Have you ever had someone ask you, “So, are you better now?” It’s a well-meaning question, but it is one that is sadly a misinterpretation of just how mental illness works.
But in all fairness, I have asked myself the same question.
“When will I get better?”
It isn’t an easy question to ask, because I already know the answer.
“People tend to think that recovery is one upward trajectory. You go through a bad time, you get better, then you’re back to your normal self. Unfortunately, the complexity of human emotion and experience doesn’t quite fit into such a pattern.”
As I said in my last post, May is Mental Health Awareness month. And it seemed like the perfect time to talk about some important topics.
Stemming from the subject of mental health is a variety of topics. Mental health can be everyday stuff. It can be things like phobias, or illnesses like OCD, depression, panic disorder, anxiety. The list goes on.
And I just want to say…I am not a mental health expert. I only know what I’ve experienced. This series of poems on mental illness are meant to bring awareness and share what these things really feel like.
It’s hard. It’s hard to live with. It’s hard to share. And if you or someone close to you struggles with mental illness, then you know exactly what I mean and where I am coming from.
Today’s poem is about anxiety and panic attacks. The very words “panic attack” steal fear into the hearts of people. They don’t know what to say about it. They are…unsure. Uncomfortable.
And it’s ok.
It’s ok. But for the people that don’t know, and maybe want to know…and yet don’t, I wrote this poem. It is a description of a small piece of my world when anxiety comes in and erases much of what I know.
I’m invisibly visible
You see me
And now you don’t.
You see me
And I’m fine
But you can’t feel
And yet you don’t.
Fear makes fear
And so you turn
Afraid it is contagious.
Afraid you’ll catch my pain.
And though I crave
I hope you never know
Important Note: If you or someone you love is dealing with intense anxiety and/or panic attacks, it is important to remember these 2 things: 1) you are not alone and 2) there is help for you. You can call the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255. You can call your doctor and get on a prescription, you can call your mom, your spouse, your bestie. You can dig down deep and find therapies and healthy ways to cope. There is help, I promise. And it will, it will, it will get better☺
Here is a subject that is not easy for me to talk about. And yet I feel a super-strong pull to write about it.
To be transparent.
I have been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks for 2 years. It came back with a vengeance fairly recently. I felt so defeated and broken. Alone. And scared. I realised I needed a game plan. Change. And a greater push back in the area of self-care.
I say “push-back” because that’s what it is. As a mom I literally have to push back against the heavy burden of day to day demands and carve out a bit of time for me.
I research. I claim time to be alone while others watch my children. I invest in me. I seek out wise counsel. I realise that mind, body, spirit and emotions are connected.
And I look at all the things that have helped me fight against the pull of an attack.
This is my list of things I have learned throughout the years. It is by no means a complete list. But I hope it can be a help to get you thinking about what best benefits you. You are not alone in your struggle, my friend.
10 Ways To Help Prevent a Panic Attack
1. Deep breaths.
The simple act of focusing on your breaths and nothing more can have a calming effect. Oxygen flowing to your brain & body is a good thing 🙂
2. Focus on magnesium.
Add magnesium through diet. Many many Americans, myself included are deficient in magnesium. It helps so much to add more magnesium-rich foods. Ancient-minerals.com states that “Magnesium-rich foods include whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and seeds.”
Lately I love drinking nettle and chocolate mint tea and eating pumpkin seeds to up my magnesium. There are tons of foods to choose from…most nuts and seeds, black beans, bananas, avocados, brown rice. All good.
3. Cut that sugar.
Decrease or cut out sugar completely. This article is one among many that explains how a high fat and high sugar diet does not work in your favor. Sugar depletes magnesium and cutting it out, hard as it may be, will work in your favor and help decrease your anxiety. (Trust me I have a huge sweet tooth and this is hard for me too but it helps!)
4. Epsom salts.
A good soak in the tub with 1-2 cups of Epsom salt (depending on your body weight) is very beneficial for mind and body. I purchsed the bookEpsom Salt: Natural Remedies for Health, Beauty and Home, by Josephine Simon a few months ago and I have enjoyed learning more about this stuff.
Epsom salt soaks will relive aching muscles and will give your body a good dose of magnesium via absorption through your skin. Just don’t use soap as it interferes with this absorption.
5. Chanting (out loud or to yourself).
Chant a soothing short phrase and focus on it completely. Sometimes I choose a scripture and other times its just whatever helpful phrase comes to mind.
6. Carry a small object with you.
I kept a lavender sachet in my pocket for awhile. Something that gives you comfort and peace. Things that engage one of your senses is good for diverting anxiety.
7. Herbs can help.
Camomile and lavender are well known for their soothing properties. Passion flower as a tea, supplement or tincture can also be helpful. I’ve also heard good things about valerian root capsules. Check with your doctor and do your research to find what works best for you.
Aromatherapy can work wonders. Again chamomile and lavender are great. I also love the Skin Restore synergy blend. Formerly called anti-scar stretch blend, it is a lavender and neroli combo from Plant Therapy.
I use it in my car diffuser or simply smell it straight from the bottle.
There are tons of resources out there for essential oils to use for anxiety, calming and sleep. All of these categories will help with anxiety.
For me, the best and most soothing essential oil has always been lavender 🙂
9. Get a pet.
Since we got a cat I have felt more calm & at ease. I love my kitty Stella. She gives me much joy.
Did you know that cats purr for different reasons? They purr when they are happy, but also purr to calm themselves or to help heal themselves. I can’t help but wonder if a cat’s purr can soothe and heal the human spirit as well.
10. Guard your thoughts.
An episode can sneak up on you so easily. 9/10 times I notice it happens when I let my thoughts totally run away with me.
I have to focus on what I am thinking about. Know when I am feeling overwhelmed and know how to put a halt to the anxious thoughts. It isn’t easy.
But with focus and practice it can happen. Don’t discount what you are worrying about. Recognise it as a real issue but rationalise it. Sometimes I get to thinking that an issue is the most important thing in the world when its not. What is important is my health and balancing self-care with responsibilities.
I want to add that it is ok, completely ok to seek help. Go to counseling, take a perscription for awhile if your doctor agrees it is needed. Do not be afraid to seek care for yourself. You are not a failure if you need outside help to get you going. I know it can be so easy to feel defeated but you’re not alone. There is help & hope ❤