Panic attacks. The inner workings of them is strange. Our minds are freaking out yet we try our hardest to remain calm but our bodies don't seem to get the memo and instantly decides to set off some sort of alarm that alerts every single one of senses. Like a thousand neurotransmitters are buzzing around trying to find the one that's setting off the fire.
Having a panic attack is like being trapped in a cardboard box with a knife in your hand. You know you can cut the cardboard to release yourself, yet you become frozen. There's still a part of your brain that hasn't been overtaken by this panic, it's shouting at you to calm the effff down and to get yourself out of the box. You can't. You can't move. You can't breath. You can't feel anything but yet you feel everything.
This is my panic attack. Everyone's is different but this is a walk through of one that I remember as clear as day even though it was a almost two years ago and I'm lucky to have experienced few since this one.
Mine almost always start with some sort of tapping, be it my foot or my fingers against whatever they can touch. My foot is fiercely tapping the ground. My brain is starting to worry, but I can still hold it together. I can still, if I try my damn hardest, stop it going further. When I can't my head goes as light as a feather and I sweat like I've been running on a hot summers day. . Expect I haven't, I'm sat down begging my mind to stop. This time my rationality isn't calming me down. I'm becoming aware that people are noticing, increasing my worry. Why are they staring? Why is no one saying anything? Why is no one getting someone to help? Why, just why is this happening again? I feel trapped and suffocated, I need to get out of here. I run off from where I'm sitting, hoping an open space will make my brain return to zero. It doesn't.
I feel sick to the very core, I'm holding my stomach forcing it to keep in all the butterflies. I start hyperventilating. I start crying. I start going numb. My mind feels like it's being set on fire over and over again, I can't process a word that anyone is saying to me besides "Just breath, Jasmine!!". I'm trying, I promise you I'm trying, please don't shout. Please don't crowd me, I feel like I can barely grasp any of the oxygen around me. I think I'm going to faint. The fire is spreading, I feel it in my arms and legs. I feel it to the very tips of my fingers. Please make it stop, I beg. Everything feels so distant, I don't feel like I'm here anymore. Somewhere between hyperventilating and calming down, someone went to get my friend. This was my "safe friend", the one who knew exactly how to put out the fire in my brain. I can feel my breaths slowing down, and the sobs begin to calm. I don't have a clue what's just happened. My brain has gone to mush, I remember nothing after the first panicked inhale. I look into their eyes, I steady myself, I am okay, I am safe.
The hyperventilating lasted 10 minutes, one of my shortest ones but it's been the worst panic attack I've ever endured. I can start feeling my fingers and toes again, I grip onto the cup of water I've been handed along the way. Small, gentle sips. The fire is extinguishing and gradually I start to feel normal. Ironically, I've forgotten what I panicked over.
"You're so pathetic" is being whispered at the back of my mind. I feel it and 1,000 other emotions. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger and sadness to name a few. I begin profusely apologising, over and over again until my mind feels somewhat satisfied. I give myself 10 minutes to wallow in shame and self pity, then I get up, wipe my tears and carry on with the rest of my day as if nothing just happened. I don't talk about it with my friend, or anyone else. I bury it in the ground and go back to living my life.
Panic attacks happen out of the blue, knocking us down but most of us dust ourselves off and get back up. Imagine feeling like you're dying? Like you can't catch a single breath and 30 minutes later going back to "life". It takes immense strength to not only endure a panic attack but carry on living normally after one. I only realise that now, I judged myself more harshly than anyone else ever did. You may never understand one unless you've experienced one, but please understand that us panicking doesn't mean we're weak, losing it or pathetic. Every body is scared of something. Every body has triggers. Every body struggles with something.
Hold their hand and repeat that it will be okay. Not that they're okay because they aren't and even amidst their attack, they know they aren't. It will be okay. Don't tell them to just breath, we know that's what we're suppose to do but the whole hyperventilating thing makes it a little tricky and telling us to breath actually makes us stress more about the fact we aren't doing it properly. Be patient, be kind, be gentle. It passes but some times the only way to stop the panic attack is going through it ❤
Before I had ever experienced depression I wondered what the term black dog meant, to me it made no sense to describe something so terrible with a creature so wonderful. I had my own real life black dog that followed me everywhere and was a cuddling machine, it always seemed degrading to her to refer her to something so horrendous.
My depression is my cloud. It floats above my head wherever I go. Some days it’s raging, angry and thundering, other days it downpours. Sometimes it’s just a nice white fluffy cloud and for the most part, it drizzles sporadically throughout the day. For those of you that suffer, you won’t need to ask why I don’t have an umbrella. Everyone who doesn’t suffer with depression (or any mental illness) has their umbrella, it protects them on the days it gets a little rainy and fits nicely in their pocket whilst the sun is shining. But, with depression, your umbrella is taken away. Destroyed by one huge, shattering storm and unlike breaking a real umbrella you can’t just nip into Tesco’s to buy a new shiny one that will hold up against the heavy winds. So you endure the ever-changing weather up there and hope you don’t get soaked, until it isn’t so powerful and your good ol’ trusty umbrella will withstand the winds once again.
It’s odd really, because you never quite see the storm coming. One day you’re going about your life, with a small cloud floating above you in the far distance and suddenly it floods. It’s like the weather here in the UK, it’s perfectly sunny then all of a sudden a crap ton of rain floods down on you as you’re walking to work ruining your hair and any patience you had for the rest of the day. My depression changes like the clouds you see up above you. Sometimes they seem nearer, as if you could touch them and sometimes they seem a million miles away. Often times they look fluffy and white as snow but occasionally they look angry and filled with rage. My depression is not always a constant cloud of rage, despite what people may think but rather it changes every day. There isn’t a weather forecast to predict today’s mood unlike the weather so you can plan accordingly, with depression you take it how it comes. One rainy day at a time waiting for the day you awaken to a bright fluffy cloud.
Disordered eating is something that is still so taboo, that I even feel shame talking about it. It took me months to shed the guilt and shame that came with my depression but eventually I did. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to a point in my recovery from disordered eating that I’ll feel comfortable talking about it. Opening up about stigmatized topics is the very reason I have this blog, so that I can break down those walls. Quite simply, the thought of telling my story of an over 10-year struggle with disordered eating scares the crap out of me. Nonetheless, I’m going to try because it is very much a part of my mental health problems. (deep breaths in and out as I type this and then post!)
Is it anymore stigmatized than mental health? I’m not sure because to me, they’re one in the same. If it weren’t for my mental health issues, I can confidentially say I wouldn’t struggle with food so much. And if it wasn’t for my eating disorder I feel certain I wouldn’t struggle as much as I do with mental health. For me, they go hand in hand. Much like anxiety and depression do. You rarely get one without the other. I think mental health illnesses can turn into such a snowball effect. I started getting panic attacks, then severe anxiety, which in turn lead to debilitating depression. But my eating disorder is something that has never wavered; it’s been a constant battle through everything else.
I have struggled with disordered eating since I was 8. Yes, you read that right. That’s over half of my life and that fact doesn’t fall short on me. In fact, it’s something that clouds my everyday feelings towards food. They go through phases of obsessive and restrictive to careless. I’ve binged, I’ve binged and purged, and I’ve starved myself. Anything that can possibly be done, I’ve done. And for the last few years, it’s usually been an alternate phase of binging and starving. It is exhausting. It is draining. It is heartbreaking. It’s a never-ending cycle of hating yourself in different ways. I get better for a while but then always fall back into old habits. It can often times be addicting (in the worst possible way) and even though it feels horrible, something in my brain makes it seem near impossible to quit.
In many ways, I have never known what it’s like to live a life without an eating disorder. It didn’t start with full on starving etc. at 8 but I had weird behaviours that eventually lead to the habits I have today. However it’s manifesting at the time, it’s still an eating disorder. Even typing those words make my stomach churn. They’re looked down on and eye rolls are the typical response because looking at me, you don't see someone who fits the image of an eating disorder. Yet, flipping those two words the other way round makes me feel better. Disordered eating. It sounds more normal, less clinical and medical. Which ever way I say it to make myself feel better, it is still a problem. Eating disorders consume your life and suck away any shred of confidence and self-love.
There have been many days that I have sat in tears for hours upon hours loathing every part of my body. Hating every inch of fat and every stretch mark. In particularly bad phases, I used to even fake sick and not go to school. I couldn’t bare the thought of anyone looking at me. I couldn’t bare the thought of having to find something to wear and scrutinizing myself. I couldn't eat in front of anyone for months for the fear that I was being judged for eating, when in reality people were judging me more for not eating. I couldn’t ignore how big of a problem it had become when I wouldn’t want to go to school or go out in public. To feel that ashamed of yourself is a pain that is completely indescribable.
You don’t ever realise how much it consumes you until you are sat in front of the mirror, sobbing wishing to some extent you didn’t have to exist. That’s where my depression came into play. My body image issues sent me into a spiral of suicidal thoughts more often than anything else. I have gotten help believe me I have. I have been to several therapists yet nothing clicked. My eating disorder has never rendered me ill to the point of being hospitalised. I am overweight, which is often overlooked when talking about ED’s, we all think of the scarily thin person but that isn’t always the case. But mentally, it has sent me into states of mind that I can’t even put into words. I don’t even like thinking about those times. I’m sure, it has definitely impacted my physical health- no, I know for a fact that it has but mentally it has destroyed me for years. I've spent years destroying my body to silence my mind and I'm just starting to understand that this isn't going to be a sustainable way to live. 12 years fighting my body is a hell of a long time and I'm finally get ready to try recovery again for what may be the 1,000th time.
There isn’t a day where I don’t catch my face in the mirror and my brain automatically starts counting calories and my mind just screams FAT. It’s all I see, 24/7 and if that isn’t tiring, I don’t know what is it. It's gotten better in some ways but it's still there and very much a part of everyday life for me. This post doesn’t have a happy conclusion or some epiphany that I’ve come to realise over the 12 years I’ve battled this. That is the very beginning of my story and my feelings towards life with an ED. However, I think I’ve taken the biggest step today. I’ve opened up about something most people don't know about. And in some ways, maybe that’s the only bit of hope there is within this post.
When I think of how my life should be right now, I’m hit with the reality of what it actually looks like. Now don't get me wrong, I've come a long way from the person I was even just several months ago and if I was looking at my life with a practical perspective, it is good. It is simple. I get through my days and work hard but I yearn for so much more than just 'good'. A year or two ago, finishing school, the image I had for what my life would look like is far different than what is sat in front of me today. I still feel stuck in some senses. Stuck in my security blanket that is home and a familiar job (which I love!). I've always been the 'safe one', never venturing too far out of my comfort zone but I knew finishing mainstream school and starting uni was finally my chance. Except it wasn't. I became unable to do so many things and the effects of depression crippled over me. Uni and even going back to any type of school filled me with dread and sickening anxiety. Why? Because depression convinced me for SO long that I will fail. Not that I might but I most certainly will. I suppose part of me, two years on, still believes this to be true.
When I look back to 2 years ago, although I had mild anxiety and low moods, for the most part I was the bubbly, always laughing and blabbermouth who was friends with everyone. I had high hopes for my life. Since the age of 13 I wanted to become a social worker and I had never steered away from that path. I geared all my subjects towards it, read mountains of books on social care and scoured the internet for every documentary on the subject there was. I wanted to live away from home in a big city, find love and have the perfect little family. Then depression and severe anxiety knocked me down without any warning. The bubbly person I used to be disappeared. I became quieter, I questioned everything and everyone around me, I would spend hours upon hours locked in my room in pitch black. Nothing made sense anymore. I felt as if everyone else was making leaps and bounds in their life and I was still stuck at the bottom of that hole, with no light up above. I questioned all of my worth, doubted my abilities to succeed at anything, let alone make it through University. Social work seemed like a mistake and that I wouldn't cope with the pressure. I no longer thought I was worthy enough of love and couldn’t imagine being a mother when I couldn't take care of myself. The dreams I had dreamt of since I was little seemed near impossible, like my depression was playing some cruel joke on me for believing I could be something.
I fought hard to ignore those thoughts but there was always that nagging voice in the back of my head that persuaded me I would never amount to be anything more than a continuous nervous mess. It's been 2 months. 2 months since I started thinking that uni was in fact going to be an option in my life again. That because I have defeated the darkness, I will somehow be strong enough to handle school. I want so much more for myself and never wanted to become a settler but I have, although not purposefully. I had succumbed to the conclusion that my depression and anxiety are right. Whilst writing this I've continuously put present tense, then read back through correcting it to past tense but maybe I do feel all these things, still, in some way.
In some ways I think anxiety was a huge part of my life before I ever realised it. I constantly needed a plan in place, even if it changed with my varying moods, it brought me comfort to have an idea of what I wanted in life. Now, I'm kicking myself for not even thinking that my life dreams would possibly change through time and heartache. I'm constantly wavering between different things that I want to do, even though right now I feel pretty settled in my choices. Yet, the anxiety and grief for the things I haven't yet done, at times make me want to dive head first into everything to make up for lost time.
It's hard watching life go by and feeling like you can't take part. Some days it still gets me down that I can't do everything that all my friends do or that I haven't achieved as much as some of them. But I've learnt to let life live itself, I can't control everything, as hard as I may try. I may not have gone to university last year, gone on a "girl's holiday", or to festivals etc but there's time. I have time to do all those things, they don't have to be done at certain points in life despite my anxiety convincing me otherwise. Grief comes in many forms and I believe all those that suffer with mental health, have in some ways, got to grieve. Whether it's for opportunities missed, things you can no longer do or people you have lost along the way. And just like with other grief, it comes and goes, it's a constant process of learning to live in the moment. Learning to be okay with where your life is at any given moment despite the uncertainty that comes with mental illnesses.
I am the only one who sees myself as a failure and reminding myself of this, often times makes me feel better. No one else sees what I haven't accomplished because their goals are not the same as mine. We are often times our own worst enemy but just remember you are not your shortcomings, you are everything that you do despite them.
Hey there, I'm Jasmine, your average 20 year old working as a nanny and play assistant. Maybe Tomorrow follows my journey living with mental health issues and chronic pain, all whilst trying to have some fun along the way.
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