In early 2020, I experienced what, so far, is the worst anxiety attack of my life.
I was in my final year of senior high school, reviewing for an upcoming test. At that time, I thought I had reviewed enough and could spare some time to just rest for a bit to clear my head. I shut my notebook closed, locked my phone, and dived right into my bed. Because I had experienced episodes of anxiety before, I can more or less sense when one would come. I felt one coming at that time. I thought it was going to be like those I have experienced in the past but when it hit, I knew this one was different. I couldn’t handle it.
I couldn’t move, open my eyes, or breathe. I was also shaking—shaking more than the usual when I would have attacks. This went on for around five minutes before it finally ended. I burst into tears. That was the most scared I have been in my entire life.
When I would have frequent episodes in the past, I had thought of seeing a psychiatrist, but I always ended up shrugging off that idea. I kept thinking that I didn’t need to see anyone and that I could handle things by myself. But after that specific instance when things seemingly were at their worst, it felt like a final cry for help. I couldn’t—and shouldn’t ignore it anymore. But even with how much fear that experience gave me, I still did nothing.
It wasn’t a problem of money or time that stopped me. I don’t know if I was too prideful or too scared to admit that I needed help. Most of the time, I would just lie on my bed or take a walk outside for a really long time to calm myself down. I banked on what I considered as coping mechanisms. But they are just that: coping mechanisms—not solutions. To endure living with something you can’t explain—something that’s eating away at you day after day—is not easy; not for me, not for anyone.
Life isn’t just about taking care of our physical health, but also of our mental health. Especially now that we’re going through uncertain times, the uncertainty of how the pandemic will go about becomes more and more difficult to think about. The safety of the people around us—our friends, our family—and of our own will always keep our minds buzzing. We’re now thinking of many things all at once. There will come a point when mental exhaustion will just hit, and it’ll be too much for our minds to handle. When that time comes, it’s going to be a difficult fight for sanity and peace. While one may or can face it alone, the truth is one doesn’t have to.
We all have our breaking points; we all have things that just set us off. There is no shame in showing vulnerability; rather, it shows strength that we are able to admit such. We can find or develop a coping strategy or mechanism. Coping is different for everyone and it may take a while for others to find theirs or to learn. Some turn these heightened feelings into exercise to expend energy. Others transform the negative energy into artistic expressions such as through drawing, music, and dancing. These outlets give people the feeling of control when things are in disarray, or a sense of calm and familiarity amid the chaos. However, a strategy for myself may not be the same for others, and vice versa.
It is also good to have other people around for support. We can share how we are feeling and what we’re going through. While they may not exactly understand these, at least we’re making them aware that we’re in a rut. But we must be aware that our friends or family aren’t people we can unload our emotions to all of the time. There are trained psychiatrists who are the most qualified to assist us in this endeavor of processing whatever it is we’re feeling and helping us figure out the direction we have to take. At times, it becomes necessary to seek professional help; and even if it doesn’t come to that point, seeking advice from a professional can never hurt. Instead of building up walls, it’s best to open ourselves up to the world—to the right people—and to learn how to effectively communicate what we’re feeling.
Out of everything in the world, at least for me, one’s mental health is the most important thing that one needs to take care of. This is also why I chose to study in a psychology program. We all experience something that can feel “too much,” and we shouldn’t just wait until the last minute to reach out for a hand in the dark. Too much pressure can be dangerous and it is necessary to release built-up tension. We have to look out for ourselves, especially now when things aren’t going great for a lot of people. Once we’re better, it wouldn’t hurt to look out for others and for each other as well.
We should be understanding of what people may be going through, be sensitive and kind to ourselves and to others, and know our limits. We’ll all get through this, one day at a time.