Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Anxiety: A War Zone

     Hello everyone. Surprise blog post! This week is Buzzfeed Health's "Mental Health Week". I originally wasn't planning on doing a post about mental health but since I am going into that field and am a huge advocate for mental health awareness, I thought I ought to do a post.
     I grew up being told "not to talk about things like my health or what goes on in the family" to other people because that should stay private. I do that for the most part. But my mental health is a "me" thing, not a family thing so it's my choice about sharing it or not. If people kept everything private a) that leads to mental breakdowns and b) if somone doesn't share their experiences, who will?
       I am not writing this post to get sympathy or to "get attention". I am writing this post to hopefully help some of you guys know that you are not alone and that we are all in this together. And in turn, helping you, helps me. Someone once told me, "Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is talking about it. It's time to talk". So let's dive right in to the world of mental health, specifically anxiety because that's what I know the most about. I will also be talking about some random things I want to address in relation to mental health. 
     Before I fully dive in, all of today's post is me speaking from the heart. I'm not going to lie, I'm kinda terrified about posting this because I don't know how people will recieve it, especially those who know me personally. While writing this I am probably going to be debating about just deleting it all and moving on with my day and after I publish it (if I do) I'm probably going to spend hours over-analyzing what I wrote, going back and adding/removing content as well as contemplating if this was a good move or not. But I love helping others and I'm tired of keeping quiet so here we go...
     I have been living with a mental health disorder for roughly a year and a half of my life. If you are new to my blog, I have anxiety and have had depression. You can read about those posts here and here.  I started experiencing panic attacks during my junior year. I was taking a lot of hard classes and was dancing at the pre-professional level which created unnecessary stress for me. The panic attacks first started off as me just freaking out over things that scared me like going to ballet class and dealing with my mean instructor to auditions for a ballet or going to the doctors (which I hate so much). Throughout my senior year my panic attacks got more and more consistent around my stomach issues, which I've had for about ten years. I am just now starting to find out what could be wrong, but that's another story entirely. Anyways, it got to the point where I could barely eat without panicking that I would get a stomachache from whatever it was that I ate. And then when my depression set in last year, it made everything worse. I lost interest in things I'm passionate about. I got to a state of being comfortably numb. It was the worst feeling of my adolescences and I never want to go back to that hellhole. It wasn't until May of this year that I decided I need to get help.  So I started seeing a therapist to help me sort out my anxiety. It was (and still is) great to talk to someone unbiased about my problems and to get professional advice on how to handle the obstacles as they come. I wish I had started therapy sooner but no one really thought it was serious enough. I primarily use natural remedies to help easy my panic attacks because I don't like medications purely because of how addictive they can get. I swear by Bach's Rescue Remedy. It's helped me so much these past eight or so months. For me a panic attack feels like someone is sitting on my chest making it impossible for me to breathe, I get super nauseous and then my mind starts torturing me with things like, "You shouldn't have eaten that." or "You're gonna get super sick now." Nothing is worse than being at war with your own mind. The Bach's Rescue Remedy is my ammunition against the thoughts that torture me.  It calms me down and gives me something to focus on. And by the time it's fully dissolved (10-15 minutes) I am feeling so much better.
        My anxiety is like a constant shadow that follows me everywhere I go. It taps me on the shoulder a few times a day. On my good days, it's so easy to ignore. I put on some red lipstick, heels and walk out the house like a boss. I ignore the sometimes debilitating thoughts in my mind and get on with my day.  There's a song by Avril Lavigne called, "How Does It Feel". One of the verses goes, "I'm not afraid of anything. I just need to know that I can breathe. And I don't need much of anything. But suddenly, suddenly: I am small and the world is big, all around me is fast-moving. Surrounded by so many things." That's what my bad days are like. Everything will freak me to to the point that, all I want to do is stay in bed and forget about my responsibilities for a while. That's also where my love for Broadway comes in. Those soundtracks completely transform my mind into thinking about being in said musical etc. Reading books and dancing also helps me immensely. I am completely transported to a new world. It's hard to fully explain what living with anxiety is like but this slam poem does a freaking brilliant job at it. "Anxiety: A Ghost Story". My anxiety isn't quite like this anymore but during the really bad times, it's pretty accurate.
     There are two things I hate the most about having anxiety, the first one is when people tell me things like "toughen up", "your life is so cushy", and the worst two are "you're just trying to get attention" and "it's all in your head". I am not faking my anxiety just to get attention. It is a real thing, even if it can't be seen. Mental health is just as important as physical health. It's your mind that dictates how your day is going to go. If you can take care of your mind, you will be able to take care of the rest of your body. And is it any wonder why two out of three people living with a mental health disorder live in silence because of being hounded with the comment "stop trying to get attention". And then when the finally speak up, they are told "why didn't you say something?" We didn't say something because of the idiotic comments some people make. Think twice before you speak.
      The other thing that drives me freaking nuts is when people assume that people with anxiety are rude. WE ARE NOT RUDE for turning down an invite. We are simply avoiding the triggers that bring about our anxiety and make our life hell. It's not that we don't like you or don't want to go out, it's just that going out is too stressful for us, especially if it's spontaneous with no set plan. I like going out when I know exactly where I'm going, who I'm with and when I will get back home. Sure, if one or two things happen spontaneously, I'm fine with that. It's just when the entire day is spontaneous that I can't handle it. Also, I prefer to be around people I'm totally comfortable with and know not to do anything that might set off a panic attack for me. As much as I hate staying in my room weekend after weekend, I feel safe knowing that nothing bad will happen. So please stop calling people with anxiety rude.
    What we need more than nasty comments, is some one who understands. Another verse in "How Does It Feel" goes, "Will you comfort me? Will you cry with me?" That is what we need. We need someone to comfort us during panic attacks, someone who will cry with us during a hard day. Not someone who tells us to get a thicker skin. I get this love from my amazing boyfriend of almost a year, Thomas. He is always asking me how am I doing and he is always there for me in a time of need even though he's across the country. I couldn't do it without his support, or the support from all my friends and family (you know who you are).
    So please, if you know someone with a mental disorder and they are going through a panic attack or whatnot, go give them a hug and just hold them for a while. That's one thing we need more than anything. The other thing understand that there is nothing wrong with us...more like something happened to us that brought our mental disorder on. Which brings me to my next topic, why I am going into psychology.
    I am going into the field of psychology and mental health therapy because I want to help the future generations not experience what I have. I wish someone had been there to fully listen to me when my anxiety first started. Dance has been my most beneficial form of therapy. As a future therapist I hope to use dance classes (taught by me) as an optional part of therapy for those who need constructive ways to deal with their fears because self-harm isn't going to get you anywhere.
    I love the view on psychology Eleanor Longden has, "It shouldn't be what's wrong with you but more like what's happened to you." For me, it's my stomach issues and never knowing what's wrong with it. For a veteran with PTSD, it could be seeing all the horrific things that happen in war zone. There is nothing wrong with either of us but more like traumatic events that have brought on this illness.
    I really hope this post was beneficial to one of you in some way. If this was, please let me know in the comments below. Feel free to give this post a +1 on Google+ and share it if you liked it. And to those of you who tell me, or anyone with anxiety, "that it's all in your head", try living in our mind for a day. I dare you!

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  1. Hey! I respect you a lot for doing this post, I'm not going to lie, I don't really understand how someone with anxiety feels, but I like to understand how I can help and so if you ever need to talk then just contact me, I'm always here X

    1. Thanks Charlotte. It's hard to grasp the concept unless you yourself experience it. I completely get that. Thanks, I appreciate the offer. I'm sure I'll take you up on it sometime in the future.
      Much love,

  2. Hi, Tara! First off, I applaud you for writing this because I know, from experience, that it's hard to put yourself and your thoughts completely out there into the world of criticism, judgements, and evil minds. It's so good to get things off of your chest because, as you said, we shouldn't keep (certain) things private. We might explode if we keep everything in for too long. Second, this post was so raw and truthful and I really enjoyed reading. A few of my friends struggle with anxiety on a daily/frequent basis and even though I haven't been in their position myself, I try to comfort them as best I can. Doing so and them confiding in me has helped me get a better understanding of what someone who struggles with anxiety is going through. Some people just don't get it. Parents, siblings, even close friends - some of them might say "you're overreacting" or something of the sort and I can see how that is quite frustrating. Know that this blogging community is here for you and will comfort/support you in times of need. It's good that you have people who do that for you already. It's important to have a support system because those are the people that will help you in the long run. I hope that you find ways to beat, and if not beat, then lessen, your anxiety. I know you will become stronger than it. I believe in you and wish you the best. Lots of love from me and all of your other readers. xx

    1. Thanks Harel for leaving such a long comment. I was terrified of posting this because my family reads my blog and my mum has always taught me to keep things like this to myself. So when I posted this, I shared it on all of my social media sites except Facebook (that's where my family would see it). Even now, I don't know if any family members have read it.
      I'm all about being honest and helping people. I wanted people to know that a) I'm not perfect and b) that they are not alone because God knows, I feel alone in this struggle constantly.
      Thank you for being a good friend to those you know who have anxiety. It's friends like you we need. Keep up the good work!
      Much love,