» sometimes you need to ask for help.
  • sometimes you need to ask for help.

    Feb 11th • Posted in personal, writing

    Over the course of my time blogging, I’ve realised that I’ve revealed a lot about myself. In the process, I’ve learned that I talk about certain topics more than others– and in retrospect, maybe I should have played it like Freud and focused on the subjects that were the hardest for me to write about– yet most personal to me in the core of my being.

    As some of you following the blog already know, I suffer from a lot of health issues that stem from the fact that I’m fat. I’ve addressed my body issues from a pretty defensive standpoint, and I’ve also been honest about the fact that despite my body type (and that I’m happy with it,) I am also struggling to focus on becoming healthier– but finding it difficult due to the sheer amount of time I devote to other, infinitely more awesome/amazing things (studying for my pre-reqs to get into medical school, spending time with my boyfriend, etc.)  So, it’s no surprise that I found myself, yet fucking again, in my boyfriend’s bedroom, having another routine panic attack. It’s cool though, because I guess this is where I post about it, at the risk of being too revealing, too vulnerable and too raw. (But hey, I once said that’s where I find my inspiration– so I’m going to have at it.)

    I’ve never had a psychologist formally diagnose me with panic disorder.1That being said, after talking to my psychiatrist about it– I have since entered the realm of dealing with it through therapy or medication management. Looking back on it, panic attacks were something that I’ve dealt with since high school and were an experience that I genuinely thought was a routine part of a person’s life. By no means did I think that panic attacks in and of themselves were “normal” (staying up until two in the morning because you feel like your chest has caved in and the dangerous, vicious cycle of thoughts that keep the fire under your nerves are definitely not normal things.)  But I was under the impression that there are points in people’s lives where they do succumb to some sort of emotional breakdown. This mindset stuck until college, when I realised that panic attacks, are in fact, not normal. They are something you should not be dealing with on a regular (yet somewhat infrequent) basis, and they are definitely something that you should go seek a specialist to discuss.

    When I went over my mental health history with my new therapist and brought this up, he immediately stopped me with: “The fact that you’ve had panic attacks and felt like this is enough for a diagnosis.” It struck me because, while I’ve never had any of my former therapists or psychologists officially confirm my seemingly self-appointed diagnosis, it validated my experiences– it made me feel as though my panic attacks and anxiety were real, not just something I made up. 2Yes, as someone who studied Psychology and has had other experiences with mental illnesses– I understand how this statement makes me sound. It still rings true for me, though. I mean, for God’s sake– I think anyone dealing with self-mismanagement of Type 2 Diabetes comorbid with PCOS topped with an ever-changing medication regiment due to the changing levels on the doomed quarterly blood test would have a raging amount of anxiety. But for some reason, it’s never hit me that an anxiety disorder is part of my reality and my health narrative. Of course, now that I’m reading over the literature3Comorbidity is apparently the rule, not the exception to ADHD and Anxiety, both of which I have., it makes sense that my anxiety exist and the fact that I can accurately pinpoint where it’s stemming from makes me all the more eager to ask for help and to search for resources.

    It’s late, so I can’t exactly express my thoughts in a cohesive manner– but I wanted to write this because it’s how I felt and how I’m coping with the onslaught of a panic attack. I don’t know why this took me so long to write down on my blog. I’ve openly admitted to many of my close friends and colleagues (some I’d even consider just acquaintances) about my mental health struggles and the fact that I see a therapist. For fuck’s sake… I did my entire undergraduate senior project on mental health stigma and am an avid supporter of people seeking out help when they need it (or even if they just need a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.) I’m not sure why it took me so long to write a post like this on my blog, but I’m glad I’m doing it now.

    So here we have it: I’m someone who suffers from health-related anxiety on a regular basis, and I’m trying my best to cope with it. What frustrates me the most about coping and learning to deal with my anxiety is finding the resources to help me do it. Friends lending an ear and iPhone-meditation apps can only do so much– my panic attacks have increased in frequency, so the only thing left is to exhaust all my time and energy into finding resources.

    While I feel like I’m on my way to finding some great resources, I’m aware that I’ve hit some rough patches along the way (I’ll address the topic of affordable health care– both physical and mental, in another post.) But I’m picking myself off my feet and toiling through the struggle of anxiety the best that I can. The next best thing I can do is to get over my pride and ask for help through it and some understanding. And that’s what this post is: my call for help, my open letter to those around me for some empathy, help for resources and for some shared stories along the way.

    If you’ve felt similarly, let’s talk! Share stories, laugh over some shared experiences that may seem silly now (I know it seems dark, but humour always feels like a nice way to deal with tough topics,) or comment away if you choose to. (If you want to talk about it but don’t feel comfortable writing a comment, you can always choose to contact me through my email.) Otherwise– do you know of any resources that may be helpful for anxiety-related disorders? Have you, or anyone you know dealt with anxiety? How did you deal with it?

    That all being said, thank you in advance to everyone who reads this post. Thanks for letting me express how I feel, and for hopefully making me feel more comfortable to be vulnerable about topics that relate to health and well-being, especially mental health. (Also– I wanted to add that my life is pretty fucking great, but I do have anxiety and it is a real thing I’m struggling to deal with. The fact that I am acknowledging this and posting about it is a way for me to cope, deal and try to find a way to understand why I’m feeling the way I do despite how fantastic life is. Honestly, if it weren’t for the people that are in my life now, and the situation I’m in I probably wouldn’t be as adamant about garnering resources, admitting to anxiety and seeking help as I am now. To that I say, don’t worry. I’ll be OK smile I’m currently in the process of starting to get the help that I need. I just want to be honest with myself and others around me.)

    Footnotes   [ + ]

    1. That being said, after talking to my psychiatrist about it– I have since entered the realm of dealing with it through therapy or medication management.
    2. Yes, as someone who studied Psychology and has had other experiences with mental illnesses– I understand how this statement makes me sound. It still rings true for me, though.
    3. Comorbidity is apparently the rule, not the exception to ADHD and Anxiety, both of which I have.
    • My health is something I’ve only recently (say, the last twoish years) started to think about seriously. I don’t know if that’s because I see my parents’ health deteriorate as they age or if it’s because I’m finally embracing adulthood… but here we are. I’ve also come to realise in all my ‘health consciousness’; I’ve focused a lot- almost entirely- on my physical health.

      I like to run (when I can talk myself into it) and it helps me calm down a little bit and not be so intense about everything. It helps me breathe a little bit easier. It makes me less irritable, less cranky.. when I can establish a routine. Like you, there is so much I have to do with the very limited time I have that all of this gets relegated to ‘least priority’. A friend chastised me the other day- ‘it isn’t that you don’t have time, it’s that you’re not actually prioritising your health’.. which, for me, is accurate. I don’t prioritise it. I work longer hours than I ought to- and thirty minutes isn’t exactly something I can’t spare.

      Last year was a pretty rough year for me, and I went through months of just feeling sad and lonely and blue. I dismissed so much of it- it was just an exaggerated version of the ‘blues’ I’d always had. I told myself it was just exacerbated by stress, by all the work I had to get through. I ignored so much of myself and my own mental health.

      I was reading that Adichie piece that the Guardian accidentally posted and it was as though she had reached into my chest and squeezed my heart because everything she described was exactly what I have lived and experienced over the years- and most especially over the last six months. As much as I have advocated for better mental health education and de-stigmatisation and access to services; I couldn’t even recognise it in myself. I read through my diary from the last year and I ached for the version of myself that I didn’t listen to, that I dismissed because I couldn’t comprehend my own needs. I couldn’t prioritise my own health.

      I’ve been sitting with this for a while now, I haven’t decided what to do as yet (am I making it up? Was I really that depressed or am I colouring it in?) but at least I’ve begun to process it as more than just ‘stressing out’. Step by step, as I tell myself when I’m running.

      Thank you for your post- you are always so very brave and honest in your posts, for all the empathy you share with the world. I wish I did know of resources (especially in the US) but I shall be sure to share them if I do stumble upon them. x

      • Believe me, it’s taken me awhile to get to writing this comment back to you– but now I have the time to do so, so I will.

        First of all, thank you for always being a supporter of my writing, and I guess for also being a far-away friend that also supports me (despite our general lack of correspondence because of our busy lives.) Health, both physical and mental, are things that are not always on the forefront of my mind. Rightfully so– I feel as though twentysomethings are perpetually moving forward and always looking toward the future, towards the promise of “something” that’s out there, just not sure what yet. In the process, people lose sight of the present, and more so– how they exist in the present, and the awareness of who they are.

        I think a lot of people face the same problem when they finally grow older– “Why didn’t I focus on my health more when I was younger?” Well, for me: It’s because I chose to study something that takes up most– if not all– of my free time. Add a relationship and social life into the mix, and something’s gotta give. For me, it was my health. Unfortunately, the majority of my anxieties stem from my physical health– so it’s something that has really pushed me into working on it. I don’t find it particularly fun to stay up till 3 in the morning because I can’t fall asleep, afraid to do so because my body doesn’t feel right and I “feel like I’m dying.” I’m way too young to do so– but it’s a possibility because my health isn’t prioritized. I’ve been trying really hard to utilise resources and motivate myself, but studying sometimes takes up most– if not all– my energy.

        I’ve finally settled on seeing a therapist (and found one covered by insurance– huzzah) but I need to work on fitting doctor’s appointments into my schedule, along with regular workouts and maintaining a healthy diet. Luckily, I have both online and offline support, so I feel more comfortable with my choices at the moment.