Society has this misconception about mental illnesses. The media thrives off of the panic attacks and the tragedy that comes along with it. People constantly throw the words around without clinical diagnoses. Because of this, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression among other mental illnesses are taken lightly. Everyone thrives off the pain that comes with being a basket case, but no one knows the quirky things that happen behind the scenes.
However, I know that my condition is real. My day to day occurrences include the same symptoms. Symptoms they do not talk about in the media.
1. Fast Walking
Since I went to college I have several people tell me on the daily that I am "like a gazelle" or that I am too speedy to keep up with. I have tried to control this, but then I realized it is something that I cannot change. My mind runs 100 mph, and so do my legs. I always have to be on the go and I cannot take a break, or a leisurely walk.
2. When I'm Walking I Can't Step On Cracks
Remember when we were kids and they said if you stepped on a crack you would break your momma's back? That was a fun game for most children, but as an adult, I still cannot step on cracks. The game had nothing to do with this; however, if I step on a sidewalk crack with my right foot, I have to do so with my left, or I feel very unbalanced.
If you know me, or I guess in simpler terms if I know you, I will probably make it known that we are acquaintances or friends. If I see you at the gym or in class, I will scream your name or wave every time to make sure you know that I am happy to see you. My anxiety constantly has me wondering if people recognize me or if they are okay with my presence. Often times, I used to feel like a nuisance to many people. Because of this, I like to make sure that no one feels like a bother.
Last semester, I did yoga at 6 a.m. almost every day. The days I did not go, I promise something bad happened every time on those days. So even on the days that I went to sleep at 2 a.m. because I was studying, I would still get up to go to yoga.
5. Don't Sleep
Sometimes I truly wonder how I function. I average approximately 4 hours of sleep a night. I am very busy, but sometimes that is not the problem. There have been times that I have stayed up for 46 hours and thought "Ah I finally get to go to bed," but when I lie down to sleep, my brain doesn't shut off. My thoughts are constantly running through my head and I can never take a break until eventually, my body cannot take it anymore.
6. Have to Eat All My Food
When I was younger I heard about a culture that said it was considered to be rude to the chef if the customer did not eat all of their food on their plate. Ever since then, I have eaten every bite of food on my plate. I cannot waste, even if I am full.
7. Sit In Certain Locations
If I am out at some location, I have to sit in a certain spot or I feel uneasy. I like to be facing the door or to be able to see as many people as possible. There have been times I went to meet my family at restaurants and they will have to switch me chairs so I can feel OK.
8. Use Certain Silverware
In my house, I have a certain set of silverware that I need to use. If I do not use mine, I feel as if the food tastes different. It is as if my meal is not complete.
9. Sit Up While Driving
Many of my friends point out the way I drive. I sit completely upright and I do not look relaxed at all. I feel fine, it is just that I have to be completely aware of everything going on. I cannot lay my back on my seat or slouch.
10. Need to be Alone
Although I am an extrovert, there are times I have to lock myself away with no human contact. Recently, when I was studying for finals, this wave came over me that I could not control. My friend Marisa quickly asked me what was wrong, because she noticed a change in my behavior as we sat there in the library. I completely shut down, and I could not stop my thoughts of being a failure. Eventually, I had to leave and go to my room alone. At my review session that night, I sat alone. I do not like for anyone to see me when I get this way, because I do not want their image of me to change and I do not want them to worry.
11. Phobia That My Loved Ones Will Die
My family and friends mean more to me than anything. I have always said that I hope that I die before my loved ones, not because I am selfless but because I am selfish- I cannot imagine my life without anyone that I care about. When I was little, I would call my mom five minutes after she left because I was so afraid that something had happened to her on her way to work. My first instinct is always to imagine the most tragic situation possible.
12. "I'm Sorry"
I will not do anything wrong, and I will still be the one to say I am sorry. I could be the one that is mad, but as soon as the other person gets upset at me, I quickly apologize for bringing the situation up in the first place. I am so afraid to lose the people in my life, that I am easily defined as a push over.
Yes, this is a common symptom in several lives. People don't know what they should or should not do, or they cannot pick which movie to go see. However, I get a cloud over me that I know shouldn't be there. One time I was in Hard Rock Cafe with my mom and sister. I recall being between two choices, and we had to keep sending the waitress away because I could not make up my mind. Finally, I decided on the salmon, but as she walked away I remember feeling a pit in my chest- Did I make the right choice? My family had to sit in silence, because they knew I was not okay and was about to have an anxiety attack. OVER FOOD. I know this is silly. I was sixteen years old, there is no right or wrong choice about what I should have chosen to eat that day. Often times, I won't know what I want to eat, I will drive to a fast food restaurant and leave before ordering because I cannot make up my mind.
14. Anxious Ticks
If I am about to have a panic attack I will most likely wiggle my jaw or flick my fingers. My body feels as though my blood is boiling and I cannot do anything to stop it.
15. Unknown Calls Put Me On Edge
If I do not know a number when I receive a call, I will not answer the phone. Seeing an unknown number triggers panic in me as the thoughts race through my head of who it could be and what they could want.
16. Panic Attacks
Last but not least, I do have panic attacks. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing that sets them off. There have been times I was taken to the emergency room, because I could not breathe and the world was spinning. At 15 years old, I refused to believe I should be treated for anxiety. However, now I am glad that I did, because my anxiety is real.
I do not just get stressed out or worried occasionally. My thoughts are constant my symptoms are ongoing. Ever since I can remember, I have lived with this mental illness. I cannot just "calm down" or stop stressing out.
Although these are just a few of my symptoms, every person's illness is different. Perhaps you can relate, perhaps you cannot. Regardless, mental illnesses are much more than the media portrays. Most people would not know that I have anxiety, unless I brought it to their attention. Never underestimate what someone is going through, be open-minded on situations you do not fully understand, and always be kind to one another. It may not fix all the problems in the world, but we have to start somewhere.