So, you are dealing with a loved one with a severe mental illness. They have tried to take their life on 3 occasions, all with absolute intention to actually die (not a cry for help as it’s said) they survive, thankfully. They are sectioned on numerous occasions & their illness has been 11 years thus far & you have been by their side the whole way.
This is me. The person with the illness is my mum. Where has it left me? The main person who has dealt with her illness, who has been there through every single appointment & sat by her side after her suicide attempts. What became of me?
Before Mental Health so cruelly came into our lives, I thought anxiety was for people who craved attention (sorry to offend but it’s just how i thought of it) I thought they were quite pathetic if the truth be known. I wasn’t naive or ignorant enough to think actual illnesses such as bipolar, schizophrenia or depression were not real but I really thought when people said “I suffer with anxiety” they were just wanting attention or trying to get out of something. Fast forward many years & those thoughts came back to bite me hard on the bum!
I didn’t know what it felt like to be anxious. I knew people often suffered with breathing problems, sweating, shaking and various other symptoms but I didn’t truly know how it actually felt, that is until it hit me & I became that person.
I woke up and started to get ready for my day when all of a sudden I had this pounding feeling in my chest. My chest felt heavy, like I had someone sitting on it, I immediately thought it was a heart attack, you hear of people describing it as this feeling. I put it to one side & tried to continue with my day but it got worse & worse. My heart was missing beats, fluttering & definitely out of rhythm at times. I felt a real sense of doom, panic & dread. I took myself to my doctors the next day as it hadn’t subsided at all. I thought the dread I was feeling was because I was assuming it was a heart attack. My heart rate was irregular & they even went as far as to do an ECG at the doctors surgery. Eventually I was sent to hospital where I was seen by a doctor almost immediately. They obviously had concerns because it appeared to be linked to my heart & my pulse was pounding so hard from my neck, along side the jugular that you could actually see very clearly my pulse pounding in & out.
I was sent for a dye to be put through my veins to check for clots etc. I had various bloods done, another ECG & eventually at 2am I was given my own room as they still had concerns it was my heart & didn’t want to risk infection. At one point it was suggested it could be a goitre & my thyroid could be the cause.
All of this palaver turned out to be anxiety. I was absolutely floored! I couldn’t believe it. But it was true. After I had been given a sedative to sleep & had spent a whole night & most of the next day in hospital doing nothing but sleeping & relaxing, my pulsing stopped, just like that! That is when I was asked questions about my life. I hadn’t thought for one moment my life as a carer had caused this. Up until then it hadn’t even occurred to me that it could possible be anxiety. Of course I was relieved it wasn’t my heart but I felt incredibly silly & more so guilty! I had taken a much needed bed which could have been used for someone in real need.
As guilty as I felt & still do, I WAS actually in need. My body was telling me that I’m not coping, I was under attack by my own thoughts & feelings & needed care, not hospital care but self care. I needed to stop for a moment & take in this feeling, realise it, go with it & then learn how to deal with it.
I get anxiety here & there now. No particular times, just random & mostly unexpected. All I can say is that it is truly horrible. It can be completely debilitating sometimes & manageable other times. It can last for hours, days or a week if not more. It is what it is. If it’s here to stay then it’s down to me to find coping mechanisms & talk myself out of it. But I will never ever judge anyone again for something I know nothing about.