Almost a year ago to the day, I crashed headlong into weeks of crippling panic and anxiety that left me terrified and traumatized. I sought out and found a trauma therapist who could help me get beyond the trauma so I could be myself and get back to living. I'm delighted to say that last week, I reached a significant milestone in my trauma recovery.
It's been over a year since I said goodbye to my sweet pup, Cannelle, a cocker spaniel. I adopted her when she was 18 months old and was blessed to have her by my side for 13 years. Throughout that time, Cannelle helped me in ways that she, of course, could not comprehend. My pup helped me through bouts of mental illness, among other things.
Like most people, when I'm having a hard cry—which can be very emotional, sometimes overwhelming—I do a double intake of breath. It's like a hiccup, but not. My therapist told me that this is called the physiological sigh and that it helps reduce stress by balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in our bodies.
I've never considered myself a perfectionist. My handwriting is messy, and my closet is cluttered. I can't cook or draw. I sing off-key, and I can't visualize. As a flawed human being, I accept imperfection. Why, then, does my anxiety spike, and I feel as though I am to blame when things go wrong or when I perceive myself as having disappointed others?
I am a relatively healthy person, apart from having anxiety and the physical symptoms associated with it. I'm lucky. Like a lot of people, I take my physical health for granted. Sure, I try to eat right and exercise almost daily, but on the whole, I go about my days assuming my health will continue to serve me as it has. Very recently, however, I heard from my doctor that I need a special test because cancer is suspected. Managing my anxiety while waiting to undergo medical tests has become my latest challenge.
As of this writing, I basically live alone. My family is scattered around the country, and though I have a good amount of friends, none live close. For a while, I've been debating whether or not this living situation is healthy or sustainable in the long run but deciding where to live is stressing me out.
I never really had a hobby, per se. I married young and had three kids. That, plus a full-time job, left little time for me, let alone hobbies. I write—this blog, for instance—and read, but I don't consider either of these hobbies. As a creative outlet, and with the hope that I could channel my thoughts and energy into something that wasn't all about my trauma and residual anxieties, I decided it was time to pursue a hobby.
In a recent blog post, I talked a little about the fact that I restarted therapy for the first time in many years. Specifically, I spoke about how it was a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be.
Late last summer, I went through weeks of acute panic and anxiety. I was very sick, and the mental and physical symptoms I endured were traumatic. I am in treatment to address those traumas, including the guilt and shame I felt from being sick and the residual guilt and shame I feel to this day.
I've never been good at talking about my mental health with others, even those who I've known for years. In the past, I didn't have enough self-knowledge to be able to talk about it with anyone in an adequate way. That time has long since passed, and yet I still hesitate to bring it up with anyone outside of my immediate family. I want to use the rest of this post to try and figure out why I find it hard to talk about my mental health with others.