Mental health

The Difference of Awareness.

Today I want to introduce a series about awareness. I’m noticing that many of the people populating the blogosphere have suffered from some mental disorder. Actually, all over the world, one out of four people meets the criteria of some mental disorder at some point of their life. Then why do most people not know what mental disorder really consists in, even when they are diagnosed with it? Awareness does make a lot of difference. For sure, it would have made a lot of difference in a morning of four years ago, as well as in many other moments of many other lives.

The first time I had a panic attack, I had no idea I was having a panic attack. I didn’t even know what a panic attack was. It was 6am, I had probably woken up because of some noise my dad made while getting ready to go to work. I usually woke up around 8am, because I worked in the afternoon, from 2pm to 8pm. I had left university after realizing I didn’t like economics at all, and I was waiting for the beginning of the new academic year (months later) to start my linguistics studies, while working in a call center.

I felt pins and needles in my left arm, so I figured I had probably slept on it and turned to the other side. The pins and needles were not stopping though, and my mind was very aware of it. I stayed in bed for a couple of minutes, and I started feeling nervous while a sort of weight on my chest made it harder to breathe. I tried to wait for these feelings to pass, but every second felt like an hour.

I got up and went to the kitchen, where my dad was having breakfast. I told him about my arm and my chest, and he told me to relax, that it was nothing, but a voice inside my head kept on repeating “Something is wrong”. He went to the bathroom, and I started feeling sick in my stomach. I thought it might be because I was hungry, but it didn’t feel right. I had no appetite at all.

That’s when it hit me. It had probably been in the back of my head all the time, but that’s when I recalled it. A couple of days before, having nothing to do, I turned on the TV on some random channels, looking for something to watch. They were showing Grey’s Anatomy, and since everybody was talking about this awesome series, I decided to give it a try.

A little girl enters the E.R. with young mom. The mom explains she only has a light nausea, and they make her lay in a bed to run some tests. Then the little girl starts talking, saying that her mom has been throwing up a lot and didn’t want to go to the E.R. because it’s probably nothing, but she insisted and convinced her. The nausea and a little discomfort in the left arm are enough for the doctors to figure out the woman is about to have a heart attack. Exactly when they gaze into each other’s eyes with the same diagnosis in mind, the medical equipment that the young mother is connected to starts beeping like crazy, and the doctors rush her into surgery.

I woke my mom up and told her I was afraid of having a heart attack, terrified, almost in tears. She told me to lay on the bed next to her, but I was too nervous to lay down, so I sat. Something in my mind was warning me I was risking my life, staying in that room instead of running to the E.R. My mom was massaging my back to calm me down, but when my dad entered I saw in their eyes that they didn’t know what to do. I was shaking, I was petrified, I knew something was happening to my body. I just didn’t know what, yet.


To everybody suffering from mental illnesses: Don’t hesitate to ask for the professional help of a psychologist! 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!

earth-day

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5 thoughts on “The Difference of Awareness.

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. While I don’t really like labeling anxiety and panic attacks as a “mental illness” (I think it’s more something we go through), I agree that it’s important to share with others that they are not alone. I know that when I started going through this, I worried that no one else went through what I did. While I would never wish my anxiety on anyone, I didn’t like the thought that I was strange or abnormal for going through what I go through. I think so many times, those of us who struggle are mislabeled and thought to be mentally slow, which isn’t true at all. I think anxiety needs to be something that more people try to understand.

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    1. I don’t like labels either, but I think recognizing panic attacks as a mental illness/disorder helps raise awareness and put it in a category of things that have to be known, cured and taken care of. I guess it makes it more concrete, especially for people who haven’t experienced it. 🙂

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