On Anxiety and Mental Health

I’ve written bits and pieces of this post before, but as opposed to other topics, where I can just write endlessly without much thought or time, this gave me much grief. But with the annual “Bell Lets Talk” day for mental health here, I felt it was now or never.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and (mild) depression ever since I was a kid. I never really put the pieces together until I was an adult, but I had a bit of a ‘rough’ childhood in ways. With adults coming and going from my life a lot, it created an anxiety about being alone and being away from home that’s lasted until this day.

Anxiety is a weird animal. You can have days where you’re just fine, you don’t think about it, you laugh about the fact that you even have it to begin with. Then you have days where you can barely function to get yourself out of bed because you feel the weight of everything crashing on you.

I, personally, struggle the most when I am in a place that is unfamiliar to me. My “fight or flight” kicks in and I just want to get the hell out of place I am in and get to somewhere familiar. This is especially unfortunate given my love of travel. There’s nothing that I would rather do than hop on a plane and head somewhere interesting – however, mentally that is much easier said than done. This is why most people are always really surprised when I tell them about my problems. Outwardly, you would never know anything at all was wrong.

For me, everything kind of came to a head when I was in the middle of a road trip in 2016. I found myself in the middle of an extreme panic attack in a condo in Florida, freaking the eff out. It got so bad that I nearly booked myself a ticket to come back home. Thank god the friends I was with have patience for me, especially Dana, who knows all my neurosis and still talks to me, because I credit them for persuading me to stay, even though I know I probably wasn’t the easiest person to deal with.

I also realized that I do the worst possible thing in those scenarios – I push people away. I’m so concerned with ‘being the fun police’ that I basically tell everyone to go on without me, and have a great time. When really, being alone in my brain is the very, very worst thing that can happen.

After that incident, I was so ashamed and sad just wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Here I am, supposed to be having the best time ever and I was miserable, stuck in my own brain.

When I got back home, I had a long talk with my doctor about everything that had happened. Suggestions of daily medications were tossed around, but we decided not to jump to that right away. Instead, I’ve been fuelling myself by doing little things that make myself feel better. I exercise more than ever, I’ve been journalling (writing things out really helps) and I’ve been talking about how I feel more. The more you talk, the more you realize that many people are the same as you. But I do have a little medicated help – I have a steady supply of Ativan on hand in case I ever need it, and there’s no shame in that.

In November I managed to go on a mini-trip without taking one drug – not not the plane ride there or back, not to try and sleep at night. That was a huge, huge win for me. I think I’m ‘coming out the other side’ of this thing, but it will always be with me.

It’s not just limited to travel either, it happens anytime I am out of my ‘element’. I’ve had times when I’ve had to leave restaurants, parties, stores, friend’s houses etc. all because I felt overwhelmed and just had to get myself out.

I realize that my problems are only the tip of what many people have, but just being aware and sensitive to the fact that there are so, so many people that struggle with mental issues is so important. It’s just as important as your physical health.

If I wanted to, at this very moment, I could talk myself into a minor panic attack that can get my palms sweaty and my heart racing as if I’d run a 5k race. It sucks, it just sucks so bad.

Why did I write this? I don’t even know. But if you ever stumble upon it, just know you are most definitely not alone. Anxiety sucks, but with help and good people around you, it doesn’t have to own you.