I was completely unprepared for the emotional hailstorm that bombarded me about 3 years ago. My normal, predictable life (which I absolutely loved, by the way) had been shattered overnight. Not only did it culminate in a very bitter war, it also marked the onset of a toxic poison that had begun to work its way into my veins: resentment.
It begin with crippling anxiety and panic which came upon me by surprise. I began to feel wave after wave of fear and my stomach gave out on me. I could hear my heart pounding so loudly I thought it would come out of my chest. Pains were shooting down my legs. I became so afraid I couldn’t catch my breath. What was happening to me? Was I dying?
When I experienced my first panic attack (Oct 2015), I found myself at the hospital emergency room-not so prepared to hear the very worst news possible about my health. I was suffering from ‘mild’ C-PTSD. My anxiety and panic attacks were so traumatizing-the whole experience was new, strange and emotionally deliberating. And there was always that nagging fear in my head, ‘when will this happen to me again?’
I began to suffer through obsessive thoughts of traumatizing events from the past and I tortured myself with the painful details of the events from the past- imagining it over and over again throughout the day. And when I slept at night, my mental participation was no longer even required - those obsessive thoughts became a box of terrifying toys that came out to play on their own. For a very long time, I didn’t share my problems or thoughts with anyone thinking, ‘what will people think?’ It wasn’t until I started to regain my health that I realized how far down the rabbit hole I’d fallen.
Just like any other disease, anxiety is sometimes fatal, and I’ve felt the incredible pain and confusion of losing people I’ve cared about this way. Like myself, I know millions of people who wont seek help because of the persistent shame and stigma around mental illness.
After years of this sort of self-inflicted torture- long after my divorce- I realized it was well overdue that I look inward for the answer. No one was going to offer the answers I wanted or felt entitled to. I could either choose to accept and forgive or continue in the pattern of resentment and anger that swallowed my current quality of life.
I found a new therapist, new doctors, increased my medication dosage and with NAMI’s help, I decided to dance to remain sane as I fight this battle. Today, I feel so lucky to have my entire family (both sides) emotionally supporting me and their excitement and joy of having me around has been tremendously helpful. In this process, I also chose to forgive. I decided to let my past make me better, not bitter. Reaching out to the person who caused this pain and to forgive them was the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself.
I am a woman who is fighting a mental illness every day. I’m not ashamed and I won’t hide it. I am extremely lucky to have friends and family who accept, encourage, support and understand me for who I am. Please join me so we can give that gift to everyone.
Author: Punam Patel