But hey, that perfectly defeats the whole purpose of writing this post. I've been wanting to write this post for the longest time; wanting to share a truthful, realistic point of view about mental health issues. It's such a vital part of our lives, essential topic to be discussed, to raise it's awareness. Sadly, it's rarely being talked about. In fact, social expectations have more or less taught us that we should always display our best, perfect, successful and healthy self to the world and simply hide our flaws, struggles, insecurities under the carpet and no one should ever find out.
But today, I'm going out of the norm to talk about a personal experience of mine- panic attacks/ anxiety.
Oh trust me, it's definitely not an easy task to be typing this out. Like I've said earlier, I've been wanting to write this for the longest time, but it's always been a challenge remembering what you've experienced, putting your thoughts into words, and of course, the fear of being judged. Amidst all of the fears and whatnot, a strong motivation tells me that this needs to be done. Someone out there needs to hear it.
So here it is- a real, truthful experience of what its like struggling with panic attacks without trying to normalize or even beautifying it.
"My heart is beating really fast right now. Hmm, this is strange. What's happening?" I thought to myself. Before I know it, I realized my hands were shaking, I'm short of breath, trying my best to grasp for air.
"Okay, why are these tears rolling down my cheeks uncontrollably? What. In. The. World. Is Happening to me?" The next second I found myself crying hysterically without any reason.
"Alright, it's fine. It's gonna be fine. Let's take some long, deep breaths. Everything's gonna be just fine." I did everything I can to help myself to stay calm- listening to slow tempo music, taking deep and long breaths, even trying to hum/sing to the music.
Nothing worked. Absolutely nothing.
The whole episode lasted around 30mins, it all happened while I was driving home from work. I had a total of 3 episodes that day, and I was continuously experiencing 2-3 episodes daily for about 2 weeks.
My whole life was messed up. I wasn't able to drive, I wasn't able to work, I was constantly afraid that I'd have an episode in a public area and couldn't do anything about it.
"Why is this happening to me?" is a question I've probably asked a million times whenever I'm having an episode. Can't lie, but it really did annoy the heck out of me when I have an episode and yet I had no sense of control of it at all.
As a music therapist, I've witnessed how hard it is to be struggling with mental illness. I've always knew that it's something out of their control and I'm not gonna lie, I was once pretty judgmental towards this population before having the opportunity to work with them.
My whole perception quickly changed when I personally experienced it myself. It's already dead tough to be dealing with this, yet you have to constantly deal with insensitive comments and questions like,
"Can't you just control it? Just try harder, you're not trying hard enough."
"Treat it like a nightmare, it's fine."
"Why are you crying? Just think of some happy thoughts and you'll be okay."
My point is, it's tough. The struggle is real.
There were days...
where I couldn't get out of my bed, tearing and questioning my worth.
where I have sleepless nights and no appetite at all.
where I have cried in public, feeling like a total burden to my family and friends.
If you're nodding to everything (or most of it, everyone's different) or probably going through the similar situation- you're not alone.
Let no one tells you that you're not worthy.
Your mental illness does not define who you are, nor your worth.
You deserve to get help, and get on to that path of recovery.
And please do yourself a favor, do not struggle this alone.
Just like any other physical illnesses, it takes time to recover.
Seek help, taking things one at a time, self-care, well deserved rest- all these will do you good :)
A change needs to happen. A change in perception, a change in social norm.
People needs to know that it's perfectly okay to be not okay. There's absolutely nothing wrong having an issue with mental illness.
That's where you can make a difference. Yes, YOU!
You may know of someone whom is struggling with a mental illness, or maybe you're the one struggling with it.
How can one help, you may ask?
A little more love, a little less judgement, and a whole lot more acceptance- that my friends, would make this world a much better place to live in.
Despite having those experiences, I'm truly thankful.
I have learned what its like to be in the shoes of someone struggling with mental illness.
I have learned that choice of words can be a source of encouragement, but it also can easily be a dangerous tool to trigger negative emotions.
I have learned that being vulnerable doesn't mean you're weak, in fact I'd like to call it- the true strength.
For those of you who are wondering how am I currently doing- thankfully, I haven't had an episode for a long time :) Yes, there may be symptoms here and there once in awhile, but not an episode. If you were to ask me, what actually helped me? A whole lot of Jesus and daily dose of music. (and yes, music freaking works. Not saying because I'm a music therapist but it works. Of course, Jesus is freaking real too.)
I sincerely hope that this would raise some awareness and give a glimpse of what it may looks like to be struggling with a panic attack. While there are many different types of mental illnesses and every person's experience might differ, I'd like to encourage you to get yourself exposed to a topic that's rarely being talked about especially in the Southeast Asian countries. You never know how your knowledge could be a help to your loved ones.
All in all, I'm forever thankful for supportive family and friends whom've went out of their ways to accommodate my needs and showered me with love and support. Last but not least, to Jesus who makes all things possible.
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."