sketch of woman looking uncertain

I’ve heard myself say it a lot — “It’s not that easy.” Every time I say this, it’s pretty much always in response to someone telling me to just get up and do something.

As many of you who struggle with mental health issues (and physical health issues) know, getting over your obstacles in order to achieve a goal you have — whether it’s big or small — isn’t always simple. Even the smallest of activities can seem incredibly difficult when anxiety and other issues come into play. Sometimes the Nike saying of “Just do it” isn’t as easy as 1-2-3.

I know to some, the phrase “It’s not that easy” must seem like a huge excuse not to try. I agree that it in no way should be used as such. However, it’s not always just an excuse. Sometimes as much as we want to just be able to get up and complete a task, our anxiety just wont seem to have it.

I’ve talked to relatives about how I want to do something really bad but how I don’t feel like I can because I begin to over-think until my mind almost convinces myself that something bad will happen. My anxiety kicks in to such a high degree that it makes the rest of my body feel weak, so much so things I know deep down I’m able to do seem impossible or close to it. Sometimes my relatives try to be understanding, but even the most understanding of them sometimes say, “If you want to do it, just do it and don’t think about it!” To that I respond, “It’s not that easy” because, well, it’s not.

I understand that sometimes, people just don’t know what to say anymore. They try hard to help, but let’s face it, when you don’t go through something yourself, it’s hard to know what to say or do to help. Even the people who are the best at assisting others sometimes experience moments where they just don’t know what to do — I understand that. Heck, sometimes I don’t know what to do or how to help myself. Still, I ask that people please try to understand that while someone may be trying their hardest, it still may be difficult for them to just get up and get something done — even if to you the task is utterly simple.

To everyone who struggles with mental and/or physical health issues, I’m sorry that you go through this and you’re not alone. I understand that sometimes doing certain things just isn’t that easy. However, please don’t allow things not being easy allow you to stop trying. Never give up!

This blog was originally published on Serenity.


Sometimes, I can feel the anxiety building. Other times, it comes on suddenly and hits me like a ton of bricks. Whichever way it comes, having a panic attack is one of the worst experiences I’ve been through.

Usually, it starts with shaking. My hands shake. My body shakes. For some reason, I get this jerky, bouncy movement in my left leg, and only in my left leg. Before I know it, I’m like wibbly, wobbly jelly on a plate.

Then, I start to lose my breath. It feels like I can’t get enough oxygen into my lungs and I start to breathe faster and harder, trying to get as much air in as I can. My mouth goes dry from breathing so hard. This is usually when the tears start flowing. I get tingling sensations in my fingers, lips and right down my arms when it’s bad. I feel my heartbeat getting faster. Sometimes, I can actually hear it in my ears.

Boom, boom, boom.

By this stage, I usually have trouble moving. If I’m not sitting already, then I need to. I get light-headed and dizzy. I’m terrified if I try to get up, walk or move somewhere. I might pass out or fall over, which of course contradicts my other instinct to run away. Nothing is ever simple with panic.

My mind races at more than 1,000 kilometers per hour and doesn’t even make any sense. I can’t think. I can’t connect thoughts. I can’t understand what is happening. It is illogical. I know it, but still I can’t make it stop.

I have trouble speaking in the midst of a panic attack. This is partly because I can’t think straight enough to construct a sentence that will make sense to the person listening. It is also partly because I can’t get enough air in to breathe properly, let alone speak. At moments like this, the best anyone is going to get out of me is a “yes” or “no” answer.

Some things are helpful when I am having a panic attack, like someone being there, reminding me to breathe and breathing with me. Quiet definitely helps. In fact, it’s almost a requirement. Sometimes, someone holding my hand helps, but sometimes I need space. (It’s best to ask me on that one, bearing in mind it needs to be phrased so I can answer “yes” or “no.”) Patience. Bucket loads of patience. I’m fully aware of how irrational I can be and I really wish I could just turn it off but I can’t. So patience is definitely needed.

Some things are not helpful when I am having a panic attack: people talking too much, people expecting me to talk, being crowded (I really need my space) and too much noise. There are certain things that can trigger my panic attacks. Some of these things include crowds, loud noise, constant or repetitive noises, too much happening all at once and sometimes new places and people. None of these things are of any real threat to my safety. Yet, my brain seems to think otherwise.

Sometimes, though, panic attacks just happen for no obvious reason at all. I will just get this feeling of intense emotion I can’t label or define and bam! The panic attack is on. After a panic attack has subsided, I’m usually left feeling completely and utterly exhausted. I feel like I could sleep forever.

Below is a technical diagram of what a panic attack is like for me:

Stick figure diagram showing the symptoms of the writer’s panic attacks

I hope this helps those who haven’t experienced a panic attack to understand what it feels like. You can see the shaking, the tears and even the hyperventilating, but there are other symptoms you can’t see, the racing thoughts and the tingling lips and fingers. While some people can speak through a panic attack, others can’t. No one should try and force that because it could make the panic worse. If you are helping someone through a panic attack, then it is important to know there are multiple feelings and sensations going on for the person. Remaining calm is vital in helping them also find calm.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on The Nut Factory.

I’d like to let you know how my anxiety and panic attacks affect me. I would like to explain why I can’t leave the house sometimes, why I might seem unreliable and why I might have to cancel plans at last minute. I’d also like you to know how you can help.

Firstly, I want you to understand what severe anxiety and panic attacks feel like. Anxiety is not about feeling nervous or worried about something. It’s more extreme and it affects me both physically and mentally. Severe anxiety is ongoing. It can last for hours, even days. These are the times I find it hard, even impossible to function. Panic attacks only last a short time, but they are more extreme and can happen anywhere, usually completely unexpectedly. They are terrifying, both for me and for those unlucky enough to be around me when they happen.

Both severe anxiety and panic attacks are awful, crushing experiences that feel like someone is piling paving stones on my chest or like there is a massive snake wrapped around me squeezing tighter and tighter. Then I often feel like I can’t get enough air, may faint, or become frozen to the spot. I always get to the floor asap and stay there until I am OK again. Sometimes I need medication, and sometimes I need someone on the phone with me. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. And sometimes, perhaps surprisingly, I need to be alone.

After severe attacks I am usually exhausted. I am unable to drive or do much at all. This means I often have to change plans at last minute. I feel exhausted and I feel like a mess. Oh, I look a mess too: such a pretty picture of a ghost like complexion, red eyes and mascara smudged down my face. I sometimes need help to breathe, to calm down and to get me to a safe place.

For a while after a panic attack or after a period of severe anxiety, I may need to rest completely. I may need to be alone. I may not be able to maintain contact with everyone immediately. This does not mean I do not think of you or that I care about you any less. If I can leave the house, I may need to stick to very familiar places and only be with a very small number of people I can trust unconditionally.

I hope I have helped you to understand severe anxiety and panic attacks and how they may affect me and others. As I have described, they can be horrific experiences both while they are happening and afterward. So I am genuinely sorry if during and after these times I cannot function properly. Again this may feel to you like I am making excuses, like I am avoiding you, or like I am letting you down. I’m really don’t mean to. It is just a part of my condition I have to live with. I really hope you can live with it too.

For anyone who is battling a war inside of their heads, there is also an unfortunate, but likely battle to be understood. It can be a constant conflict to be understood by friends, family and loved ones, and sometimes it can even be difficult to understand what is going on inside of your own brain.

As somebody who has been dealing with severe anxiety for almost six years, I have found the only way to cope with mine is to write. So here I am.

Here are 10 important things to remember when dealing with anxiety or other mental illnesses:

1. None of this is your own doing, nor is it your fault. No matter how much you tell yourself that it is – or no matter how much other people tell you that happiness is a choice.

2. You aren’t “crazy.” Having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean that you are of impaired judgment, or that you cannot be trusted.

3. Nobody asks to have a chemical imbalance in their brain, or to have experiences in their life that could potentially alter their way of thinking.You did not choose to be ill, but you can choose to help yourself.

4. You deserve to be happy.

5. The only way to make people understand what you are going through is to open up. I know, the idea of opening up to somebody is scary, but in the words of Chuck Palahniuk, “The Only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

6. It’s completely OK to put yourself first. Get the help you need. Pursue a hobby you are interested in. Take everything one step at a time – there’s no rush.

7. Never feel guilty. Anybody who makes you think you should feel guilty about the things out of your control, isn’t worth knowing.

8. Be kind to yourself. I think the best piece of advice I have ever come across was to think about the things you are saying to yourself – would you ever say these thoughts to a best friend or loved one? No? Then stop saying it about yourself. You deserve love and complete happiness.

9. Keep going. Although it feels like you are alone in how you are feeling, it’s likely that one of your family members or friends have experienced what you are going through. If you feel you can’t talk to somebody, I would recommend joining an online community that deals with your illness. I have been a part of four or five online communities for a year, and they honestly help me get through each day. It’s a relief knowing somebody cares and is in a similar situation to yourself.

10. You’re doing great.

Hypochondrism seems to be widely downplayed in society compared to other mental illnesses. People throw around the term like it’s a new age fad.

“Oh, I’m such a hypochondriac. I think I have this disease or that disease.”

It has made it pretty easy for someone like myself, who actually has hypochondrism, to be part of the elite social club where you are not looked at too strangely. It allows me to laugh at myself and joke around.

When you tell someone you have generalized anxiety (GAD), it is often misunderstood and judged harshly. When you tell someone you have hypochondrism, it’s brushed off and minimized. This is my experience. It has allowed me to not give too much thought to the fact that it truly is a problem in my life, a problem that sometimes mentally consumes me.

I am consumed daily with thoughts of illness and diseases I might have for every little thing I feel physically. I self-diagnose constantly, and I joke about it at times with my coworkers. In reality, it can be overwhelming at times. Having Google to help me self-diagnose every little symptom into a worse case scenario causes me constant worry that I am dying.

I have had carcinoma in situ twice in my life. I have had surgeries go wrong and lost a third of my blood. I have had my share of medical realities. I am not sure if this has perpetuated my hypochondrism, but it certainly feeds off my GAD.

I can take a simple symptom I am having, like a second of vertigo, and I will convince myself I have a brain tumor. I can feel tingling in my legs and am sure I have multiple sclerosis. The list goes on and on.

I don’t run to the doctor for my every little self-diagnosed complaint, like others might with hypochondrism, only because I am well aware it’s probably just in my head. I’m also so embarrassed. I depend on my husband to gauge my overreaction and normal reactions as to see if I should seek medical attention because I can be irrational.

With that being said, we spent hours in the emergency department last week when I kept getting stabbing pain in my leg and my husband just really wasn’t sure why. Although he has a medical background, he isn’t my personal doctor. He wouldn’t want to tell me not to go and then it turns out to be a blood clot. It puts a lot of pressure on him to be my personal medical adviser.

I decide to go to the doctor myself if the obsessive thoughts on a particular symptom do not pass, and my anxiety is peaking as a result. I really just need the reassurance I am not dying of X , Y or Z. This is the first time I am writing about my hypochondrism. It is something I usually joke about and minimize. It is a real issue and people do struggle because of it. It’s not a joke.

So if anyone has done the same as me and fluffs it off and giggles when they talk about it, I totally get it. Sometimes it helps to not be so serious all the time and to laugh at ourselves. Yet, when it is interfering with the enjoyment of daily living it might be a good idea to be honest about it. The truth shall set you free.

Image via Thinkstock.

As you probably know, I have the misfortune of living with both a severe anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Firstly, to understand what living with both feels like, you need to understand them separately to understand how they dramatically contrast each other. This really makes everything just that much worse.

With anxiety (and this depends on the person and their specific anxiety disorder, so I’m going to be rather general), you worry too much. This is a huge understatement in itself as “worrying” doesn’t seem to do anxiety any justice. It’s more like this constant fear of everything and anything in your life that could go wrong, will go wrong.

With anxiety, you can’t just “calm down.” Telling someone with anxiety “not to worry” is rather pointless. If we could not worry, then we really would. It’s not as easy as people make it seem. It’s kind of like how you would feel if “Jurassic Park” were real and you were sitting in those stationary cars when the T-Rex makes its dramatic escape.

It’s the feeling of, Oh, God, what is going to happen? What am I going to do? How can I cope? What will people think if I pee my pants from fear right now? What if “X” happens? What if everyone hates me and blames me for the T-Rex’s escape? I know I didn’t do that, but what if I never get to tell anyone the truth? What if I do, and no one believes me?

What if I’m destined to be a failure? Maybe this is God’s way of telling me I’m a failure, by setting a T-Rex on me. Oh, sh*t, I just remembered there is a T-Rex and I’m worrying about being a failure. Will people even notice if the T-Rex eats me? Will they even care? My hands are shaking so badly. Will the people in the car notice? Will they think less of me because I’m not handling this as well as they are? Oh God, I just remembered that embarrassing thing I did/said eight years ago. Oh my God, I’m such a freak. And oh my God, there’s a T-Rex right in front of me.

Obviously, the T-Rex is a metaphor for all that anxiety bubbling to the surface and breaking through. Basically, with anxiety, you care too much. You’re often overemotional and too sensitive. You have a tendency to worry about anything and everything, no matter how ridiculous it seems. Quite simply, you care about everything way too much.

Depression, in many ways, is the exact opposite. With depression (and again, I’m being general, as there are so many different types of depression, and everyone deals with it differently), you often don’t care about anything. You don’t see the point. Why care, when everything is seemingly pointless and hopeless?

It’s like a black hole. Depression sucks in all the negativity, all the badness and forces you to focus on that. It alters your reality to make life seem worthless. The black hole, so capable of drawing in every bad word, bad moment, bad action and bad event, seems to effortlessly repel anything even slightly positive or hopeful. As you can already imagine, having both is torturous. Imagine caring too much while simultaneously not caring at all.

Do you know what it’s like to think, Oh my God, I need to do “X” because of “Y,” and then think, What’s the point? It’s not like it matters anyway. This thought process goes around and around again. Imagine being oversensitive, meaning anything and everything slightly negative is ingested into your black hole of darkness. Imagine the T-Rex is breaking through the fence, and you are simultaneously panicking with despair and fear. (You’re the guy running to the toilet in this situation). All the while, you are wondering what difference it would make if you were eaten. (The guy in the toilet also fits this, as he is eaten. *Spoiler, but really, if you haven’t seen “Jurassic Park,” shame on you.) After all, you tell yourself, would anyone even notice? Perhaps, it would be the best thing for everyone.

This is what living with depression and anxiety is like. It’s both caring and not caring whether or not the T-Rex eats you. (I really feel as though I’ve pushed this metaphor further than it can go, but it sounded nice in my head.) Remember this before you judge someone, questioning their motives, their mental illnesses and their invisible ones.

Image via Thinkstock.

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