By Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai
It’s almost as if a shovel were digging away at your chest. The pit that used to be where your lungs were feels like a hollow, sinking hole. Your heart rate is elevated and your eyes are welling up. Still, you desperately search for your self-control, reaching for an expressionless mask so you can muster a flat-sounding, “I’m fine, really.”
But it’s no one intimidating asking how you are. It’s your friends. It’s your family. It’s your significant other. They’re the people you grew up with, live with, laugh with, love and confide in. Yet, talking mental health with friends and family is probably harder than with a stranger.
It’s not a case of trust but rather trying to explain something you have no idea how to explain. It’s about fearing judgment, even though you know your friends and family love you and aren’t judgmental people. It’s about not wanting to break down in front of your loved ones, because you’re tired enough of breaking down behind closed doors.
Then comes the issue of knowing rationally that your friends and family should and will support you, but still fearing the worst. You don’t want to seem “crazy” (whatever that means), but know that your partner, friends or family would never think that. The battle of reason versus yourself is exhausting.
For those of you who have panic attacks that destroy your sense of reality, mood swings that rob you of living in the moment or a constant cloud covering what truly is a beautiful life, I urge you to turn the tables if even just for a moment.
It’s a tall order, I know. In those moments, whatever they may be, trying to find your grip and stabilize your feet again is hard. For those who want to know why it’s hard, it just is. OK?
But, perhaps what’s digging at your chest is that you haven’t told anyone. The weight of the world is bearing down on you. And even when people ask if they can help you carry it, you smile politely and say, “Oh no, I’m good.”
There is no right way of talking about this, no formal procedure where you can follow steps one through 10. The biggest thing to do is grant yourself a little honesty.
Honesty can be scary. Yet knowing that you aren’t alone will provide an irreplaceable source of comfort.
I never thought I wanted to tell anyone about my anxiety. But the day I did, was the day I felt immediately safer knowing I didn’t have to curl up in a ball alone.
Your friends and family may not know what to say. They may not have even suspected anything or have even encountered a similar situation. But that’s OK. More often than not, they just want to help and help in whatever way you determine is the best for you.
Let someone else carry your things for you. It’s a surprisingly freeing feeling.
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Dec. 2, 2015.