It’s May! Which is not only my birthday month (Taurus baby!) but, it’s also Mental Health Awareness Month. (Isn’t that ironic?) I’ve been putting off writing this piece because it’s so personal and there is such a stigma around mental health discussions. I don’t want to be judged but, I do want to raise awareness and help break barriers that surround mental health. I want to be honest with my readers. I want people to know they can and should talk about their mental health. It sounds cliché but, I’m going to say it anyway because it’s true! MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH! With all the bad things happening in the world right now, the one good thing is that we, as a society, are more open and honest about mental health.
I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was around 13 years old. In the 90’s, mental disorders and mental illnesses were not discussed in public. We didn’t have social media platforms and open discussions. If people found out you had a mental disorder or illness, you were deemed “crazy” by your peers. With that being said, I hid it from most of my friends. As I got older, the severity of my anxiety and panic disorder increased. My depression wasn’t the primary focus of my mental health anymore; however, it is always lingering around in the background.
Driving has always been a trigger for me, especially since losing my best friend in a car accident. Prior to my first pregnancy, I took a traveling position with my corporate office. I was on the road everyday and I had a couple of car accidents. During that time, my anxiety got worse with each one but, I was able to contain it (most of the time) with my doctor prescribed medication. After I discovered I was pregnant and could no longer take any medication for anxiety, I was able to take a job position in a facility that was close to my house. I figured being close to home would keep me safe on the roads. I was wrong. After the car accident with my daughter, my anxiety seemed to triple and I got a new diagnosis of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder).
My anxiety and panic disorder comes out in many forms.
- Shaky, blurred vision or seeing spots
- Trouble breathing, shortness of breath
- Racing, spiraling thoughts
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling dizzy and/ or passing out
- Physically shaking
Having PTSD intensifies my anxiety and the trauma added the following fun symptoms.
- Fear of driving and traveling
- Flashbacks/ Seeing cars that aren’t there coming at me head on when I’m driving
- Social isolation
- Emotional detachments
- Heightened reactions to life events, big and small
- Anxious and panicked moods
Driving is still very difficult for me. I did seek treatment through a therapist and I felt like I was making progress, then there were work and scheduling conflicts. I know that therapy does help but, in my opinion it doesn’t “fix” the anxiety disorder. Therapy is ongoing and with your commitment, it does help. I am under my primary doctor’s care and I do take anxiety medication, as needed. I personally do believe in the science behind medication whereas others like the natural route with vitamins and herbs – Both are acceptable treatments, you have to pick what works best for you. I also practice yoga and stretching. Self-care is essential. Mind, body, and soul!
If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or any other mental illness you should seek assistance from a doctor and/ or therapist. They can help guide you to the best care plan for you and your life.
Here are some options for coping with mental health issues:
- Therapy or counseling
- Natural herbs and remedies
- Prescription medication, under a doctors watch
- Meditation and grounding techniques
- Yoga and breathing exercises
- Support groups
- Reaching out and talking to loved ones
- Hospital and/ or residential treatment programs
Today, technology is amazing and allows us to talk to professional counselors and doctors without leaving our homes. We have the power of the internet at our fingertips, endless amounts of literature and discussions. I found out about the Mental Health America organization earlier this year. Their website is really helpful and easy to navigate. By sharing my struggles with mental health, I’m hoping to inspire others to take control of theirs. Just know, you are not alone and your life matters.