Halloween night I nearly had a panic attack. I was driving home from work and was triggered by something as simple as a plan falling through. I went from annoyed to angry to upset, both about the situation and other things going on in my life, to self-deprecating, to lack of drive. I went still, I felt my mental awareness, my chakra, leave my body as I drove along I-40 and I got scared. Scared of what I might do, scared of where I am going in life, just plain scared. I started crying, bawling, the brake lights in front of me blurring more and more as I kept going. Then I snapped back into awareness, I forced myself to breathe, I drove home, and no one knew the better.
The whole time this was happening I knew I wasn’t acting rationally. There was this little voice in my head that was saying, “Mia, your reaction doesn’t need to be like this. You can control your reaction.” But I let myself slip, I let that voice quiet, and I allowed my emotions to take over. When struggling with any kind of mental illness whether it be depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder or whatever, it can be hard to discern the difference in what’s rational and what’s irrational, and it can be even more difficult to control yourself in a situation when you’re acting irrationally.
When I got home, I quickly wrote down the following:
mental illness is
knowing you’re being irrational
but not being able
to get rid
of the irrational
I felt a surge of relief and mental clarity as I jotted that down. This is why I write – it helps me cope with my demons and understand myself better as a human being.
And it’s really difficult for me when I often feel alone in this constant battle. No one can ever truly understand someone’s individual struggle with a mental illness; others who have similar struggles can definitely relate, but they’ll never be in the other person’s shoes. These last few months have been particularly difficult as I’ve found less solace in my family and more in myself in times of need and struggle.
Something that is often misconceived about things like panic or anxiety attacks is that the person (the woman, in many cases) is just being over-dramatic. I have been called over-dramatic when having a panic attack. I’ve been told that I’m acting like a child. I’ve been left alone because no one wants to hear me cry. It’s very difficult for me because, in my head – in the small space of rationality in that time – I know that I’m not acting as I should be, and when people tirelessly say, “Mia, you’re acting like a child. Please get up off the floor,” I know I should. I know I need to get up, I know I need to wash my face, but the response isn’t there. It’s like the neurons don’t send the signals to my legs, my arms, and I physically need to be helped up.
The thing that I’ve found most beneficial in preventing attacks like these – attacks like the one I almost had on Halloween – is just knowing how my body reacts to situations, knowing what my next mental process might be if I let my emotions take over. Being mentally aware of who I am as person and how I react (whether it be mentally, physically or physiologically) has been the driving force in winning my battle with mental illness. None of this was achieved, however, without years of therapy, and really digging into my past traumas to understand why I react the way that I do, but I’m not going to get into that here.
I haven’t written much recently about mental illness, because I’ve been wanting to keep private on that front of my life right now. But I did want to give you, whoever you may be, a glimpse into what it’s like for someone whose emotional reactions and thoughts don’t quite align with what’s considered the norm. Please be kind to those who have mental illnesses and to learn more, you can check out some of my previous blog posts on the subject: