Has it been a year already since my last Time to Talk post?! That is terrifying.
What I want to share this time is the truth as I see it. When someone tells you they have a mental illness what do you think? Will it change your view of that person? Will it change your relationship with that person? Will you have to act differently around that person?
The answer to all of these things is no. The person is no different than they were before they told you. In fact it is rare that people with mental illness open up with people about how they are actually feeling.
If anything you should have positive thoughts about the person trusting you so much that they can talk to you about their mental health.
As someone with mental health issues – I am very open about my conditions and actively try to start useful discussion on the subject as well as support others with similar issues. One of the best yet hardest lessons to learn with mental illness is you are not alone. However, I also know from experience that every single persons mental health is 100% unique to them. My anxiety will not be the same as every other person with anxiety. Similar traits and physical symptoms, yes, but identical no.
I, like many other people with mental health issues, spend a lot of effort trying to be “normal” and to cope internally. We disguise ourselves so well that no one notices we are ill. We go about our day and no one would know that inside we are at war – with out own minds.
I wrote the rest of this article specifically to illustrate what it’s like in my little unique head sometimes. During a panic attack. It wasn’t easy to do but it’s the most honest I could be. So, here goes:
Right here, right now. I am in the midst of what I call a functional panic attack. I’m not sitting hyperventilating into a bag just yet, I’m functioning; I look normal or even relaxed on the outside but inside I’m panicking.
What are you panicking about? I hear you ask. Nothing I don’t think – I woke up like this for some reason.
What are you thinking? Normal thoughts and questions but FAST everything is like constantly going downhill on a rollercoaster. This is my inner monologue:
“You should sort out James’ lunch”
“You need to take out the bins NOW!”
“Empty the dishwasher – there are too many dishes on show!”
“Now take your meds”
“You have a cold, make a hot drink”
“You should have something to eat – why haven’t you eaten yet?”
” Why haven’t you taken out the bins yet? – You should have done that by now”
“My god my back is sore”
“There are too many papers on the table sort that”
“But wait you haven’t had breakfast yet”
“You should do that article now that you said you would write during your next attack – if you don’t whats the point in your blog?”
“Don’t panic too much you’ll have a seizure”
“That breakfast isn’t very healthy”
“You haven’t taken your meds yet”
And so on.
While this is all going on – my autonomic nervous system has kicked in – this is the fight or flight side of the nervous system. The side that works when someone attacks you or you need to run away from a lion – this makes my heart go at 124 beats per minute (I measured it on S Health on my phone) as well as this my hormone control has released adrenaline (what they inject into people having in anaphalactic shock) and a whole cocktail of other wonderful stuff. Just to perpetuate the feeling that all these tasks are actually life or death situations and not just tasks.
I’m now going to go sit and try to calm my panic a little.
So there you have it. Nobody could tell if they looked at me. Neither the physical or the mental stress shows on the outside.
Mental illness is exhausting but it’s part of who I am. I just need to learn to control it and accept it.
One of the best ways you can help all the people you know who have mental illness, or even someone who you just think needs a little extra support is to talk to them. Let them know you are there, you will not judge and you care about them. It will help. Maybe not immediately, but it will in the long run.
It’s time to change, it’s time to talk.