World Mental Health Day
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Written By: Shannon Sweeney
It took me until two years ago to realize that waking up sweating with intense nausea wasn’t normal. That being so tired but not being able to fall asleep because your chest felt so heavy wasn’t just because of stress. That constantly feeling like you’re not good enough isn’t just low self esteem.
I have suffered from anxiety for probably my entire life, but it took me until my twenties to realize it. And I know I’m not alone — there are more than 18.1 million people in this country alone fighting anxiety and depression, and only about a third of them seek treatment.
Since today is World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share how anxiety has affected a large portion of my life, and my physical health. Because I was getting so nauseous, I started developing stomach ulcers and acid reflux. I was losing weight from not eating because of the stomach ulcers.
There’s a lot of stigma that surrounds mental health. I was scared to tell my dad I was suffering because I felt like a disappointment. I thought my friends would think I was weak and couldn’t handle the stress of college life. But when I finally looked at myself in the mirror after getting sick nearly two weeks in a row, feeling like I couldn’t breathe, I realized I needed to ask for help.
And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Anxiety comes in many different forms for many different people. For some, it’s panic attacks triggered by an event or situation. For others, it’s a constant feeling of not being good enough. You can’t always see it — people with high-functioning anxiety rarely let their symptoms show for fear of being judged.
No matter how it affects you, I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to your body. Mine was telling me for years that I needed to at least talk to someone or to consider being put on medicine to help me calm down. I kept pushing myself — always going from class to class, activity to activity, and I never, EVER gave myself a break. I was completely ignoring every red flag going off in my head.
Self-care isn’t just a modern trend that people use when they don’t feel like doing anything. It matters. These past two years have challenged me in so many ways, but I always remember to listen to what my body is telling me. Sometimes that means calling out of work because I feel like I need a day to myself. Other days, it’s calling my therapist up just to talk about what’s bothering me.
I started using apps to meditate — and I strongly suggest Simple Habit if you’re looking for ways to calm down. It has meditation strategies for every situation, and there have been so many times where I’ve used it at work (it has a work stress option) or when I’m trying to sleep.
I’m also not afraid to admit that I use medication, and you shouldn’t either. My doctor put me on Zoloft last year, and I can’t even express how much it’s helped. I put off talking to my doctor for so long because I was scared of the stigma of mental health medications. But thanks to my loving and supportive mother, I called my doctor and asked to come in.
I’m not saying that medication and meditation are the answer for everyone — but the point is that I wasn’t afraid to listen to what my body was telling me. It was saying that I needed to take 15 minutes out of my day to escape, and that it needed something extra to help ease my constantly spiraling mind.
Now, I can finally fall asleep without having an anxiety attack. I don’t wake up wanting to be sick. I still have anxiety, of course, but I finally feel that I have control of my life back.
And if you’re reading this wondering if you should seek help, do it! You’re strong. If I can do it, you can, too. We need to stop stigmatizing mental health, and I hope that openly writing about it will inspire just one person to do the same. Having anxiety or depression doesn’t make you any less normal — it makes you who you are.
If you need to talk to someone right now, consider calling the Anxiety Hotline.