Happy Wednesday everyone! #WiseWordWednesday
Today I thought I would talk about something that remains a prime issue for those suffering with mental health, but is often hard to communicate in the heat of the moment ~ friends, family, & significant others.
I have panic attacks. I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I suffer from depression.
Yet, no matter how much research I do on my diagnoses, or explain to others what it feels like, it still weighs on me how to share what I need during one of these episodes. I think part of it stems from the stigma ~ no one wants to admit they need help. That being said, there’s no way to guarantee you will always be alone when an episode strikes, and there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Despite my belief that you shouldn’t feel ashamed asking for help or support during a rough time, when something flares up it can be hard to say exactly what you need, especially because you might not know when you need.
For that reason, here are some tips to share with loved ones now, so they can be there for you in the future.
1.Don’t say “calm down.”
As much as you may mean to be helpful, and as an outsider are trying to show that the issue is not as big as it seems, in the end that just makes there person going through the episode feel even more agitated and out of control. If I, or anyone, could stop a panic attack with the magic words calm down, you’d bet I’d say them to myself, and we wouldn’t ever be having this conversation in the first place.
2.Don’t take it personally.
I have an awful habit of blaming others, especially those I’m dating, for triggering me during a panic attack. While an action by an SO might intensify a bad feeling, it’s not your fault. In the moment of a panic attack, people just want any sense of control and labeling someone as the bad guy sometimes helps. This isn’t an excuse, and I still regret many things I’ve said to ex’s when in a panic attack, but if you as the SO know this it can help understand the other person’s motive. They love you, they just want control back.
3. They just want to be understood.
During a bout of depression, we aren’t lazy. When we feel anxious, we aren’t just looking for an excuse. If we have a panic attack, we aren’t being dramatic. None of these feelings are fun for us, and if we could stop them or tell you the source of why they are happening we would. The issue is we can’t. Sometimes I just want to cry. Sometimes I can only think of the millions of things ahead of me like: should I have a roommate after graduation? will I get into a good grad school? do I need a car in my 20s if I live in a city? All of these are at least two years away, yet that doesn’t stop them from letting them reply in my head all day.
4. Just hold me.
I think the best experiences with anxiety, depression, or a panic attack have been when the person with me gets that I can’t explain it and there isn’t an instant solution. I go to therapy. I workout to relieve stress. I mediate to refocus my mind. We are all trying our best to not let our illnesses control us. All that considered, there are days where there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop the flood of emotions. The best feeling sometimes is just when my friend opens her arms and pats the side of her bed, just letting me cry it out on her shoulder. Or my most recent ex ( I was telling my co-worker a story and at the end he said “All I got from this story is that you’ve had too many boyfriends”… whoops) would just say “I love you” and just wrap me up and hold me tight. You just being there makes us feel better and a little less worthless.
5. Play our favorite music. ( or show us anything we love)
Distract us. Understand that we need something to bring us back to what we love about ourselves, instead of what we hate. I hate my mental illnesses. I hate what they’ve done to my relationships, I hate what they’ve done to my friendships, I hate what they’ve done to my school work, but I love that I’ve become stronger. I’m still here, despite days of thinking that maybe I’d be better off dead because the pain would be gone and I would no longer be a burden to all my loved ones. I want to be here, I just need to be reminded why.