Tingling in my arms. Short gasping breaths. Tightness in my chest. Heart racing. What I thought was the oncoming heart attack thankfully wasn’t. It was a panic attack. I know that now but I did not know it then. This happened at night as I was trying to get to sleep but sleep would not come until the attack subsided.
The scary thing was is that I had experienced a couple before. And even scarier and dumber was that I did not tell anyone. I mean no one. Not even my wife of thirty plus years of marriage at that time. I kept it to myself and ignored the attacks because they went away after a short period of time and seemingly I returned to normal.
As I discovered though, I never really returned to normal because the attacks would come again. Not always as bad, but still the racing of the heart and shortness of breath. Throughout that time I kept it to myself and never spoke about it.
Now, after a few years, I know I was sick. Perhaps not a physical health issue but a mental health issue. It turns out I had high anxiety and the panic attacks I was experiencing was a result of my anxiety getting out of control. I did not take any steps to deal with my anxiety at that time and let it run unchecked. I became quite adept at hiding and burying my illness.
It was not until my wife, who is a registered clinical counselor, and I were having what seemed to be an innocent conversation did it begin to dawn on her that I had serious anxiety issues. As I described some of the behaviours I displayed growing up, and the fact that sometimes I struggled to get to sleep, did it start to clue in to her. And that is when I finally spoke up about the attacks that I was having.
For both of us it was like a light was turned on in a dark room. That moment when you realize, “now I get it.” And get it I did after she was able to ask me some questions and also gave me a slight rebuke for not sharing. I had an illness and it was nothing to be ashamed about. She assured me I could get help for it and there were ways to deal with it.
You see I did not want to share with her because I did not want to worry her. And I also did not want to show any weakness. I had to be tough and resilient. I could get through this on my own. She had enough in her life to worry about and did not need to worry about me.
Well, it took some time and it continues to take time but from that day of discovery that I had a mental health issue, I took steps to get help. And today, I am so much better. Yes, I do get anxious at times still, but through getting help I am able to identify it, put it into perspective and do a much better job of curbing it. And the panic attacks have disappeared thankfully.
The first step to better health for me though was to talk about my anxiety. My illness that I had and was affecting my life. Instead of waiting so long, I should have spoken up and shared. Just like I would have shared if I had gotten a serious physical health diagnosis.
My story, is like so many. And that is why it is so important to talk, to share and to speak up about mental health issues. Thankfully, I have my anxiety under control. However, there are many others who have not. If you do have anxiety to the point it is controlling your behaviours and you are having panic attacks don’t be like me. Please talk. I am so thankful that I had someone to talk to about it. So today on “Let’s Talk” day in Canada I urge you to do so.