Mental health disorders, illnesses, issues, struggles, whatever you may call them, are so very complex. They (who? I don’t know I heard it somewhere) say scientists know more about the ocean than they do the human brain. I know, I know, don’t believe everything you read but I honestly believe that! True or not, the human brain is so complicated and throw some funky wires in there you’ve got yourself something special…
You can’t go into an MRI machine and check exactly which mental health issue you may or may not have, which can make things for those affected even that much more confusing. Isolating. Terrifying.
Here are some things you may not have known about someone living with a mental health disorder, specifically anxiety & panic attacks…
**note: these are things that I have discovered myself over the last few years, from both me, people around me and in support groups. They are not all experienced by everyone with an anxiety disorder but they are common things someone on the outside may not expect.**
1. Learning can be more difficult than average.
It is not that we are incapable of learning, or that we are not smart, it is that our minds are often focused on something that is causing us anxiety. “Am I capable?” “Am I smart enough?” “What if this happens?” “What if that happens?” “Am I gonna die?” (my brain’s personal fave). To the point where we may leave a class, work course, or even a meeting feeling like we had to focus so hard on not having a panic attack that we couldn’t actually take in any of the information presented to us. I used to beat myself up for being ‘stupid’ but I’ve realized that when my anxiety is at bay as a result of practicing coping mechanisms, I am capable of retaining just as much information as the next person.
2. We want to be there.
If we bail on social events, can’t make it to school, call in sick to work - it’s not that we don’t want to be there. Usually missing these things is due to such intense symptoms of whatever we are dealing with, that more drastic measures have to be taken. We don’t think ‘yay, I get to stay home and watch Netflix’. We may need to take some form of medication that we don’t necessarily want to which in turn that makes us feel like a zombie. We may need to go to the doctor to be assessed, to be assured that we are okay. We may end up calling an ambulance and being taken to the hospital. Trust me, we would WAY rather be at work, school, or a social event than be experiencing what we do in those moments. In addition to those intense, awful feelings is the added guilt of whatever we may be missing. Especially since most people and places are not understanding of the severity of mental illness.
3. It’s not just a racing heart and worrisome thoughts
Experiencing anxiety is different for every person. Yet, at the same time, it is the same. It is the same in the sense that it is extremely uncomfortable. Two people with a cold can have different symptoms and their bodies can react completely differently. Having anxiety that is leading to a panic attack can include a surge of weakness throughout the body, extreme dizziness, sweating, a feeling of not being attached to reality (an out of body experience), impending doom, an urge to run away, tingling in your extremities, tightness in your chest, uncontrollable tears, the inability to feel emotion, the inability to comprehend, hyperventilating, feeling like you need out of your own skin and fainting. These are just some of the symptoms you may not think of when you think of someone living with generalized anxiety or panic disorder.
4. We face fears every single day
I think these days it’s a huge way of life to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Like travelling across the world, sky diving, swimming with sharks etc. But for lots of people who battle anxiety and/or panic attacks, every day is filled with experiences that are out of our comfort zone. Sometimes going to work is facing a fear, interacting with people is facing a fear, driving, walking, living… you get what i’m saying. Some people are being pushed out of their comfort zones every single day. And that’s amazing.
5. We are human
I think when someone thinks of the term mental illness, or mental disorder, they automatically think something is wrong with you, that you’re weird, or that you are less of a human. But battling with your mind every day makes you a super human. It does not make you less capable, less worthy, less smart, less perfect. It is a part of who you are which is beautiful.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you learned something about what millions of people face on a daily basis.