My Mental Health Wake-Up Call
I was driving from work to school one night. My mind was so focused on the next turn that I needed to make that when I took the exit off the freeway, I made a very wrong turn… not the turn I intended. I turned onto the off-ramp and into oncoming traffic. I was going the wrong way on a one-way road and headed right into cars coming off the freeway! Cars were honking at me, but within seconds I was able to think clearly enough to turn into the island in the middle of the off ramp and get out of the way. Luckily, I didn’t hit anyone and no one was physically injured in my moment of confusion.
Then the panic and adrenaline rush set in and I started sobbing in the middle of the freeway off-ramp. Crazy thoughts ran through my head at super speed. “Why did I just do that?” “I am so glad no one was hurt!” “I could have hurt someone!” “I could have hurt myself!” “What do I do now?” “How do I get out of here?”
MY SAVING GRACE
The thing that kept me sane – my amazing support system. I was shaking, crying and beside myself. My BFF was a phone call away and as fate would have it she was minutes behind me on the freeway. She listened to me, helped to calm me down over the phone and I was able to get to a safe place on the road. She also got off the freeway and was there with me in a flash. As I ran into her arms, I knew I was going to be OK and that she was there for me with no judgment at all.
Did I drive into oncoming traffic on purpose? Absolutely not! Was I mentally stable enough at the time to be driving? Obviously, I thought so; but in a moment of panic, I made a wrong turn that could have ruined lives. As the adrenaline worked its way out of my system throughout the rest of the night, I realized two things.
First, I realized that I wasn’t focused mentally as I was driving and there must be a reason for that. And second, I realized that I am so lucky and blessed to have such a strong support system in my life. I would be lost without it.
- I was under too much pressure and had too much on my mind. I was mentally overloaded and in autopilot mode. I was not fully aware of what was going on around me. I should have been more focused on the task at hand instead of having a million thoughts rambling around in my head. I was under a lot of pressure in my professional and personal life and perhaps I wasn’t taking care of my emotional and mental health like I should have been.
- If I didn’t have a good support system to rely on that was immediately there for me, I would probably still be frozen, not knowing what to do, in that small island in the middle of traffic. The fact that I was able to talk to my BFF immediately and with my husband and sister about it later helped me to process the experience. The support that I have is invaluable.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety for years. I do not have these diseases because of anything that has happened to me in my life, and it is no one’s fault. In fact, I have a great life surrounded by friends and family that love and support me. I have a great marriage and I love my religion and my job and have so many things to be thankful for. Most people that know me aren’t aware of my depression because I rarely talk about it. I am a positive person by nature and always like to see the bright side of things.
The side I hide from the world is the battle in my head that I fight every day. Part of how I feel is exhausted all the time and have little motivation to even do the little normal things like vacuum my house. (Which I did this morning – YAY!) I don’t like being the center of attention, or being in front of people. Going to the grocery store alone causes me intense anxiety. Luckily, I have a very understanding husband who goes for me.
YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
Am I alone in having these feelings and struggles? NO! Are there people who struggle with it much more than I do? YES! Should we all stick together and grab hold of the hope that awareness brings? YES! We each have our own demons to deal with and own experiences, but it is crucial to know you are not alone and there is hope.
I have a select few that I rely on for support that I am comfortable talking to about it. I try to put on a happy face, be strong and forge my way through life. I have asthma and I am not afraid to tell people that, but why am I hesitant to talk about my mental health?
Unfortunately, there is a lack of support and openness regarding mental health. I know there are many programs, organizations, and individuals who have made mental health awareness a priority but it still isn’t enough. Mental health is something everyone should be taking care of personally. Some of us need professional help and/or medication to manage this, and there is nothing to be ashamed of if we do! We all need a support system and a plan for our own mental and emotional well being.
NEVER GIVE UP
I am still a work in progress and learn new things all the time. It is essential to surround yourself with a good support system and to take the time for yourself each day to keep your mental health in balance. Don’t give up hope! You aren’t alone and united we are strong.