Updated: Aug 13
When you have chronic mental health issues, you have up and down days. Many of you are familiar with living this way. You can be fine for a long time. You can look normal. But there are still all these feelings, and all these triggers, churning under the surface.
They say healing isn't linear. I think that is true, every day is either a day of conscious healing, or a day where the bad feelings find a way of creeping in.
Even on some of the days when you try to be healed and whole, sometimes something can come in and trigger you to start feeling bad again.
The key is becoming aware of those triggers, doing the best you can to prepare for them when you can, and learning to bounce back more quickly when you can't be prepared.
For example, sometimes a certain place, person or activity will be a trigger. This can be especially true with trauma. So, if you know that you will need to go into a situation that may be triggering, prepare beforehand.
Coping With Panic Attacks
You can make sure to take your medication before you will need to go. I have found about an hour beforehand usually works well for me. Then, bring some water. Bring a safety person if you can, or bring your panic attack card.
If you want to make your own panic attack card, you can write out what a panic attack is, that you have PTSD, your name and contact information for a safety person. This way, you can give the card to someone if you need to ask for assistance. You can also get a card on Etsy like I did.
I keep my card in my wallet to be easily accessible at all times.
You can also take some water with you, since drinking water can help calm down panicked breathing and make you stop hyperventilating during a panic attack.
When you plan ahead, it is also useful to know where public restrooms are, so that you can go in there if you have a panic attack. There have been times I have had to go sit in a bathroom stall to practice my deep breathing exercises in the past. It helps because you can be alone in the bathroom more easily than somewhere more crowded.
When you are going out with other people, it can be helpful to let them know if you are feeling triggered by having some kind of safe word. Personally, I will just tell my boyfriend I am having a panic attack and need to go home.
Learning to avoid things that are triggering doesn't always help, there will always be things beyond our control, or that are unexpected that can happen to trigger us. For me it is yelling, especially being yelled at by someone that is triggering. Obviously I can't stop this from happening with my preparedness.
So, I have to learn to live with the triggers. The thing for me has been learning coping strategies to bounce back more quickly from something that is triggering for me.
That being said, today is a good day. Today I feel fine. Today I feel in control of myself and my reactions.
There are a lot of good days once you can learn how to regulate your nervous system.
It helps if you can go to therapy and get on medication if you have a chronic mental health condition the way that I do. I also rely on healthy practices like mindfulness, meditation and yoga to help me stay calm and balanced.
Learning good coping strategies has been key for me to have more good days and less bad days. Also, going to EMDR for PTSD has been really helpful in processing through the trauma and letting a lot of it go.
You can live with a mental health diagnosis and it doesn't have to be a death sentence, although it may feel that way at the beginning.
There are still tons of good days ahead for you, just the way there are for me. You just have to be brave enough to do the healing work that will let you enjoy them!