In all my years of worrying, being scared, and finally getting diagnosed with severe anxiety and mild depression by a therapist, I never thought the day would come that I would be told I was faking. That all the pain - body and mind - I've been through was apparently made up and false. After all this time, my own flesh and blood told me that they didn't believe I had anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety attacks thus far in my life (ex: in the last year). They told me this over the phone (when I finally built up the courage to talk to them), and they caused more attacks within me. Uncontrollable crying, which causes throwing up, isn't something I am new to, but it was very unwelcomed on that occasion. I cried for hours. I had at least one more panic/anxiety attack before I felt okay: all were different. Let me explain how I have panic/anxiety attacks and how they are triggered.
This "it's not real because I don't believe it" mindset needs to stop. We, as humans, believe in things we can't see all the time (God, our faith, someone's trust, having a good day, etc), yet when it comes to Mental Health Issues, we fall into being bullies to people struggling.
How many more people do we have to lose to Suicide, Self-Harm Attempts, and Alcohol/Drug Abuse for people to see the damages and truths of Mental Health Issues?
How many more failed conversations need to happen before unbelievers believe the struggling people around you?
How many more grandkids need to take their own lives before grandparents understand their pain?
How many more people need to cut ties with toxic relatives before their own flesh and blood understand what they are doing just to stay alive?
How much more yelling can someone take before they give up on living and just cut their life short before people understand words kill people?
How much longer do I have to shout MENTAL HEALTH IS REAL & IMPORTANT before giving up on myself?
When I was 18 years old, I hypoplanned and flipped three times in my Volkswagon 2000 Bug. Before this accident, I already had signs of anxiety (driving anxiety, to be exact), but a therapist didn't diagnose me until I was in my 20s. For years, I lived with not being able to drive without the fear of wrecking and dying, specifically whenever it would rain. In Alabama, that's quite a lot. My fears were keeping me locked in my mind and house. I declined so many outings because of my fear. Or, when I followed through with plans, I was anxious and worried the entire time. I never felt completely safe in my own skin or around other people.
Now 8 years later, driving anxiety is still something I live with. Even with therapy, driving anxiety is a delay struggle for me.
I say all this to say: Every panic and anxiety attack is different. Some people can function (speak, text, move/pace), and other times, they can't do anything (silently panicking inside their mind and immobile). Every person that has attacks experiences something different. So, when someone says they don't believe in my anxiety/panic attacks because I could "text" the person that triggered me to come back another time (which they took as hateful when I simply said along the lines of please text me next time, you gave me a panic/anxiety attack). Yes, I was still anxious and panicking due to your trigger.
I know this because when I was in college, I lived in an apartment alone. I used to run from the door when someone unexpectedly knocked on it. If I knew someone was coming (the expected guest), I would open my front door and stand in the doorway, waiting for them to pull into the parking lot. I couldn't sit still or be surprised. Why didn't you look through the peek hole? My peek hole was broken glass, so that was a no-go. Before last year, a simple unexpected knock on my door sent me running for my life.
Is it normal to get anxiety when someone rings the doorbell? The fear of the unknown will almost always cause a zing of anxiety—especially in those of us who are prone to it. - Jen Svogar
When someone unexpectedly knocked on the front door of my new home last year, I was terrified. I wasn't expecting anyone. The day I moved in, I put up a post that said, "PSA: From now on, please send me a text before you come to my house, I would greatly appreciate it. I scare easily and am not fond of people just showing up unexpectedly. Be kind, text me or message me on Fb. Thank you in advance as I get used to living in the city." A week later, someone knocked on my door. Simply because I could text and talk on the phone to my now fiancé, I wasn't having a panic attack ( again, coming from a person who doesn't believe in panic attacks is telling me how I should have had one). I could do all of that because of adrenaline and anxiety running through me.
Now, this part above is being resolved and heard. After a year of feeling like I was judged and simply thrown aside, I am free of that incident. I didn't explain my policy other than on Facebook when I should have. But, also, I believe that a heads up should be a common courtesy whether there are family ties or not. A friendly heads-up can go a long way and even help someone like me feel safe. Yes, I can feel unsafe around people I've known for years. If I felt comfortable with people dropping by, I wouldn't ask my friends or family to text me. I wish I weren't like this, but as I said before, it developed in college, especially. I can't change the past. All I can do is work on myself and continue on with my life. This is life with mental health issues.
"If you DO have anxiety, it’s probably just a manifestation of that fear of the unknown. There are too many variables on the other side of that door—too many things that can go wrong—and it’s easy for us to catastrophize in an instant. I tell people to text me when they get here, before they come up and knock or ring the buzzer, so I know they’re here. It seems like a silly practice, but it gives me some warning. That way, at least for the EXPECTED guests, I know what I’m in for and I know that the knot in my stomach is simply excitement. I also don’t answer my door (or buzzer/doorbell) if I’m NOT expecting anyone or anything. I have a strict “Call/text first” policy in place. No “dropping in to say hi” with me. I have anxiety, dammit, you don’t get to do that to me." - Jen Svogar
(Facebook Post from April 25, 2022)
I felt completely broken. I didn't move from my bed for hours. I ate junk food and sat on the couch. I was supposed to do housework....it didn't get done. But I took care of myself... I showered, napped, ate, and spent time with my fiancé. That's what matters.
All panic/anxiety attacks are different... Since I have driving anxiety, I'm the rare breed that can do stuff while panicking. I know where I'm at, I can still drive a car, text, and yell over the phone, my breathing is heavy, and my mind is racing. Other times, I'll stare into space, pick at my clothes, cry uncontrollably, and yell at the person trying to help because nothing seems like it'll ever be okay...or when it's really bad I'll want to die. Sometimes I feel like an utter disappointment and a failure. When I lay down, I just stare while my mind is racing with damaging thoughts and all the bad things someone or myself has said about me or to me.
ANXIETY & DEPRESSION ARE REAL
On April 28, 2013, I attempted to cut my right wrist... 9 years ago, my family/friends almost lost me for good. Mental Health is real. I have Anxiety and a bit of depression. Back then, we didn't know what it was other than I worried a lot. That was a sign of anxiety. I wish every day I could go back and tell 17-year-old Emily that it'll all be okay.
If I have a Suicide Awareness Tattoo, I promise I have anxiety, depression, and mental health issues.
Photos: February 14, 2020 In September 2019, I self-published my poetry collection, Anxiety Doesn't Own Me. You'd think that would solidify with nonbelievers that I have it. Apparently, it isn't good enough. That collection came from a poem I wrote in college. A poem that could literally break hearts.
My wrist slightly cut:
not deep enough to leave a scar
that is visible to others.
A scar that sinks into the skin and
stays but never rises to the surface.
A scar that reminds the person but
not the onlooker.
The scar that saw the pain and hurt
and felt it just as much.
A scar that sinks.
Do you really think I am talking about my invisible scared wrist?
No. The pain, the hurt, the brokenness
lies inside of me. Not just a wrist, but
a heart, an eye, and a mouth.
The pain, the hurt, the brokenness remains
in me, but not visible
to an onlooker.
"Every time I feel like damaged goods, He has been there to remind me that even though I am broken, I am still beautiful and strong ( Ps. 139:14)." - What is Fear? Devo by Me
From the outside looking in, we can't see Anxiety, Depression, or Panic/Anxiety Attacks, but God can. He sees it all. He created us. Maybe some people develop these Mental Issues to be the voice for those who have people who don't understand or simply don't want to. That's what I want to do. I have laid out my truth, and now I will share HIS TRUTH.
What better way to share HIS TRUTH than with an article written during Mental Health Awareness Month (MAY!!).
Mental Health Nonbelievers - If Mental Health isn't real, then why does GOD talk about the issue and how to conquer them in THE WORD OF GOD! I'll share them with you!
14 Scriptures For Mental Health
Scripture to combat Fear
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Isaiah 43:1 “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
Scripture to combat Depression
Psalm 34:17 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”
Psalm 42:11 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Psalm 40: 1-3 1 “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”
Scripture to combat Anxiety
Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
John 14:27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
Scripture to Combat Perfectionism
Galatians 1:10 “Am I trying to win the approval of men, or God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ”
Psalm 18:32 “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I ask you again, why would God give HIS PEOPLE the tools to combat FEAR, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, & PERFECTIONISM if they don't exist?
The honest truth is, Mental Health Issues exist in our world. What are you doing to help those around you feel comfortable sharing their struggles with you? How are you helping end the stigma?
Writing is how I help. I may not be able to write about it well, but I'm trying. And that's all any of us can do. Sometimes we have to throw out logic and believe in others. Listen and care about them.
Stay well, safe, and alive, my friends. Someone needs you on this Earth.
I pray this month and every day that people lend their ears and hearts to the mental health struggles of themselves, their family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers. I pray we find a way to end the stigma and help more people. I pray someone out there finds my words helpful, even for a little bit. I pray that this blog reaches the person in need today and every day onward. I pray for the person struggling to never give up on living. I pray for those who hide behind logic and don't believe in what they can't see or feel themselves. I pray for each person who reads this blog, may they find something they need or something someone else needs. I pray for myself as I try to share my story with others. Give us all strength today and every day.