By Eboni Elise
I can’t breathe,
these walls are closing in…
I feel like I want to run and hide, just jump off in the deep end. So many things to handle and juggle. This is beginning to be too much on so many levels. I’m stressing over the smallest things but I can’t help it. Taking a few minutes to breathe works a bit but it feels like a temporary fix, only delaying an attack that is bound to happen. Once it comes, it can’t be stopped. And it comes at the worst times, not caring where I am or who I’m with. I have a secret that I can’t believe I’m sharing. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
Just brace yourself. Get through it.
For someone who always has herself together, this is not easy for me to share. It’s not something I’m proud of and never disclosed to anyone outside of my family and besties. Battling anxiety can be rough. Generally, I’m a happy person but I have dark times when I just want to get away from everyone and everything. In those moments it’s frustrating because I know I can’t. Even as I’m writing this post, I’m having anxiety about sharing my anxiety. It’s one of the first warm, sunny days we’ve had. I should be outside enjoying it but instead I want to be left alone, under the covers with the door closed, shut out from life. It sucks because tomorrow I have to act like nothing is wrong.
SMILE – Your son is watching you. You don’t want him to see you like this.
SMILE – You don’t want anyone to think you are weak.
You better SMILE – People will start to ask you wants wrong and then you’ll have to explain.
I don’t know how I got to this point but I’ve battled with general anxiety disorder and panic attacks for the past six years. Life experiences of becoming a wife and a mother has made it harder to manage but has been my saving grace, leading me to seek help. I want to be better for my family and, most importantly, for myself. I hope someone reading this will decide to do the same.
I’m not proud to share this secret, mainly because having a mental health issue often has a stigma attached to it. It’s something that is not often discussed, especially in the black community. We are a people known for dealing with the worst situations imaginable and still remain resilient (slavery - need I say more) so how could I not overcome stress? Instead of seeking out professional help, we look to the church as the only source. Well, while I would be the first to lay my problems at the altar, I’m also gone lay on this therapist’s couch.
Seeking out professional help was one of the best things I could’ve done for myself. Here are 3 things I’ve learned while managing my anxiety:
1. Know Your Triggers.
It’s important to be aware of what makes you feel anxious so that you can be prepared. Focus on staying calm when you find yourself in these situations. My trigger is a sudden change of plans and not being prepared for it. Or, traveling with large groups for long periods of time.
2. Find What Helps You Relieve Anxiety & Make It a Priority to Do More of It.
The first solution given to me by my doctor was medication, but I didn’t think that was the best option for me (thanks but no thanks). As an alternative, I found activities to do on a regular basis that help me de-stress. I started exercising on my own and with a personal trainer, which helped me tremendously. I lose myself in a good book or mediate before I go to bed (Deepak Chopra & Oprah have a 21 day guided meditation series that I catch when they are free and there are plenty of meditation apps you can download on your phone, like Calm). The important thing is that I am sticking to my Year of No! and being intentional about setting aside time to take care of myself.
3. Be Easy!
Having a panic attack is an outward experience indicating that something inside is not well (emotionally or mentally). There is so much pressure to be perfect, to be successful, and to always be on top of your game. Be easy on yourself. I’m learning that I can’t do everything and that’s okay. And battling anxiety or having panic attacks is not a weakness. You are strong and can overcome this! People who are not dealing with this type of issue, are fighting some other kind of problem. This isn’t something to be ashamed of. Take things day by day, hour by hour if need be. Your mental health shouldn’t be treated any differently than your physical health.
Learn how to boost your mental health at www.mentalhealthamerica.net