CW: discussions of panic attacks and OCD-related harm intrusive thoughts
Hi friends! I know I haven't blogged in a while, I kinda took an unexpected hiatus in February. In fact, I didn't even think I was going to write today because I've been overrun with schoolwork. It's now 10:00 at night, and I just had a panic attack. The truth is, the only thing I could think of that would make me feel better was blogging. So, I'm writing this on Thursday, and the post will probably go up tomorrow. This is my disclaimer that this post may not be well-executed lol. But in any case, blogging is therapy, so here we are. I guess I'm not proud of the fact that a panic attack led me back to blogging, but I will try to see this as a blessing in disguise.
I've been very busy lately. Schoolwork is in crunch-time mode, and after my courses are over, I'll be working on my major research project for my masters degree. During that time, I'll also be going to my first academic conference in Montreal, which I am equally excited and nervous about. My supervisor is giving me a lot of amazing opportunities, and exciting things are on the way. However, with such excitement, also comes stress. Obviously I made the decision to hold off on blogging, and that was the right one to make. I am on track with my schoolwork, and will be talking with my supervisor tomorrow to begin preparations for my research project. But changes and new opportunities usually carry with them some nerves, and these changes have definitely been weighing on my mind. What I've noticed, is when I start getting stressed, whether it be unrelated to my OCD or not, my OCD starts flaring up. This is exactly what happened tonight.
A bit of a recap since it's been a while since I've talked about this, but I suffer with harm OCD intrusive thoughts. I have constant, anxiety producing thoughts about harming people, and these thoughts cause me a lot of panic, usually sending me into a spiral. While I don't have fast-acting medication for the panic attacks, I do take an anti-psychotic that helps take the edge off. Yet, as any mental illness, it comes in peaks and valleys. Unfortunately, I almost reached my peak, and I haven't had this feeling in a significant amount of time. So, things do feel a little unnerving. However, am I disappointed in myself? Absolutely not.
Usually when I have panic attacks, I cannot pull myself out of them and I end up crying in a family member's arms. But, this time, I decided to practice first some breathing that my therapist taught me: 3-2-4 breathing. After breathing, and reading one of the scripts I wrote out for myself when I get a bad specific intrusive thought (I have a million scripts), I actually started to feel a bit better! Now I'm writing, and I can feel my heart rate slowing, when I could have just as easily been at a full 10 on the panic attack scale right now. While I don't know what will happen after I shut the computer down, in this moment, I am a bit calmer. And I'm counting that as a win.
After this, I think I'll either watch some Parks and Recreation or re-read Percy Jackson for the billionth time. Just self-care stuff. I guess I wanted to document this because I know many of y'all also suffer with panic and anxiety, and I think we could all do with sharing our wins with each other. Yes, I have very significant intrusive thoughts. Yes, the stress I have been under has caused me to think about those thoughts even more, which sent me into a panic. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But for now, I had the energy to pick up my laptop and write. That is what I wanted to do.
I was going to begin this post with apologizing if I sounded too "woe is me," or egotistical by talking about my win. But, now I realize that I found true value in writing this post. Stress can make our mental illnesses flare up, it's just the name of the game. But, what is making me stressed is also exciting opportunities that will help me throughout my career. So, I can also look upon these events with joy. While I may not know how I will feel in an hour from now, right now, I am peaceful. And if in an hour I spiral again, I will not beat myself up, I will look upon this moment as a win. And that's all I can ask for.
Did you have a mental health win recently? Does your stress cause you to spiral? How many times have you read Percy Jackson? Talk to me!
Emily @ Paperback Princess
"blogging is therapy" LOVE that!ReplyDelete
I've had a little trouble posting lately and I think mental health or anxiety might be part of it. It's funny how just life events or whatever can affect us. "peaks and valleys" Yup.
Anyway yay for your WIN and I hope you are well. It's a struggle and a thanks for sharing it. :)
Thank you Greg! I hope you can find that right balance between mental health and posting too!Delete
This is just one big bunch of recognition. Last summer I experienced trauma after being stuck in the mountains in the dark for 10 hours without help and after we had to save ourselves. That launched major panic attacks for me and even hospitalization. After that period I just went to work like nothing ever happened and that wasn't the best idea I've ever had. After 5 months I was exhausted, because I was working during the day and having panic attacks during the night. So at some point I called in sick and I've been at home for 3 months now. I'm slowly finding myself back, so that's my mental health win!ReplyDelete
Another win is that I felt a panic attack launching last Wednesday and it was awful, but I could keep myself from going totally bonkers and tried to breath through it and encourage myself with positive thoughts.
Sending all the hugs and strength your way and thanks SO much for this post!
Oh my goodness, I am so sorry for what you went through, Esther. I can't even imagine. However, you're still here. You're alive, and you're present. And that is such a win! I wish you the best of luck on your mental health journey.Delete
Sorry things have been tough, but Congrats on a) uni stuff going good, and b) handling things like a total rock star and figuring out what you need, when you need it! <3 <3 <3ReplyDelete
Also, I literally started my blog when my mental health was at its worst - I have no idea what my theory was at the time, but blogging is def. important to my mental health! <3
Thanks Cee! Blogging is super important to my mental health. It's a great, healthy distraction in my opinion.Delete
I'm sorry to hear that the very things that should bring you joy (and that, to an extent, do that) are causing you panic attacks...then again, I'm proud of you for fighting and scoring a win, regardless of how long it will/did last. I'm also sure that, once you have carved a place for yourself where you feel safe and contented (I'm talking about your professional future right now), your mental health will improve tremendously - even if I'm aware that life is an endless series of trials and new things to experience.ReplyDelete
As usual, I appreciated your blogging about your struggles. You don't need to apologise - we understand. Blogging IS therapy, even for those of us who don't suffer from the same problems as you - and anyhow, for every person who opens up about their mental health on the net, there are a number of readers who feel less alone.
Thank you for your kind words, Roberta! I definitely agree that once I feel more "settled" into my future, then things will look up. Going through school to an extent is a series of unknowns. What looks beyond is scary, but also looks bright. Hope you're doing well!Delete