What Happened When My Anxiety Peaked and I Asked for Help
If you’ve ever shied away from asking for help because you fear you may seem weak, you are not alone. I often battle with this misconception myself, and no matter how many times I reinforce the message that asking for help is actually a sign of bravery rather than weakness, I still find myself hesitant to reach out to others at times of crisis.
The past week has been a tough one for me. The recent hot weather, lack of sleep and the unwanted arrival of my period meant I was exhausted and struggling to cope. This exhaustion triggered my anxiety and panic attacks, as it often does. My anxiety levels soared, and I felt hopeless and weak.
It doesn’t matter how many times my anxiety peaks like this, or how many years I live with anxiety as a close companion, it still knocks me off-balance every time. But often I’m my own worst enemy. I don’t always recognize the signs right away, and when I do I’m always hesitant to admit I’m not coping or accept that I need help.
I talk quite a lot on my blog and social media about how asking for help takes strength, and showing your vulnerability and reaching out to others takes courage — it is certainly not a weakness, and it is something that should be embraced. But I’m not always good at applying this to my own life and struggles.
But I relearned a few important lessons this week:
1. It takes strength to ask for help.
2. Other people want to help if they can.
3. Just sharing your thoughts and struggles not only reduces the negative impact on your mental health, but also brings you closer to others.
4. The comfort of knowing you are not alone in the way you feel or act, in these moments of crisis, is empowering.
Let me rewind and explain what happened. My anxiety levels were so high last week, I found it impossible to rest. My mind was racing, which left no room for the calm I needed to sleep. The more I tried and failed to rest, the more frustrated, anxious and irritable I became.
These feelings are all too familiar to me; I know the signs well, and I have written about them many times.
When my anxiety levels are high, I doubt myself. I doubt everything I do and say. Anxiety steals my confidence, even my ability to carry out familiar tasks which are like second nature. I often find myself irritable, short tempered, angry and confused. I become really needy and need constant reassurance. My mind becomes so overactive, racing from one negative thought to another, it doesn’t stop. One question triggers 10 more; it’s like having a 2-year-old child in my head constantly asking, “But why?”
I knew deep down the cause of my increased anxiety was exhaustion and my hormones, but sadly this didn’t help. I unsuccessfully fought my overactive mind for days before I was forced to admit I needed help.
I Reached Out and Asked For Help (Sort Of)
So I turned to my Twitter friends. I posted a succession of tweets about anxiety, humorous at first because I didn’t want to come across as a complainer or attention-seeker (another misconception my anxiety drives me to believe). These tweets were honest and left me feeling vulnerable. I fought the urge to delete them straight away, but almost immediately I started receiving messages of support, along with comments from others living with anxiety who could relate to everything I had posted.
My Twitter friends rallied around me, not only offering support and making me feel less alone, but also adding humor to the mix, which put a big smile on my face. Humor is a coping mechanism we often use (not always successfully), and this time it worked well.
I was actually surprised at the response I received (I have no idea why). To be honest it was only a half-assed attempt at asking for help, but my fellow anxiety warriors could see the signs I was struggling. They read between the lines of my humorous tweets and saw I needed encouragement. Humans are amazing!
I often say that Twitter brings out the best and worst in people. I have to deal with my fair share of trolls, but this week the Twitter community proved that social media can be a lifeline to those of us living with chronic illness or mental health issues.
Concentrating my attention on the tweets, rather than fighting against my anxious and out of control mind, was such a welcomed relief. Distraction is sometimes the best medicine. I was still exhausted, and I desperately needed to rest, but sometimes you have to put your mental health ahead of your physical health.
To Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable Is One of the Bravest Things You Can Do
Deciding how much I should share on my blog or social media is a constant balancing act for me. I want to be honest about all aspects of my health, but as most of you have your own personal battles, I don’t want to add to your emotional load.
But I guess the biggest reason I don’t want to talk about my struggles while I’m in the middle of the battle is because it makes me feel so vulnerable. I don’t want to admit I’m not coping. I don’t want to admit I need emotional support. I don’t want to admit I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. I don’t want to admit I don’t have the “control” I so desperately crave. I don’t want to admit I haven’t got my shit together — not even close. I don’t want to admit my failings and ask for help.
So this post is a reminder to myself and anyone else that needs to hear it:
1. Asking for help is an expression of strength and wisdom, rather than weakness.
2. To admit you are not coping takes immense courage.
3. To be open about your struggles and to allow yourself to be vulnerable is one of the bravest things you can do.
Breaking the Stigma
The only way we can break the stigma surrounding mental illness is to talk about it — shout it from the rooftops. Being open about how I have felt this week and being brutally honest about how much I was struggling has brought me closer to my Twitter friends. It’s allowed me to make more emotional connections, and most importantly it helped me survive the anxiety hell consuming me.
Many of us are all too familiar with the emotion of depression and the fear of anxiety. Unfortunately, too often people are unwilling to discuss this for fear of further rejection or judgment. As far as we have come with the advancements in mental health, stigma still exists when it comes to issues like depression and anxiety.
When you feel like you are not coping, and find yourself overwhelmed by everything, it’s important to ask for help — it could be vital for your well-being and safety. Please don’t be afraid to reach out. I promise it’s not as scary as it first seems. Take care.
Do you find it hard to ask for help?
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