I have to admit, when someone asks me if I’m fine or okay, I start to get a bit defensive. I immediately begin to wonder if I’m starting to look weak or somehow flawed. I’ll come up with any number of excuses to convince the person that I am completely okay and that they need not worry about me. But 9 times out of 10, when somebody asks me this, I only go on the defensive because they are completely right. I’m not always fine and somehow it seems they’ve noticed it. I’m terrible at being able to hide my emotions and I’m drawn to people who are really good at reading them. So with that combination, I am always sure to be found out.
Today, I was thinking all of this over and began to wonder why I am so set on having people believe that I’m okay, when in fact I’m actually not. I think part of it stems from my upbringing. I grew up in a home where I was taught to “suck it up and drive on.” If I ever had a problem, I was told that it was inconsiderate to speak of it and burdensome for others to hear it. I was told that there were plenty of other people who had worse problems, so my problems were not important enough to speak of. I’m almost thinking this was a generational thing because I see a lot of people my age who were told the same thing. We weren’t allowed to complain or voice our opinions like people are nowadays. Everything was a certain way, and whether we liked it or not, that’s just the way it was. We didn’t have many choices or options, we were just told to do what we were supposed to do, and not ask questions or complain.
I had my first and only panic attack when I was 18, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I had just started a new job, in a new state, and was living with my biological father for the first time. I didn’t know anybody and barely even knew my dad. I had no idea I was feeling anxious at the time because I had grown accustomed to the feeling of anxiety and usually just tried to brush it off as if nothing were wrong. But for some reason, that day, my body wouldn’t cooperate with me just brushing off the anxious emotions which were welling up inside of me. I was completely alone, facing the world for the first time on my own, and uncertainty and fear began to overwhelm me.
Well, that first day on the job only lasted about 20 minutes, before the anxiety attack started. Everything began to turn different shades of gray and I could barely stand due to the sudden dizziness I felt. All sound became muffled and it seemed like I had gone into a dark tunnel where sounds just echoed off the walls around me. I could hear my breathing, which was raspy and strained, and the pounding of my heart, a sound I had never heard audibly, was now the only other sound I could hear. I could no longer speak because I could no longer hear my own voice. It was probably the scariest moment of my life, and I had no idea what was happening.
I remember somebody leading me to a storage room and making me sit down on some boxes. I remember sitting there thinking that I might possibly be dying, but I had no idea what to do about it. After being left there for what seemed like ages, finally, somebody came back for me and tried to ask me what was wrong. I remember not being able to explain to them what was wrong and so eventually they seemed to give up and just drove me home and left me at my apartment.
I don’t remember how long I was back at my apartment before I was coherent enough to call my dad, but after he got home, I remember trying to explain to him what had happened. Since I had never experienced something like that before, I couldn’t really explain what had happened to me. Looking back, I think everyone at that store must have thought I was on drugs or something. I never did end up going back to that place and I don’t think I ever contacted anyone to tell them that I wasn’t coming back. It was years before I ever fully understood what had happened to me that day. I haven’t had another panic attack since then and I really hope I never do.
I’ve since become a master at hiding my anxiety and rarely admit to anyone that I am often depressed. The only time I really confide in anyone is after my feelings of anxiety have subsided. I feel like it’s safer for me to talk about it then after the suicidal thoughts have left me, and when I can control my emotions better. I always have this fear that if I actually tell someone how I’m really feeling that they will lock me away somewhere, for fear that I may otherwise harm myself.
I’ve seen my own daughter end up in a mental hospital and so I know what they are like. The place she stayed at did her absolutely no good and actually made her mental state worse. She became like a prisoner while she was there and we had no say in anything that happened to her. The psychiatrist there told my husband and me that he had complete control of our underage daughter and that he wouldn’t release her until he wanted to. I wouldn’t wish a place like that on my worst enemy and it breaks my heart every time I think of my daughter having to have been there.
It all started out with our family physician insisting that we take her there, and once we did, we lost all parental rights and were only allowed to visit her for about an hour each day. We drove the two hours there and back every day, all in order to be able to at least see her and tell her how much we loved her. But I would never allow it again for any of my family members, no matter what the situation, and I certainly never want to end up in a place like that myself. So even though I struggle with anxiety and depression, I do so without medication, without therapy, and without any sort of outside help. I “suck it up and drive on.” It’s the way I was taught and the way I’ll forever remain.
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