I find that most life defining moments get burned into the long term easy access memory. So I am going to share one of there life defining experiences. It has been hard for me to talk about my anxiety my entire life, but I am making the sacrifice to hopefully benefit myself and maybe one other person.
Here is the Story
I jolted awake. I was disoriented and tired, but all I could hear was a blaring screech that I had never heard before. Unsure of what was happening, my heart started racing. I whispered to my sister, who slept on the bottom bunk of our bed, trying to wake her up. Scared, I crawled off the bed and down to to the floor. Now awake, I still did not recognize the noise, but I was convinced it was the fire alarm. My mind raced from thought to thought, “how were going to get out of the house”, “why wasn’t anyone else awake”, “was I going to have to wake anybody up”, “what would we wear”. That was when I started to hyperventilate and cry. I don’t know how my dad woke up, but as I remember it, I walked out of my room slowly, hoping to not die, and my dad came and found me. He found the alarm clock going off( it had been reset by a recent power outage, and took me to bed to calm down.
I was 10 years old when this happened. This was the first panic attack that ever remember. Starting from that day I had daily panic attacks for several months, and for the past 23 years I have struggled with frequent anxiety and panics attacks.
For along time I was ashamed of my anxiety. I was 11 when my mother talked to my pediatrician about coping methods. I did not want to go to counseling because of the fear that my friends would find out. To me it was a sign of weakness, and at an age when bullying and peer pressure had just started to emerge, I did not anyone to know that I was broken. I kept it a secret for years. Only my immediate family knew of my struggle.
My Anxiety now
To a certain extent I am still ashamed of my anxiety. And if any of your read my Autism post you can see that in a lot of ways I am a mess, but that is perfectly ok and good, because I am a strong, powerful woman.
Recently, I have come to understand a lot about who I am and how to appreciate myself. I have mentioned before that I have attended counseling sessions and received psychotherapy. Despite these efforts, my recent move to Oklahoma has sent me on a tail spin and my anxiety has started spinning out of control. And, although I am trying to take efforts to control my symptoms it has not been enough.
The Social Situation
Anxiety, bipolar disorder, MDD, or whatever it may be are all over the internet right now. We are broadcasting them all over the place in efforts to promote mental health awareness. The internet does a good job of promoting these disorders but a horrible job of helping us understand what they are; neither does it encourage us to take appropriate action to manage the symptoms and live functioning lives. It gives us the idea that mental health is a condition hopeless condition that ruins lives.
I have suffered from this idea as well, always scared of when it would strike again and taking no real action to deal with it. For a long time I thought that if I had enough faith, or prayed hard enough I would not suffer from anxiety and the panic attacks would stop. This led to thinking that when praying and faith didn’t work to calm me down, it was a reflection of my worth, my importance to God or my faith to me healed. I had created the reality that anxiety was me letting Satan in to my life and that I was incapable of blocking him out. This lead to a whole mess of self worth issues and could have ended up much worse.
The Moral of the Story
I am writing this post for several reasons. One is to help those who have a similar train of thought. It is 100% incorrect. Mental illness is an illness. It is not a question of faith, nor a reflection of spirituality or devotion to Christ. It is an illness. Like and illness there isn’t always a cause or reason. Sometimes it just happens
Also, we should treat is as an illness. Someone with diabetes doesn’t just accept a diagnosis and pray to not die. That person will actively change a lifestyle, take medicine, or seek treatment. Mental illness has to be actively managed, not passively acknowledged. That is actually counter productive and makes it worse.
Second, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are one of many struggling to function everyday despite facing severe challenges. It is hard, I know. There are good days, and sometimes there are very, very, very bad days. For me, taking action has been hard. Accepting that I need help, that I need more that just will power is hard, but I have not been alone for these years. I have had a wonderful family who has been there to support me at every step of the way, and even though they may be long distance now, they continue to show unfailing love as I work to manage my symptoms.
I think that we live in a society that proliferates mental illness. Also, I think that it affects more people than it every has before. I have realized for me to become functioning I have to be proactive in managing my symptoms. I wish I could say that I have more of a success story, but for now, I do have hope.
Note: Strength in My Faith
I do not want to discount in anyway the comfort that can be attained through ones faith. The atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost have incredible power. At many times in my life I have relied upon one of all of these things to do things out of my power. Just in the past year I have had some of the hardest times in my life and it was my faith in my Savior and his plan that allowed me to carry through and receive immense blessings. I do believe that Christ suffered to be able to relate to, understand, and help us through all of life’s struggles, including mental illness. He has helped me with my anxiety and also strengthened my faith.
I know that this power is amazing. I also know that our Heavenly Father ultimately wants us to live happy productive lives. To do that we are not restricted to only resources provided by religion. It is only one tool in the toolbox for combating mental illness and making us the best versions of ourselves. To become the best versions of ourselves we sometimes have to look outside ourselves and depend on other things that are also part of our tool box. The important thing like I said is actively managing symptoms and taking actions to improve. Each person will do that in their own unique way, and that is how it should be.