So, your garage has slowly but steadily become your catch-all for all the items you own, the belongings you “may need” in the future. But this “out of sight out of mind, I’ll just put it in the garage for now”plan you adopt every time you unclutter a room in your house hits a snag the day you decide to go out and buy yourself a shiny, new car, but not just any car, the car you’ve been eyeing for a while now; because it’s brand new and is the new love of your life, the last thing you want is for your new babe to be left out in the cold. You happily drive it home and as soon as you turn into your driveway you remember that half of your material possessions are stacked right to the garage door. You’re Immediately struck with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and dread at the task ahead, every bit as intense as leaving an air-conditioned house and being faced with a hot summer day. So overwhelmed in fact that the only solution you can think of is to make a hasty retreat to your front door.
Being motivated to take good care of your new car makes the thoughts of making room for it constant and the heavy dread ever-present. But one day it dawns on you that in order to alleviate this ever-present angst, you must tackle the problem, feelings be damned. You take no joy in taking it on, but you roll up your sleeves and you work away at it. As you make progress the dread feels lighter and lighter and the anxiety starts to subside.
You may be asking yourself, “What does cleaning up one’s garage have to do with your mental health?” Well, you asked, many parallels can be drawn between someone who has an anxiety disorder and how a healthy person feels in the scenario above. What makes them similar is that the psychological experiences are the same, the feelings of dread, anxiety and being overwhelmed are shared by both. Both rate this overall mental feeling as being unpleasant.
But, the fundamental difference between the two is huge, the individual with the anxiety disorder experiences these symptoms on a very frequent basis and is often debilitated by them whilst the healthy person is experiencing a normal reaction to their stressful circumstance.
In my life, my anxiety disorder is almost always “on”. I was disabled by being so overwhelmed, stressed and in a constant state of dread because, like the person with the garage, I let things pile up from the floor to ceiling in the garage that lies within my head. Similarly, I didn’t have the first sweet clue how to fix it. Like a warm wave, it overwhelmed me at the very thought of trying to figure it out. So I played the avoidance game and waited for it to magically fix itself. Like that was ever going to happen!
Because living in near-constant anxiety became so unbearable, I decided I needed to take steps to minimize my pain. So, like the person who came to the conclusion that they just simply needed to tackle the garage, I began to seek out ways to clean up my internal mess. This took the form of medication and therapy among other things. Seeking professional help and working to unclutter my mind did wonders to ease my anxiety and reduce the heavy heading feeling that came along with being anxious. The medication is simply a tool to help make the job of freeing up space a lot easier. I feel so much more liberated now as a result and now that I am on my way to wellness, I no longer feel lost, powerless and overwhelmed; and just like the person who only wants to preserve their brand-new car, I only want to work hard to improve my mental health.
For those without mental illness, the garage scenario, the feelings that it created for the well individual, that’s what it’s like for someone with an anxiety disorder on a regular basis. If you seek to understand what it’s like, you need only to think of a similar scenario, one that you’ve encountered. Try to think about what that felt like at the time. That’s the feeling, only the disorder amplifies those feelings and the anxious switch is always set to on. Hopefully, this will go a long way to help those who don’t understand it gets to a place where they can. And hopefully, it will foster more compassion for the sick too.
I was barely clinging to the everyday routine of my life. Like a broken branch being violently tossed about in a windstorm, so too was everything I ever knew. I was caught in the turbulence of a force that I had not yet experienced. I’ve had my moments of being pretty ill in the past, but this time it just felt different. I learned that you have to look for signs of strength when mentally ill.
it’s up to you to find the help you need and discover what those tolerances are.
I gave up, retreated. Exhausted, I stayed at home, I was defeated, too weak to fight on; or was I?
Now allies at war with me, I felt powerless to combat the two, I felt weak, lonely, and defenceless. They were the perfect storm, intense and always in my head. The PTSD produced so much fear that I made retreating from public my second occupation. I constantly lived in fear of the possibility of seeing death or having to render aid to someone in an emergency. I was reactive to every little noise and the outside world had become way too loud and intolerable.
may I suggest that you are not weak and definitely not alone.
The GAD amplified the fears I had and still have around death, and being the ever-constant storyteller, it will construct scenarios of people dying in front of me in any number of ways.
See, the perfect partners. Their combined powers were too overwhelming and I eventually conceded to their power and became unable to face my job, the world around me, or enjoy the company of my loved ones. I felt like the weakest most useless person on earth, and I felt I had little choice but to surrender to my woes. With a feeling of shame and experiencing a numbing and persistent sadness, I gave up, retreated. Exhausted, I stayed at home, I was defeated, too weak to fight on; or was I?
What to hear real-life mental wellness journeys? Go to A New Dawn
If this story sounds similar to your own, then may I suggest that you are not weak and definitely not alone. You’re also far from useless, you are a pillar of strength, an example of one who is strong; just drained and your tank is on E. Yet, despite this, you keep going.
I have had the honour of hearing many people’s life stories and I have yet to find one example of weakness, not one. It’s OK to take time to re-learn your tolerances and as with any other illness, mental disorders come with their own challenges that need accommodation on your part, it’s up to you to find the help you need and discover what those tolerances are. these are all Signs Of Strength When mentally Ill.
Arriving early because my anxiety wouldn’t have it any other way, I think to myself saying, “I DO NOT want to talk to the psychologist today, I’m just going to sit there and have a nap.” After imagining how silly that would make me look; I grab the keys from the ignition and yank the door handle, I very reluctantly drag my ass to the office. The office administrator is at her desk and all I can think is, “great I’m going to have to talk to them.” I keep the conversation to an absolute minimum, trying to seem busy on my phone. Just as I start writing this blog post in an attempt to avoid contact with her, I get called in. I loathe this afternoon, the bed is all I can and want to think about.
The psychologist notices right away that I am not at all in good form, and she relays her hunch to me and says something to the effect of, ” It looks like a day when you just needed to stay home.” Her suspicion was spot on. I immediately confirm it with her. The rest of the session was centred around mitigating my nightmares from PTSD. Which, to my surprise, I was an active, yet spaced out and not all that present participant. Despite feeling like someone was trying their best to pull me straight through freshly made jello, some progress was made and I now have even more tools in my repertoire that I plan to put into practice tonight.
For help on managing PTSD Click here: Ways to manage your PTSD-symptoms – verywellmind.com
Now I am on the other side of the psychologist’s appointment and am once again in the safety of my home. I am now experiencing a great sense of relief as I no longer am obligated to go beyond my front door again today, and after I conclude this blog entry, (which is mentally painful by the way)…LOL! I plan to melt into my sofa and shut the world off. When I need to rest, I do so and do so without shame, and most times, without guilt either. Pushing yourself when defeated and exhausted is very counterproductive to the mental wellness journey in my experience.
Although wading through the muck today was monumentally difficult and extremely taxing on my mind, I did it! I’m proud that I was able to overcome my interior adversity and do what I have to make my way towards mental wellness once more. I see it like this: If one must have life-saving surgery they will jump through hoops and face great pain and discomfort, all in an effort to do what it takes to live. Sadly and sometimes tragically, we often remain idle when we are mentally ill. Even though just as dire in many cases, we allow fear and denial to win us over and surrender to its overwhelming powers; almost as though it’s the natural response to a mental health emergency. Why though? We all know and understand just how deadly ignoring it can be. Why then is it not seen in the same light as a physical medical emergency? Injury is injury and pain is a pain, the ultimate consequence for ignoring both is the exact same!
So you see, I had little choice but to go to my mental wellness professional and attend to my very serious and very painful condition. I cannot and must not give in to the ills that plague me. I want to work and be productive, I desire a happier life and I have so many loved ones whom I want to see reach their full potential, share the holidays with them, and make beautiful memories as a result. I am very proud of the baby steps I have been making, progress is progress after all. Yes, it’s tough, no I don’t necessarily want to get up every day from another sleepless night and fight but dammit I’m gonna.
Be assured that you too can win the day and have your life back, one small step at a time. We all hide behind a smile and the phrase “I’m good!” when asked how we are, and we all make our internal battles a private affair, but what we ought to be doing is banding together to form a vast support network for healing. We might be better served if we start helping the not afflicted to better understand that the struggles we face are real, that we hurt and are in need of their compassion and kindness. We also need to give ourselves permission to acknowledge how serious our situation is and how much worse it can get without proper intervention.
There are people out there who know your pain, who are willing to try to understand and walk the rocky road beside you. Allow them to be the support you need, your pride and your fear be damned.
You May Also enjoy: Signs Of Strength When You’re Not Mentally Well