It’s OK to not be OK – The Mental Health Stigma

I originally planned on sharing my really cute Wednesday Addams Halloween costume on Saturday the 31st, until something altered my plan. I couldn’t breathe.

Now before I get into all the exciting details, I want to mention that it’s not easy to talk about something like this because of the stigma behind mental health. Often times, people judge or have an opinion about others suffering from some form of mental illness. However, about 1 in 3 people are currently suffering from some kind of metal illness. That could be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or several other things. That also means that the chances of you personally knowing someone suffering from a problem is very high, so always be respectful and courteous of people.

Back to what I was saying. The week prior to Halloween, I had been complaining about my shortness of breath and kept wondering if I was just really out of shape or something. It was something that bothered me, but wasn’t too alarming. It wasn’t until Saturday morning when I was getting ready for work that I noticed a change in my breathing. I felt like I was gasping for air that didn’t exist. The best way to describe it, was like I was put into an enclosed space and the oxygen was running out.

I tried to calm down but just started panicking…and we all know that panicking and breathing don’t compliment each other.

Next thing I know, I’m checking myself into the ER and the tests began. I did everything from CT scans to walking tests to check my oxygen levels. Naturally, everything looked great, but I still couldn’t breathe properly. Five hours later I was handed an inhaler and was told to visit my primary doctor for more answers.

I spent the rest of the day and the next day in bed, trying to relax and forget about my breathing.

FINALLY on Monday, after what felt like years, I was able to see my doctor.  After a few more tests, we figured out what was causing me so many issues. Anxiety.

That’s it. Just anxiety. My doctor told me that my body and mind is basically trapped in an ongoing panic attack which is affecting my breathing. She said that because I felt I was losing control, everything started spiraling.

I found this all funny because I love high-stress situations. I love fast-paced environments. I love working. Yet, all these things are causing me so many health issues that I can’t really cure with a couple pills and some sleep.

It’s only been one day after my appointment, but I feel like so much has already changed with me.

The biggest change for me was mental. I decided to accept the situations that occur instead of obsess over trying to fix them. I usually spend every single second (even when I’m doing something fun) worrying about what I need to do next, what’s due next week, how I can do something better, what someone thought of my work, who was going to hire me, what I wanted to do with my life, etc., etc., etc. It never ended. There was always this constant swarm of thoughts in my head. No wonder all the pressure got the best of me.

Which brings me to my last thought:

Just because someone seems to be fine on the outside, does not mean they are fine/able to handle everything thrown at them. It’s a common mistake to assume someone is OK because they’re laughing and with friends. I often times felt dramatic when I subtly complained about having too much on my plate. I felt like it didn’t seem like a credible statement if I said it while smiling. But after my diagnosis, I’ve learned that anxiety is a deeply internal problem that can only be felt or understood by the individual him/herself.

And finally, it is OK to admit you’re not OK. Everyone has to battle things in their lives. If your battle is mental or internal, don’t let it consume you. Don’t worry about what others think when you admit you aren’t able to do something. The way I see it is simple: if someone can’t understand and be compassionate towards your mental pain, they don’t deserve your attention.

Pain is pain. Whether it’s internal or external, mental or physical.

Own it, take care of it and make yourself your own priority.

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