Anxiety is a mental illness, and I get to battle it daily (along with many others).
TRUTH (a wonderful infographic to read, if you’re interested in more understanding can be found at the Mental Health America website:
• NO. It’s not nervousness about a coming event.
• NO. It’s not from too much caffeine consumption.
• NO. It’s not attention-seeking.
• YES. It’s me analyzing EVERYTHING.
• YES. It’s a negative voice that follows me EVERYWHERE.
• YES. I am constantly overcoming fears and worries to battle it.
And no, I’m not ashamed (nor should you be). This is real. Let’s talk about it.
What prompted this post was an anxiety attack that came after some news I received during a post-op appointment.
Here’s a little bit of context – on October 23, I was admitted to the hospital for severe abdominal pain (amongst other incredibly painful things). After my CT scan, I was booked for emergency surgery. My appendix (which we aptly named, Trouble) was ANGRY and needed to come out. The surgery went well, and was able to be preformed laparoscopically.
Five weeks later, here I am walking into my post-op appointment. I met with my surgeon. He said I was healing beautifully (although we now know I am allergic to steri-strip adhesive – so itchy!) and to keep an eye out for any pain or oozing during my last week of healing. Then, the surgeon sat down and said he was looking at the tests they did on my appendix. What he said next was the clincher:
You actually had an abscess on your appendix. If you would’ve waited even one more day, it would’ve been a much graver situation.
At the time, I casually acknowledged the information. It hit me as I was walking out, in the pouring rain, to my car. “Hold it together. Just make it to the car.”, I was telling myself.
I shut the door, and the key element of the anxiety disorder, a panic attack, descended. A panic attack for me:
• Shortness of breath, hyperventilating
• Rocking back and forth
• Blinding clarity
The most intimidating of all my symptoms was the blinding clarity. Yes, I did have surgery for a life-threatening illness. Yes, it was real (even the bill for the surgery didn’t make it real!). And yes, if I would’ve waited even a day longer, my life… my life, would’ve been threatened.
Until this attack, I had been floating in a ‘Liminal space’ (for more information about this theory, see this post on the Psychology Today website – and take your time, I had trouble taking the immensity of the definition in) which, in my own words (with the very minor research I’ve done), is the space between one stage of my life and another. It’s basically like remaining in limbo. The information I received from my surgeon triggered me OUT of this liminal space, and into the reality of my life after accepting this new information.
One of the ways to battle a panic attack is to reach out to someone you trust and ask for help. For me, I chose to call someone who knows my anxiety, and knows NOT to say ‘just relax’ (there’s that cringe phrase!)
Here’s how she helped me:
• Broke the situation down into small bites I could handle.
• Helped me walk through the situation to acknowledge what was happening.
• Explained the situation in anatomical details (which actually calms my brain down).
• And brought me back into reality gently by asking me questions about that day.
I crossed two large bridges that day.
1. The fog I was in actually has a name – the liminal space – and it was my body’s way of coping with a traumatic event.
2. Anxiety is a mental illness that is very real, but can be battled.
Let’s talk openly about this. Hit like if you can relate. Have you been through a traumatic event that caused a panic attack? I’d love to hear how you were able to walk yourself through it, so I can add to my plan of attack. Just know – we are strong and we can change the thinking around this mental illness.
*I am in no way medically-certified. This reflection is my own opinion of how I battle my anxiety. It’s meant for relating and sharing knowledge, not medical advice. If you feel you need help, I encourage you to contact your health care professional immediately.