So, here I am, creating a blog focused on helping others learn more about mental illnesses and cope with chronic conditions. It’s something I’m very passionate about, for sure, but I need to stress that I am not an expert. In fact, I frequently fail to listen to my own advice. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been in therapy for years. It doesn’t matter that I have a fantastic psychiatrist. Sometimes, I just fail.
And….well…I think you need to know that.
The truth is, we are all doing the best we can. The demons we face internally when it comes to mental health are strong. They take your own brain and turn it against you. They undermine everything you do and try to keep you from ever starting. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, and so on, are strong. Without help, they would be even stronger, but even with help, it’s inevitable that we will lose some battles.
I was reminded of this recently at work. Things happened (what those things are isn’t important), and they broke my control. I’ve been back at work for approximately 4 weeks, and only the last 3 of them were full time (and short work weeks at that). The stress of going from half days to full days tied up with the stress of how busy we are and how short staffed, well, it’s been keeping me right on the edge of falling apart.
That means, when I got hit by one more thing, a pebble really, I fell right over the cliff. I had a panic attack. At work.
First, let me clarify what a panic attack is for me, because everyone is different. For me, it’s burning skin, watery eyes, shortness of breath, compulsive touching (and picking and clenching) of anything in reach, culminating in intense sobbing and physical collapse.
Yeah, to say it was humiliating and terrifying is an understatement.
Now, as I said, I’ve spent years learning how to cope and get through situations like this. I focused on my deep breathing. I counted, I redirected my mind to a simple task, I mindfully took in my surroundings and the sensations around me. I did everything I could. It didn’t work. By the end of that work day, I had endured three separate panic attacks.
Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the day. It was horrible and I hope to never repeat it again but odds are that I will.
Why do I share this with you? Well, I guess because it’s important to be aware that it happens. We all do our best, we fight our battles, and sometimes we lose. Sometimes it’s everything you can do to just get through it until you can retreat and lick your wounds. But, you know what? I got through the day. You can, too.
And remember, we’re all fighting this battle together.