I live with an invisible illness. It is all in my head…literally. From personal experience I consider it to be an invisible illness in more than one way though. Firstly, you obviously can’t see it and secondly, people/society don’t like talking about it. It can be kept hidden. It’s like this secret that everyone actually knows about. And yet, they keep it hush hush. I mean I get it. It can be a scary topic to talk about, but even if no one talks about it, guess what…it’s still there. People are still living with it. People are still getting diagnosed with it. It is still a thing. I can’t stress this enough…IT’S REAL.
I’ve been learning a lot lately, putting the pieces together. I’ve come to realize that some people in my life only come to me when they need help with their mental health. Which is completely okay, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to help, but then that’s it. I help them out and *poof* they are gone again. It seems at times I’m only included when it is convenient for someone else. That is like a punch in the gut, every single time. I’m doing my best to try moving on. I will gladly help someone who has questions or concerns about their own mental health BUT I’m still a person too. I’m not just the girl with anxiety and depression. I want to be included; I want to have friends to talk to about more than just my diagnosis. I don’t want to be an afterthought, a friend forgotten about and pushed to the side.
I have no shame posting a picture of me crying on social media. NO, it is NOT for attention. I do it so people can see what it is like. What I go through. I have no shame writing these blog posts. Once again, NOT for attention. I do it so others know they aren’t alone and to create awareness. If one person reads this and understands the pain of living with a mental illness, I will be happy. Yes, it is invisible. But there are so many physical signs and symptoms. Everyone gets nervous or a little anxious, but that can be a good, healthy amount. So now think about a time where you were nervous…like a job interview, a presentation, a date, going to school, trying something new…okay now take that feeling and multiply it by 50. That may come close to the anxiety I feel daily. My mind is constantly in overdrive and it is exhausting. I try my very best to be brave and not give my anxiety the ability to control me. I do this every day. If it was up to my anxiety, I’d never leave the house. This past week for school, I had a ZOOM call for a weekly check-in with my class. No problem, right? I didn’t have to leave the house. But I emailed my prof prior to the check-in and told her my anxiety was really bad and I didn’t think that I could attend with my camera on. No problem, I could do that. But we were also getting into small groups to work on certain skills from this week. I couldn’t do it. I feared that I’d break down crying while being in this ZOOM call. I had been blinking away tears all day, I knew it was bound to happen. Okay, so I didn’t participate in the skills practice, whatever right? No. Not whatever, (this is the other part of my anxiety) I was so mad at myself for not being able to participate. Like hated myself that this is the way my brain works sometimes. So basically, either way, no matter what I choice I made last night, I faced an incredible amount of anxiety. Some days it feels like I am damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. There is no winning. Those are my bad days. I wish I could say they are few and far between but unfortunately that isn’t the case.
The good part of this story is that I have come so far from that girl in high school. The girl who hid under the desk in the home office because I was hysterically crying and could not stop. The girl who would go to class and stare blankly at the chalk board. I do remember similar moments in grade 7 & 8. My Dad would drive my sister and I to school and I wouldn’t get out of the car. I’d sit there crying until he took me home. So, I’ve been dealing with anxiety for a large portion of my life, both diagnosed and undiagnosed. I also remember making a list of all the things I hated about myself. Then in a high-school leadership class, my teacher had us write down 3 positive things that we could look back at and remind ourselves. That they were true no matter what was going on in our teenage years. I still have that piece of paper and pull it out occasionally.
I had a friend reach out yesterday, asking about what an anxiety attack looks like for me, as they are different for everyone who experiences them. It reinforced to me that by sharing my story I can, and I am helping others. The fact that they felt comfortable enough to ask is proof that what I am doing is working. I know how hard it can be to ask those questions.
Keep fighting, and remember you are never alone.
I get it.