The walls are closing in. My lungs aren’t working. Scratchy throat, sweaty palms, wobbly legs. I need to leave. Where’s the exit? How do I escape? What if I faint? What if I blackout? I can’t breathe. Fight or flight. Where the hell is my flight out of here?
The above briefly epitomizes what these were like for me. The world crumbling at my feet and having zero control; it felt like a million pounds sitting on my chest. Heavy. Uncomfortable. Powerless.
After suffering from numerous panic attacks and struggling with excruciating anxiety in my early 20s, I decided to seek help. My relationships were in jeopardy. My career was in jeopardy. Most importantly, I was in jeopardy.
I remember wondering why this was happening to me. I didn’t have any huge stressors in my daily life. My job was stable. My boyfriend (now husband) was wonderful and our relationship was healthy. I was surrounded by family that loved me.
I bawled during my first therapy appointment, fearful of why I was there and where my anxiety was taking me. Shaking, I admitted to my therapist I was coping by avoiding every possible situation that would trigger me. Terrified, I listened to her advice.
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
Six words. Six words changed my perspective on my anxiety. What was I afraid of? Ask me then, basically everything. Being stuck in the middle of a crowded mall and not knowing where the exit was. Sitting in a work meeting and needing to bolt out in the middle. Driving my car on the freeway and feeling like I needed to pull over. Life was a maze and I was fucking lost.
After several sessions with my therapist and deciding to take a low dose of anti-anxiety medication, I educated myself on ways to cope. Today, I’m not fearful of my mental health. Do I feel 100% in control all the time? Not at all. Do I still deal with minor panic attacks and anxiety? Absolutely.
And now I’m a mother. I’m a mother to a sweet little girl who does not know where her nose is, let alone what mental health is. One day I’ll let her know that it’s okay to feel out of control. I hope she’ll know she’s much stronger than any mental illness that may decide to rear its ugly head.
If you’re lost, much like I was, keep going. I’m here to tell you you’re not alone. Maybe you’re a mother who feels the weight on her shoulders every single damn day. Please know that you’re a warrior. You’re a fighter. And even the strongest of us feel the burden of mental illness. I’m a new mom and I can feel my anxiety creeping in with the pressure that comes along with parenting. I’m not afraid of what’s to come. Mental illness is real and nasty and, frankly, a bitch. But it will not win. Not today.