your triggers and symptoms. This will, in turn, prepare you for the situations as and when they arise.
Mental Health: What Others Can Do To Help?
If you are struggling with severe anxiety or another mental health disease and you need help, then please speak to your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to assess how to help and the next steps you should take.
Please do talk to loved ones about how you feel and let them take care of you. And of course, if you want to talk to me, please comment or contact me via the form here.