Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Going Public with Mental Health Disorders

     When I first came out about being abused on Facebook, I received a lot of ridicule and hatred. Not from strangers, but from my family. People who had helped raised me, told me they loved me, who I spent birthdays and holidays with. They called me crazy- that I was just making it all up- that I was "off of my meds." 
     I was eighteen when this happened. I had recently graduated from high school and was living with my boyfriend's parents. I remember feeling betrayed. I did not understand why no one believed me. Why they had attacked me so bitterly. I came to understand that it was because these people never loved me. It made me feel as if I was Jim Carrey on "The Truman Show," realizing that the reality I had grown up believing in was fabricated. 
     It hurt. 
     I had my first panic attack not long before. 
     It was five in the morning and I was running in formation on a military base. We had done about three miles and the sergeant made us start sprinting. My lungs began to tighten. I whimpered breathlessly, "I can't do this. I can't do this." Tears began to poor. Then my throat closed up and my breath intakes were loud tight gasps.   
     I thought I was having an asthma attack. They didn't put me in the ambulance that sat nearby on base whenever we went on intense exercises like this. Instead, I was sent to a van that followed us, driven by a veteran recruiter. Without taking his eyes off of the road, he said, "Just keep breathing. In your nose, blow slowly out of your mouth." 
     After about ten minutes, my breathing was back to normal. I remember feeling a tinge of pride- that I, an overweight, six-foot-tall woman had set a running record for myself. I had no idea that I had experienced a panic attack. Then I thought I was just a teenage girl who did not get along well with her dad. But I was soon to discover that things were much, much worse.

A picture of me Freshman year in college around the time of my first panic attack. 

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