Continuation of the last Tuesday’s post.
At this point, I felt like I couldn’t even move, but a war was actually going on inside myself. Those of you who have suffered from mental disorders probably know the feeling of being exhausted all day long, from the moment you wake up until the one you go to sleep, and also at night, when you can never really sleep.
To those who say “Come on, it’s not like you are really sick, it’s all in your head! React!”, I answer: Do you think I’m not reacting? The panic attack itself is a reaction to whatever is hurting me inside. I’m fighting with all my energy, every second of every day. Try spending a whole day on a battlefield, holding a shield and a sword, and at the same time solving a hundred math problems a day. I’m pretty sure that after a week you will feel like me. Only I have been going on for ages, and peace has never looked so far from me.
Now what I just said is the truth, but it’s very hard to see when you are suffering. In the middle of a panic attack, you won’t have the awareness that you’re fighting. You will just feel defeated. You will feel like you are dying (literally, because panic attacks often disguise as heart attacks, showing the same symptoms and making you feel sure that you are about to die – that’s why many people end up in an emergency room).
And that doesn’t end with the panic attack. Even when it’s gone, you will be left with a sense of despair and uncertainty, and you will spend the rest of your time on the lookout for more panic attacks. You know they are there, they are just waiting for you to lower your guard to attack you again.
This is why it is so important to have someone close to you, and not just anybody. Someone who understands you, or at least tries to. Someone who can just stay there and hug you, listening to you or just sharing your silence. There is nothing other people could do to solve your problem – boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, siblings, friends… as much as they love you, there is no way they can solve your problem – but they can make things easier (or less hard, at least) when you are in total despair and you can see no light at the end of the tunnel. They will remind you that you are fighting, that you haven’t given up, that you have reasons to live for, that you are still a person.
Asking for help means opening up to other people, but also opening up to the possibility of change and improvement. Letting help in means getting out of your dark corner and give light the possibility to get in. It’s scary, but it’s worth it.
In my case, I had some great friends on my side, and my mom was very supportive too, but the person who helped me the most was my boyfriend. It was very hard for me to talk about my illness, also because I was afraid of realizing that talking wouldn’t help and feeling even more hopeless. However, he respected my rhythms, he gave me my time, always staying at my side. When I talked, he was listening. When I was quiet, he was still there. When I could be distracted, he took my mind off my issues, but when I couldn’t, he just stayed still with me. He gave up many things for me, trips, nights out, fun days… but he never made me feel guilty for it. He never mentioned it once.
I am sure that all of us have a person like this at our side, if only we let them in. Give people a chance, until you find the one who is actually manages to help you, somehow.
The person who will do better at this will be yourself. The ultimate strength to actually defeat your monster is yourself. And I guarantee you that you do have this strength inside of you, you just can’t see it yet. That’s why everybody who gets through panic attacks (or other mental illnesses) is such a stronger person after.
But I was far from seeing this at the time, and so I got by, with the help of the people of loved me, feeling dead on the inside and way too weak on the outside…
To everybody suffering from mental illnesses: Medication helps, but it only cures the symptoms, it won’t solve your real problem. Even though your symptoms are physical, the actual cause for your illness is psychological, laying unnoticed deep inside of you. Ask for the professional help of a psychologist, because the only real way out is psychotherapy (possibly with the back up of meds). A better life is possible for you too: Don’t hesitate to ask for help!
I am not a professional, but you can contact me through my Contact page for advice, tips, or simply for a talk. We are all in this together!
On a totally different topic, you still have two days to make a difference and take the poll, what are you waiting for?