First, a little background on me. Turns out I have probably been living with anxiety my entire life, but it was not until 2013 when I was in an awful accident where I was actually diagnosed. After my accident I was diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD which eventually led to a depression diagnosis as well. Now, having gone from ‘never’ having a mental illness to having three was devastating, at the time. I was an avid concert goer and really enjoyed anything with bright lights, big crowds, and loud noises. Directly after my accident sometimes something as simple as a glass crashing a breaking or the blender going to irritate my anxiety to the point of panic attacks.
It took a long time before I was ready to talk about everything I was going through. Sometimes, I even held things back from my closest friends, family, and boyfriend (now fiance). It was a very lonely life to live. I am now four years into my diagnosis and am no longer ‘devastated’ but proud. I no longer wish my life were ‘back to normal’ because this is my new normal.
Yes, I have good days and bad. Sometimes I miss out on family events or socializing with my friends because I just can’t handle it. Sometimes I truly cannot get out of bed in the morning. But opening up with myself, those around me, and anyone who asks has allowed me to grow into myself and who I am as a person.
My original breakthrough was when I was working as an engineer. I had co-workers and bosses who were honestly concerned but had never known someone with as severe of anxiety, PTSD, and depression that I have. At first I was self conscious about talking about my therapist, but then something switched in my head, and so if they asked, I was completely honest. It led to being asked more personal questions like what does it feel like to have a panic attack? or how is seeing a therapist helping you on a day to day level? And while sometimes it was tough to share such personal things, it can seriously make a difference by helping people understand what is actually going on..
Yes, I see a therapist, she is amazing and has helped me learn to respect myself and gain my life back. Yes, there is a stigma around seeing therapists and while that stigma is improving as mental health awareness grows, it still seems to have a negative connotation.
No, I no longer care if people think I am weird or crazy for seeing a therapist, someone who is genuinely helping me.
I mean if I had another lifelong condition, say high blood pressure or asthma, and did not go to the doctor for treatment or take medication to help people would look at me like I was an absolute nut job.
My HOPE is that in the future the same will happen when someone says they are suffering from a mental illness. That no matter who they are talking to they are encouraged to seek treatment for an issue that is probably controlling their life.
Since I have come into myself, I do not feel the need to hide the doctors I am seeing or that sometimes I have to take an extra anxiety pill in stressful situations because I am getting the help I need. There will always be negative comments and awkward conversations, but usually that just means the individual does not truly understand what is going on.
Now, I am not suggesting everyone go shouting out that they have a therapist or anything, just that there is nothing to be ashamed of, so if someone asks or is wrongly assuming, stand up for yourself and others. And don’t be afraid to bring it up either. If you had some form of breakthrough with your doctor and want to share it with your friends, then do it! The day I came home from my therapists and we had worked on some very practical anxiety coping mechanisms, I wanted to tell everyone what I learned, so I did!
Therapists can be a touchy subject, but, hopefully through time and conversation the topic will open up.