Giving a voice to the silent killer that is mental disorders.
Is this what death feels like?…
Am I having a stroke or a heart attack?…
I can’t see, I can’t stand, I can’t speak.
All I feel is an intense amount of pain all over, like something is just squeezing me into a little ball.
I can’t breathe! – (shallow breathing. Heart racing. Total panic!)
I want to throw up!
I want to run away from my body but I can’t (of course *rolls eyes*)…
It feels like being trapped and suffocated as if the building was on fire with no escape. It feels urgent and frightening.
….This is what it can feel like having a panic attack.
Panic attacks are something you simply cannot fully understand unless you’ve experienced it. Panic attacks are one of the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health illnesses. As someone who has their own fair share of mental health challenges, sometimes it can be quite difficult to make those around you and those who care understand what you are going through (and it’s no one’s fault). But the challenge to destigmatise and create a healthy environment is still an uphill battle we are slowly (and perhaps not fast enough) getting over.
It is very frustrating how people sometimes react to some of the issues you have to deal with on a daily basis. For instance, being called ‘dramatic’ in the midst of a panic attack is the last word you want to hear. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the word that I, like many, have been was faced with. To the person saying it, that word was a passing comment and they probably don’t remember saying it. To the person having a panic attack, it feels like a confirmation of everything your mental illness tells you.
Anxiety tells you that you’re being ‘dramatic’, and people’s words confirm that. Fleeting words like “dramatic” are the reason people continue to struggle on and “cope” in silence. Those words are the reason why people continue to convince themselves that they are ‘not anxious’, they’re ‘making it all up’, they ‘don’t have a problem’ and definitely ‘don’t need help’ and more extremely never want to seek support in their most vulnerable moments, when support is exactly what they need.
I am a huge advocate of getting professional help and having a great support system, which assited me with my own mental health journey. Professional help can become quite costly and inaccessible for some. However, there are various treatments available out there, like seeing a pyschologist, taking medication and relying on your support system. There are also platforms like Talkspace, a popular text-based therapy app, allows anyone to access a licensed therapist without traveling to an office and sometimes cheaper than a traditional therapist.
The Talkspace policy of patient anonymity, allows the patient full confidentiality as the therapist doesn’t have access to the patient’s contact information, or even their name (Talkspace therapists know patients only by their user name).
In comparison to traditional therapy, which is sometimes covered by medical aid and can range anywhere from R700-R2000 per session (sessions are usually once a week and last about 45 minutes), Talkspace costs R300 per week or R1536 per month. The benefit is that you’re able to communicate with the therapist almost 24/7 through texting, voice or video calls. It’s a convenient and useful app for someone who is on the go or if they prefer typing over face to face interaction. Sometimes it pays to be convenient, particularly in this day and age where life can be really busy. But like anything good in life, are some downsides that you must think about and check whether or not it’s the right fit for you. The therapists don’t always have the best responses and the therapist’s schedule could conflict with your needs. It may take trial an error to find the suitable treatment for your mental health illness, but it sure is worth it.
I know sometimes in the Black community (or at least for a long time), mental health has had a huge stigma. We need to stop thinking of mental health illnesses as just a white man’s disease and face the reality that we can all suffer from mental health disorders and they must be dealt with in all seriousness and respect.
Either way, when dealing with your mental health, it is very important to look after yourself. Do what is best for you and seek help. It’s easier said than done, but you’ll thank yourself one day for being brave enough to stand up for yourself and create a safe healing space for yourself. You will be surprised how many people are going through the same thing as you. We are all fighting a battle, and many of them are not always visible to the human eye. But never suffer in silence, for the fear of not finding your safe talking and healing space will kill you faster than that of judgment and rejection. Empower yourself.