In August of 2014, I was in church when someone started talking about the end of the world. That night, I had my first panic attack. I felt out of control, and I felt claustrophobic and paralyzed in fear. I couldn’t get myself out of that anxiety because I was certain I was going to die a terrible death simply for something that I believed. It took me three years before I could even hear the words “end of time” without feeling a tightening in my chest. This fear and anxiety isn’t as strong as it once was, but I still get nervous when I walk into a church and listen to a sermon/watch a video about Daniel, Revelation, or Matthew 24.
In July of 2017, I was diagnosed with PMDD, which is a severe kind of PMS. This means I have about one week a month where I feel like myself, and the other three are covered in extra anxiety, extra insecurities, a sense of hopelessness, or all of the above. Because of this, I was on anti-depressants from July until December of 2017. I have failed two attempts at the written test for my driver’s license because of test anxiety. I had a panic attack on my last day of senior year because I felt out of control and couldn’t ground myself into logic. Sometimes I still get into anxiety spirals where it takes a while to get out.
I get nervous easily. When I’m driving with my mom and I see a car start to pull into our lane, my breath catches in my throat for a second. Worst case scenario is my default. Flying is scary to me because I feel out of control.
During the last few months, all my emotions turned off. I didn’t let myself think of anything except the work that I had to do so I could finish the school year worry-free. What I didn’t expect was the lack of a return from my emotions. It took me until Friday night of graduation to finally let myself feel what was going on. Sure, I was sad and feeling nostalgic but I wasn’t really feeling those things. I just knew they were there. I was so preoccupied with taking control over something that I didn’t let myself focus on anything else, even if that something else was simply taking care of my own mental health.
Still, I am very lucky. I have access to therapy, I have a very supportive family, and I have friends who understand these parts of me. I can count on one hand the amount of panic attacks that I’ve had, and I am able to move through spirals of anxiety after a while. I have coping mechanisms, and I’m working on doing those things regularly. I am generally a happy person. I laugh at things and smile every day. I don’t feel enveloped in sadness very often. But I know that the bad things are still there, because if I pay attention to them for even a couple minutes it can take a few days for the thoughts to go away again.
Because of these things, I throw myself in writing. I write for this website, I write poetry, and I journal almost every day. I used to write songs, too. I act, I listen to music, and I go into stages of running a lot. I may get anxious in church sometimes, but I am able to separate God from the building, and that’s something that I have had lots of help with over the years. I may feel like I’m going crazy most of the time, but I have gotten to the point where I can recognize it and work through it. I may feel out of control sometimes, but I have a family who can ground me in logic. I may be afraid of flying, but I have been able to make my love for traveling greater than my fear.
Lastly, we need to be more open about mental health. Everyone gets worried, scared, lonely, and unhappy sometimes. Some people have things worse than others, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it. Lend your ears to someone who needs to talk, and your shoulder to someone who needs to cry. Give space when they need it and be there when they can’t handle any more space. Be there for yourself. Do the things that you know are good for you. Don't sacrifice your own mental health to take care of someone else's. Don't let your fears get in the way of your living. I know that you have something to offer this world. I know that you will work through all of this. To quote Christopher Robin, "Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Madisen Kuhn, one of my favorite poets, recently started #AHandMovement. This is a project used to open up candid conversations about mental health. This piece was my reaction to that project.