Welcome to another week of Speak Up for Silence. If you want to learn more about this series, please read this. Also, be sure to visit Christine's blog as she's sharing another person's story. Today's post is from Annie, who I just absolutely adore. She has this way of writing, this way of sharing deep inside her heart, that just moves me every single time. She's such a inspiration and I know you'll benefit from hearing her story. Thanks so much for your bravery, Annie.
I laid on the floor of my closet, sobbing. Tears and mucus ran down my face. My entire body was shaking violently, trembling. I was alone, but it felt like someone was gripping my throat tightly, choking me. "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," I screamed in my mind. I took sharp, quick breaths.
I had been laying there for 10 minutes, but I was pretty sure I had been laying there for 10 years.
I thought I might die tonight.
Eventually, the tears stopped coming. My chest was tight, but I didn't feel choked. I laid on the floor- utterly exhausted. I closed my eyes, took a heavy deep breath and stared, blankly at the ceiling.
This happened every night, but every night, it feels like it's the first time.
Panic attacks and anxiety grip me every evening. As soon as the sun goes down, my thoughts become as black as the quickly darkening sky. Every night, it's the same worry flooding my mind. What if my parents die tonight? What if someone breaks in? What if I get cancer? What if I don't graduate?
As the thoughts swirl around in my mind, my chest tightens up like the fist of someone about to fight, and by the time I lay down to go to bed, it doesn't take long before the panic attacks begin. I feel the panic building inside my body, and dutifully, I drag myself out of bed and hide in my closet.
Soon, the panic attacks show up during the day too.
And soon, I don't need thoughts to spur me on towards an attack.
Simply having plans with a friend, having to go to work or class is too much for me to handle. My anxiety waits for no one and takes over my life. Every waking second is dedicated to being a slave to my mental illness. I try to pray, I try to reach out, but the words don't come. My mind soon becomes blank due to utter exhaustion from constantly being anxious. I feel myself, my joy, my personality slip away from me. I become blank.
I've always been a straight-A student, so it's devastating and confusing when I fail two college classes at my new school because my attendance is so poor. The panic attacks keep me from leaving the house. I start having panic attacks while driving. I start to avoid the places I had panic attacks before in fear of having another attack. My friends wonder where I went. I stop responding to texts. I stop going out. I stop laughing. I stop smiling. I stop caring. I stop living.
I start to see a counselor, but my inability to manage my anxiety leads me headfirst into the darkest depression. I've never been depressed before but I quickly become acquainted by my new friend. I lay in bed, staring at nothing. My mind is blank. I isolate myself. Self-depreciating thoughts become normal. I believe that sleeping forever would be better than ever waking up again. I began to wonder if I should continue to live.
This becomes a cycle.
My story with anxiety began 3 years ago, this isn't the whole story. There are still so many parts of my story that I am not comfortable sharing on the Internet or in real life.
I still live with anxiety. It keeps me from doing things I want to. There are still some days that I can't get out of bed, or I have to cancel plans with friends because the anxiety is real. Every winter, I go through an debilitating depression. I am not 100% mentally healthy yet, though that is the goal.
However, I look back and I know I have made it through my own personal hell and back. I look at what agonizing pain I made it through. I am stronger than my mental illness. I know that I am brave. I am bold. I am fearless because I survived and live with life-altering anxiety and depression.
So, stop shaming my brain.
There is NO shame in being mentally sick. Our brains can get sick just like our bodies and the longer we avoid words like "depression", "mentally ill", "suicide", "self-harm", etc. we are making the struggle all the harder for those struggling with these issues. When you run away and hide from these words, you are shaming my brain. Stop shaming my brain.
The more we continue to use people's mental illness in a casual way ("I am SO depressed I missed The Bachelor last night" or "I almost had a panic attack once I realized the concert tickets were sold out!" "I am SO OCD!" "He's so bipolar!"), you are shaming my brain. You are comparing my dark 6 months of depression, the months where I didn't eat, sleep, laugh, or live, to missing a TV show. The more you use those words in a casual way, the harder you make it for people who ACTUALLY are depressed or anxious to recover. When you use a mental illness as an emotion, you are minimizing their struggle. The more you throw around these words that have destroyed my life and taken years of my young adult life away from me, you shame my brain. Stop shaming my brain.
When I open up to you and tell you that I have struggled with anxiety and depression and you ask if I'm on medication, and I respond with "no" because it's an educated, personal decision I have made and you look at me with judgement and pity, you are shaming my brain. Stop shaming me for making a personal decision to take my mental health into my own hands. Stop shaming my brain.
When I mention that I am depressed or I am having a "bad anxiety day", and you squirm and act awkward, you are shaming my brain. You are showing me that I am not safe to talk about my mental health. Stop shaming my brain.
When I say that I have a meeting with my therapist and you give me that confused, uncomfortable look, you are shaming my brain. It is BRAVE to seek help from a mental health professional. Stop shaming my brain.
So let's talk about it. Let's say the words "depressed", "suicidal", "anxious", "panic attacks", "therapy", "medication" and NOT squirm in our seats. Let's talk about it. Let's commend the people who struggle with these sickness for being BRAVE, BOLD and WONDERFUL. Let's commend their family and friends for holding their hands through it all.
Let's shed the light on the darkness in an effort to help those with mental illness.
Talk about the darkness of mental health, and watch the victims of this dark disease light up.
Speak up for silence and stop shaming my brain.
Want to share your story? Please consider submitting a post HERE!