I’ve been thinking a lot today about something… that it’s been a year since Robin Williams took his own life. I never had the honour of meeting Mr. Williams, but some friends did either through Second City or having shared a moment with him filming a movie. But I was a fan, and I respected his work and I respected him so much. I still desperately miss Michael Hutchence of INXS (one of my favourite bands), who took his own life in 1997. And after reading a friend’s heartbreaking post today on her story of losing a sibling to suicide, though my story is not about such a painful loss, I do have a mental health story to share.
I live with panic attacks. I’m not admitting to this because it’s the “in” thing to have something these days. No, my anxiety issues began to show around the age of nine. Specifically in a gift shop in Niagara Falls, ON. When the shop announced they were closing. And I went ballistic. It’s my first memory of my brain getting ahead of me, my body, reality… everything.
I was nine years old, just about to turn 10. It was the 1980s. What I experienced wasn’t talked about. Or maybe it was, in small circles, but not much was said to me that night except to get it together. And I went through a very very long time not knowing why these attacks would happen to me, and as a kid, not knowing how to ask for help. And it was scary. I wondered a lot “What is wrong with me?” at an age where that shouldn’t have gone through my head. I was a kid.
I can only equate the sensation of having an anxiety attack to a horse race. On a normal day, your thoughts go out one by one and you process them one at a time etc etc. With an anxiety attack, all of those horses just shoot out of a gate at once. And there’s chaos, and yelling, and a little man on your back kicking you in the sides….
Luckily, as the years have gone on I am at a better place when it comes to my anxiety. And I am beyond grateful that I can step aside from my thoughts and breathe. But I have moments where an attack gets the better of me (it happened last week), and it’s harder to get myself off the proverbial ledge. But I do. I mediate, I breathe… but most importantly, and what has been the biggest thing I have learned over the years, is I talk about it.
Many times these episodes have caused tension in my relationships.
Many times I have wondered if no one will ever love me once they find out about this aspect of my personality. I mean, I know what it’s like to be in my head when this shit is happening!! I fear of the burden I could be on someone, sometimes. When the attack gets a hold of me with a tighter grip than I would like it to.
And yet… I work in the entertainment industry. Career wise, I basically looked at a map and went “where is the greatest amount of stress I could submerge myself in on a daily basis? Oh there? Cool. We’ll go there.” But I love what I do, especially when it comes to my writing. I have experienced the pleasure of hearing people laugh at something I’ve written. Or thank me for saying something they’ve thought, but didn’t think anyone felt that. And I know as a writer, we’re “supposed” to come with a vice to deal with life.. alcohol for some, drugs for others… mine likely is carbs. My struggles are small, so small compared to others, but I still have a mental health dance to deal with. And not every guy I meet will be willing to be a part of that dance. Which is fine. I don’t get so hung up about it as I used to… I have a crazy life at times, but it’s a beautiful one too. And I’m at a place now where I know the importance of talk… so if you need to… please talk. Talk talk talk.