It’s difficult, noticing that you are struggling. To be able to take a step back and realize that you have been going over your own limits repeatedly. Of course, I’d noticed that I was feeling tired a lot. That I preferred to spend the weekend laying down while getting lost in fictional worlds. That it became increasingly difficult to keep up a social life or to go outside.
I knew that I was struggling with something, but I just didn’t want to search for whatever was causing it. The thoughts alone was tiring, much less having to then work on a solution. Nope, it was far easier to ignore what was happening and to push all the fears and worries away.
However, ignoring a problem is in no way a solution. In my case it only caused more problems.
Tw: panic attacks
Even before my brain injury, I have struggled with panic attacks. When I first had these attacks, I was sure that there was something wrong with me. That there was a physical cause for all the symptoms I was experiencing. Out of nowhere I would feel a shortness of breath, notice an increased heart rate, began to feel dizzy, nauseated, hot and all together uncomfortable. In my mind I instantly went to fear mode, terrified of passing out, throwing up or dying altogether. The medical tests, however, all turned out negative and I was told that it might have been panic attacks.
Luckily I learned different grounding techniques online which helped me to feel al little more in control and to stave off a full blown panic attack. So in the end I was feeling quite confident that I could handle a couple of panic attacks a year by myself.
Things were about to change though. Since ignoring that there was a problem, resulted in a sharp increase in panic attacks. From a handful panic attacks a year, I went to multiple ones a week. Not only the frequency, also the intensity increased. And it became increasingly difficult to remain in control. And yet, I still muddled along.
I really thought that I knew better. I knew that our metal health is just as important as our physical health. That ignoring the signs of your own body, will only make things worse in the long run. That asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. And yet somehow I felt that this didn’t apply to me.
What triggered these increased panic attacks, I think, is that I was still feeling trapped in my daily life. Having to adapt from vacation-me, where I could do near everything and felt almost like the old-me, to daily-life-me, where I have to sleep at least two hours during the day and going to the supermarket for 15 minutes is the height of my ability, was incredible difficult. At home I feel trapped in a life with limitations. Knowing how much better I felt on vacation, made this a bitter pill to swallow.
Still, what can you do? Doesn’t everyone feel better on vacation? Doesn’t everyone feel stuck in their commitments and daily rhythm?
I was stuck. I knew what the problem was, but had no clue as to what I could do to solve it. Ignoring that there was a problem became increasingly difficult as the panic attacks, became worse and also resulted in a lot of additional stress. It took me six months to finally get to the point in which I could admit that I needed help. I was surprised by how difficult it was to call the family physician and tell them I needed an appointment for my panic attacks. Why was it so difficult to ask for help?
During the consultation, I felt all my defences shatter and I broke down. For me it was a clear sign, that I had been too stubborn or scared too long. Luckily the doctor was willing to listen and to think along.
Now there isn’t a solution yet, but admitting that I needed help and getting help was an incredible relief. It taught me that I am allowed to ask for help whenever I feel stuck. When you break a bone you go to a doctor. Why wouldn’t you allow yourself similar care when you suffer from panic attacks?
It is still hard to ask for help, but when life feels too difficult to manage on your own, hopefully you can allow yourself to ask for help. My wish is that you then can find someone who can help you get on your feet again.