The elephant in the room
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room… mental illness.
In this very moment I am experiencing a warranted level of anxiety and stress. However, for someone like me who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, stressors or situations that induce anxiety are lurking around any corner. Sometimes, like today, I have anxiety with a known cause. Other times, I have anxiety that seems to come out of the blue, without any warning or justification.
Today I found out that my cousin, her husband, and their unborn baby were in a head on collision in which their airbags were deployed and their car totaled. If you don’t know, I was in a car accident 2 years ago that basically ignited my already anxious personality into an overly anxious personality… especially when it comes to driving; me driving, loved ones driving, you name it. So news like this hits me really hard. As I was on the phone with my Aunt and subsequently my cousin, my call waiting was beeping in and it was the hospital I work for. We take call shifts where I work (Labor & Delivery) due to the unknown nature of childbirth, and today I was on call from 1pm-7pm. Realizing this, I had to promptly hang up before really getting any details or asking any questions and call my unit back. When speaking to the charge nurse, in true GAD fashion, I could barely hold it together. I hadn’t even had a minute to take in the news of my cousin’s accident and now I had to rush to get ready and drive 35 minutes on I-95 to work. I had to DRIVE. And there it was, anxiety coursing through me… completely and utterly uncontrollable. I knew I would most likely get to work without incident. I knew everyone was alive and without any major injury and that the baby was okay for the time being, but that didn’t stop the rush of anxiety that was quickly overcoming my mind and body. I needed to calm down. Luckily, the charge nurse was able to get by for the time being and I was put on standby and given the gift of time to allow my rational mind to regain control of my irrational fears.
I don’t currently take daily medication for my GAD, although I have before on two separate occasions when the quality of my daily life was suffering because of it. (If you are reading this and suffer from anxiety or depression that is affecting your quality of life, I highly recommend that you consider seeing a doctor and explore your treatment options- they work wonders). For now, I rely on my coping skills to breathe and talk myself back into a rational state of mind. I discovered a self-coping method that either keeps me from spiraling into a full-blown anxiety attack or helps calm me when I am already feeling anxious; I say the Hail Mary… or 5 or 10. It’s amazing how this truly works in helping me to keep a focused mind and how well it helps me when I begin to catastrophize a real or possible situation. I was brought up Catholic and although I do not actively go to church, I do pray…a lot. I feel blessed to have a foundation of Faith to fall back on when I need it the most. It isn’t a foolproof method and sometimes it just isn’t enough to get me out of my funk, but I do feel that it has allowed me to better cope with anxiety without medication.
It’s hard for me to outwardly say that I have a mental disorder, but I do… GAD is classified as a mental illness. Having mental illness is hard because most people don’t take your complaints/symptoms seriously. It isn’t a visible or tangible disorder and to most, seeing is believing. My dad is from the school of hard knocks and I don’t think he truly believed in anxiety disorders and their subsequent depressions until he saw me in the weeks and months following my car accident.
Today I was able to self-cope, and I thank God for that ability. For some, there are not enough coping methods or medications in the World to ease the helpless feelings of anxiety and depression and sadly, they will often times be lost to suicide. It is a scary thing to have your mind betray you and to feel out of control of your own body and emotions but it happens, it is real whether you can see it or not. So please do not mock those who suffer from mental illness and remember to be kind, for you may not know what someone is struggling with.