Shhhh... It's a Crisis!
Disclosure: This post contains my personal thoughts based on my own experiences and my own mental health struggles. Anxiety and depression (A&D) affects people differently. Please bear that in mind as you read this post. Information contained in post is not intended as professional advice. If you are experiencing a crisis, please seek immediate assistance from a certified crisis counselor. Crisis resources are located on our home page.
Crisis… if you’ve dealt with anxiety and depression (A&D), odds are that you’ve heard that term tossed around. If you suffer from these conditions, you already know how it feels… for others, hearing that someone is in crisis means that something is wrong and they need help.
Crisis is a lot more than just needing help. Understanding the thoughts and emotions that are raging inside a person and finding a way to overcome the barriers that many have built for themselves, that is how they’re finally able to find their voice and seek help.
I suffered in silence for many years and many reasons. The main reason was fear but I also felt shame and embarrassment.
For so many years, I kept silent about the issues that weighed so heavily on me. I was silent for so long that I convinced myself that this was the best way to cope. I though, “I’ve made it this far, I can handle this on my own.”
For a while, I actually did pretty well. If I were to measure how well I was able to cope based on other people’s perceptions of me, I would say that I nailed it. My social circle is more of a social speck… tiny. I pretty much created my own little bubble where I felt emotionally safe. I always kept a distance from others and guarded my emotions so as not to get too close. At work, I would smile and be polite to all of my co-workers, same at school with my peers; however, I never really moved past the acquaintance stage. I didn’t actually realize why I was doing that until I finally went to therapy. I always just agreed with the label I’d been given of “shy.”
Most days I would wake up and go about my day. I would get sad out of the blue and feel my entire body grow heavy. I was always sleepy and tired but I figured I was just out of shape or staying up too late doing homework, working… watching anime… lol yeah, I’m kind of a nerd and I’m ok with that.
During my college years, I was under a lot of stress and that did affect me to the point that I sought help for what I believed was only stress management.
I started dating when I was in college and maintaining an emotional distance wasn’t possible in a relationship. I recall being on a date with a very sweet man; he was a perfect gentleman and we had seen each other a few times by then. We had stopped to eat at a very nice, quiet park and we were leaning on the hood of his car. I felt nervous standing next to him and I recall fidgeting and biting my lip as he leaned in to kiss me… That should have been a sweet memory but instead I closed my eyes, and burst into tears. He jumped back, hands up like he’s just been caught stealing and I began to shake uncontrollably as the poor guy stood there dumbfounded and a little panicked. That was the first time I realized I’d had an anxiety attack. Sadly, it was far from the last.
I mentioned to my counselor what had happened and he tried to delve deeper. He told me that stress wasn’t the only issue that I needed to deal with and that a lot of the stress I was having actually came from emotional disorders that he wanted us to explore. We did… sort of…
As we dug into my emotional instability and tried to find the root, I began to shut down and grow defensive. I already knew what the root was and it was something that I had hidden deep inside myself for so long and never wished to face. I thought that if I could forget, I didn’t need to face anything and I could move forward unaffected. That was a huge mistake and I realize now that my past was affecting me all along. I was so terrified of the feelings and memories that rose when we touched on the subject, so terrified that I became uncooperative and our sessions terminated. *Side Note, the therapist I was seeing was provided by the university because I was a student. I do encourage students who are suffering from A&D to reach out to their schools and see if they offer mental health services.
So.. my first experience with counseling did not go so well. One thing that I did take away from the sessions was understanding that I needed to focus on facts and not so much on my feelings. That helped a bit. I was able to slow down and think when I was having another anxiety attack or when I would get really sad. I knew that I had depression issues as a child because I had suicidal thoughts but I thought that I had outgrown those. I didn’t realize that I suffered from depression as an adult. I thought sad was just sad and “bad thoughts” were normal since they were fleeting. I assumed that people had bad days and it was normal to fee like hurling yourself off the tallest overpass because I felt no intent behind those thoughts.
As I got older, I became more self aware and began to understand that I was a bit.. ok, a lot more emotional than most people. When things got tough, I would smile and put on my brave face in front of friends, family, and co workers but when I was at home, I would hide in the shower and cry. Showers are great, it’s like crying in the rain and washing away all the evidence. Unfortunately, crying alone and trying to cope without speaking up, that wasn’t so great. I’ve realized that one of the most dangerous things for a person dealing with A&D, is to feel alone.
When I was sad, I would lay in the room with the lights off. It felt safe in the dark and it was peaceful. I was able to breath and slow down my thoughts but once they slowed and I stopped obsessing over everything around me, I would begin internalizing my feelings and then it was like laying there listening to a voice in my head berate me and put me down. Those bad thoughts would creep back in and I would put my arm over my eyes to hide the tears in case anyone walked in. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying because I felt like they would think I was just being dramatic. I knew they wouldn’t understand and I didn’t want to deal with them thinking I was was crazy and crying for no reason. It’s really hard to voice why you’re feeling the way you are when there isn’t really a catalyst for it. Not one that I was willing to voice anyways.
Well… here goes. The straw that broke the camel’s back I guess…
A few years back, my world pretty much felt like it was crashing down around me. My mother was very ill and passing away, my husband and I were trying for a family, and I felt more alone then I had ever felt before.
My mother passed away from cancer and other complications; we had been very close. I was pregnant three times… I have no children. I’m sure you can figure that one out. It was very traumatic and emotionally, I felt ravaged and beaten down. It was one loss after the other. “Bad thoughts” were no longer so fleeting and I could barely drag myself out of bed. My house got really filthy because I was too depressed to get up and do anything. My husband tried to help but he was working more and more as I was taking more time off from work. I never spoke to my husband about what was going on with me. He never knew that I had begun to have suicidal thoughts again and by now I actually had a plan. I knew where and how… the only thing missing was a when. I started to spend more time online on my phone because it was easier to talk to total strangers than risk being judged by my loved ones.
It was one of these online friends that convinced me to seek help. He also suffers from mental health issues and if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know if I would have fallen to those “bad thoughts.”
It wasn’t easy to seek help, even after I had agreed to do so.
I had promised that I would make an appointment so see a professional. I remember sitting in the truck outside the parking lot of my work and crying uncontrollably as I sat there with my phone in hand and googled the mental health department at my doctor’s office. A man answered the phone and I felt my chest constrict. I sat there gasping for a few seconds before I finally uttered, “I need help.”
My voice cracked and I bit my lip waiting for him to respond. The man asked me what the visit was for and I panicked. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to say anything to a stranger. I was hyperventilating now and I couldn’t really talk but I managed to ask, “Do I have to tell you?” The guy said he needed to know so he could make the appointment… I hung up.
I felt like a failure. I couldn’t even make an appointment. My friend asked if I had made the appointment and I had to say no. I told him that I had really tried but I had panicked. He was very understanding and he walked through the call with me so I could be prepared. This time I called again but I had an idea of what was going to happen. I took a deep breath and a lady answered this time. I told her I needed to make an appointment and when she asked what the reason was, my friend had told me to answer, “I need help. I’m having bad thoughts.” The lady asked me if I was safe and I said yes. She scheduled me an appointment and although I felt nervous, I was more scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen once I got to the appointment. I wondered what questions would be asked and if people would see me going to the mental health offices and think I was one of the crazy people… I kind of imagined that when I walked in, it would like like the insane asylums you see on TV.
When I finally did walk in, it was just a normal office. There were a lot more people in the waiting rooms than I had thought and none of them were running around in white robes and straight jackets. It was very quiet. I was given a tablet and I filled out a really long questionnaire. That part made me kind of uncomfortable because the questions were straight forward. In case you’re wondering, some of the questions were things like:
In the past 7 days, how often have you felt a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy?
In the past 7 days, how often have you had thoughts of suicide or self harm?
In the past 7 days, how often have you felt unable to focus?
The first time I did the questionnaire, it took 30 minutes. I had to do a questionnaire ever time I visited because that’s how they track improvement. The next visits had shorter questionnaires, maybe 10 minutes.
On the first visit, I wasn’t seen by my therapist, it was a “intake” visit. There was a lady who asked me questions, pretty much the exact same thing as the ones I filled out earlier. I think maybe she was just double checking my answers. She asked me a question that left me speechless, “What keeps you from going through with suicide?”
My eyes got watery and I just shook my head.. “I don’t know.”
She didn’t like that answer. She kept asking.
“I’m afraid I’ll try and fail.”
She got really mad. “That’s not an answer.” I felt like I was being scolded.
I got kind of upset and told her that it may not be the answer she wanted but it was my answer.
Eventually the visit ended and she assigned me to a therapist and scheduled me for the next day.
I didn’t talk about what had happened on that visit and my husband didn’t ask. I think he felt a little lost and wasn’t sure how to handle it. I wish he had asked me how it had gone and I really wish he had gone in to the visit with me and held my hand. I was very scared.
I didn’t want to go back because the intake lady seemed knd of mean and snippy but my friend convinced me to go back since I’d likely never see her again. Also, he told me that it’s ok to not feel connected with your therapist and you can request a new one if you need to. That was comforting. Turns out, I didn’t need to switch. The therapist that I was assigned to was very nice and made me feel comfotable. The first few visits were intense. I hadn’t expected him to start digging so quickly but in hindsight, it was like getting the demons out of the way so we could get to the healing part. If you guys seek help and find that it’s difficult, hang in there. It felt to me like it got harder before it got easier and at first, I felt like I had opened Pandora’s box. Now, I’m glad that I did. It wasn’t easy to face my demons and they haven’t disappeared completely, but I do feel like I’m in charge now.
I will go into further detail on what was discussed in a later post. Right now I just wanted you guys to have a glimps at what it’s like getting to that point. It’s difficult but so worth it. I’m so thankful that I had someone pushing me forward and holding me up whenever I stumbled or wanted to run away. If you guys ever feel alone or in need of a friend, please remember that I’m here for you. I’m sorry if there are any spelling errors. It’s almost 1 am. I’ll proof read tomorrow lol Good night everyone and I love you all. Please share your thoughts in the comments.