Mental illness is misunderstood

Corral Staff

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Most of us have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives, whether it be during a presentation, while taking a test, or when deadlines are quickly approaching. These anxieties are normal. Shaking, dizziness, and a racing heart are perfectly normal responses to this type of stress.

But now imagine having these feelings when you’re sitting in a movie theater, relaxing in your best friend’s basement, or even just sitting in class. This is an anxiety disorder, and over 40 million people in the United States are affected by it. I am one of them.
An anxiety disorder is the repeated occurrence of panic attacks, often times unprompted. Attacks are usually accompanied by a heightened fear of having a panic attack which, consequently, can lead to–you guessed it–a panic attack.

Anxiety and panic manifests itself differently in everyone, but for me, a panic attack begins with numbness in my hands and fingers. I experience shortness of breath and feel queasy and restless. Soon after, my heart rate skyrockets.

In the meantime, I’m constantly paranoid about anything and everything; my mind is a jumble of irrational fears. ‘Does anyone notice? I don’t know what’s going on. Something’s wrong. I need to get out of here. What if I have a heart attack? What if I can’t leave class? Are people staring at me?’

I am so preoccupied with this string of worries that it distracts me from anything else I could or should be doing. Most days I find it difficult to sit through an entire class without needing to leave the room. That’s the least of my problems though.

Along with anxiety, I also struggle with depression. These mental disorders usually accompany one another. Depression, which affects over 15 million Am ericans, is the subject of many misconceptions. People tend to have an image in their minds of a perpetually sad, bedridden individual who is unable to leave their homes and struggles with everyday activities. While this can be the case in severe situations, many are able to go through life with few complications.

In my case, I have random crying spells, difficulty sleeping, social withdrawal and trouble concentrating. I can go about my life in a seemingly normal way; these setbacks are mostly only noticeable by myself and close friends or family. With the help of therapy, medicine, and supportive friends and family, I’m able to overcome it.

I’m not writing this to gain sympathy. I’m not looking for attention. As hard as it may have been to write this and tell everyone something I’ve kept private, I wanted to spread awareness. How many people do you pass in the halls or sit with in class who struggle with this same illness? The next time you call your friend ‘mental’ or tell them to ‘take their meds’, think about what you’re really saying.

To those who struggle, it’s okay. If you need an ear, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Remember, you aren’t alone and it will get better.


2 Responses to “Mental illness is misunderstood”

  1. Paula on April 20th, 2013 12:11 am

    You are very brave for speaking about a very personal life struggle that many people ignore, do not understand, or react to with an insensitive comment. I have worked in mental health for over 30 years and have friends who experience depression and schizophrenia. You are blessed to have family and friends who support you and the ability to seek help. Many are not as fortunate.
    It sounds like you have a beautiful mind and a beautiful heart. May you grow stronger each day.


  2. Jonathon on April 22nd, 2013 4:34 pm

    Well stated and eloquently spoken. I can empathize with you. My hat is off to you for your powerful message.


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Mental illness is misunderstood