Mental health vs. Anxiety
How it felt to me
Initially I was confronted by mental health issues about 3 years before I was divorced. I could remember times when I was in-and-out of the emergency room with chest pains that made me feel like Fred Sanford. Every episode he declared “It’s the Big One”. He would clutch his chest and tell Elizabeth, “I’m coming to join you honey.”
The only difference between me and Fred Sanford was the fact that my pain was not an act. Along with chest pains, I experienced shortness of breath a sour taste in my throat as if I was trying to swallow a whole lemon and an extreme feeling that I called the Dolby digital effect.
The Dolby digital effect to me was a level of experiencing sound that started low and gradually moved to an enormous bass that caused my heart to feel like it was skipping a beat.
Another example might be the experience of sitting at a stop light and someone drives up blasting car speakers loud enough to shake your car and make you feel as if your heartbeat has been thrown out of rhythm.
At each visit to the emergency room an EKG test was performed. When you go to the emergency room complaining of chest pain you are automatically considered a priority patient. Time and time again I raced to the emergency room feeling as if I was dying only to show no sign of irregularity on my EKG results.
Finally, someone was willing to confront me and say what needed to be said. “Ma’am we are scheduling an appointment with building 90 mental health to get you some help.” I was extremely angry at that statement. I looked at the brave young man and told him, I am not crazy.
He assured me that no one was implying that I was, however, my symptoms may feel like a medical concern, but they are also issues that describe panic disorder.
Reluctantly accepted the appointment. I spent a full year visiting a mental health specialist as she pointed out all the symptoms I was experiencing and told me I was suffering from panic and anxiety disorder.
Basically, my flight or fight sensors were out of whack. She taught me a few breathing techniques and coping skills that would help me when a panic attack reared its ugly head.
I would have between 3 and 5 panic attacks per day. I hid my symptoms from my children. I also hid from my church family and friends because I could not have faith in God and anxiety. This seemed like a lack of faith on my part. Mostly, I hid my disorder from my sister’s.
We would video call a few times per week to catch up, but I never told them what was happening to me. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I felt like the world would judge me if anyone found out I was talking to what I’d like to refer to as the crazy people’s doctor.
Susan, my mental health specialist witnessed me having a panic attack in her office. I was crumpled on the floor trying to breathe. Trying to deal with the pain and ride it out until the world stopped crashing around me and the pain subsided. It was at this point; she knew I would need medication to fight my battle, but I refused to take medicine.
Why? If I took medicine, I would be openly admitting to myself and to the world that something was wrong with me. I wasn’t willing to accept that. I could not accept it.
Convincing me to take Medicine
I can remember waking up throughout the night leaving my bed to sit alone in the dark and wait for the symptoms to pass. There is no sleeping to be done when your heart is racing, and you feel like you need to run a 10-mile marathon to exert the extreme energy bursts that take over your entire body.
My mental health specialist did all that she could to help me understand and convince me that it was ok to use medicine to help me cope with the panic attacks and it would not mean that I was admitting that I was crazy.
She asked me if I would take aspirin for a headache, or would I use a painkiller if I had a toothache. My answer was yes. I would. She began to tell me that Madison has been created to relieve symptoms associated with panic and anxiety.
Susan asked me, “what is the difference in taking medication for pain or anxiety or taking meds for a headache. They are designed to treat certain symptoms. I understood her point. I accepted the medication, but I didn’t take it right away.
The Medicine Worked.
One night after a horrendous panic attack, I decided to give the meds a try. At first, my symptoms became bearable and over a period of about one month, I noticed I was no longer having harsh symptoms. It took a couple of tries to get the dosage correct but once it was balanced, my symptoms became minor to the point that I didn’t notice them very much.
Later, let’s say about 2 years later, I was video chatting with my 3 sisters. The sister who is 10 months older than me, made a comment about feeling jumpy and uncomfortable because she had not taken her meds in a few days. I asked her what medicine she was taking.
She said she was taking anxiety medication and she was happy to have something that helped her calm down and feel better. She was not shy about sharing and showed no feelings of shame or embarrassment.
This was amazing to me. She was willing to share without one hint of embarrassment. I decided I would share also. I told my sisters that I was using medication also and that I had been diagnosed with panic and anxiety disorder. No one laughed at me or told me I was crazy.
Once the sharing was in full swing, the baby sister admitted she was also using meds to help with her anxiety. All this time we never told each other about our issues with anxiety. I wonder if we could have been a better support system for each other if one of us had spoken up sooner. I can’t explain panic attacks or anxiety disorder.
I don’t know why our bodies react the way that they do to stressors. But what I do know is I’m not alone in this mental health battle. I also want to use this article to speak up and tell someone else, you are not crazy, and you are not alone. Ask for the help you need. Talk to people who love and care for you.
Panic and anxiety disorder as well as other mental health disorders do not have to control your life. You can take back the control. I’m glad I was finally able to swallow my pride and accept the help I needed to manage my symptoms.
It was very hard to admit I needed help but once I accepted the help and took control of my anxiety and panic disorder, I realized the disorder was part of my life, but it wasn’t who I am. I am not the disorder.
As I continue to talk with my mental health specialist periodically and I am currently taking anxiety medication. I take it because life is better with it than without it.
I’m now extremely grateful for that day the young man recommended a visit to the mental health department. He may have saved my life.
Are you in crisis? Need to talk? Text brave to 741 – 741 or call the suicide prevention lifeline at (1- 800-273- TALK) they are available 24/7. It’s free and confidential.
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