I had two panic attacks at work today. I rarely experience panic attacks anymore. Where once they came at the rate of dozens per day, I get them once a month now. If that.
So today was kind of disconcerting.
Even more disconcerting was the way I handled it.
I handled it with shame.
I didn’t want to tell anyone at work what was going on. I didn’t want to say “I’m having a panic attack.” I did not want to have to explain my anxiety disorder, my depression, my bipolar or anything. I did not want get into that discussion with anyone because I did not want to see or hear their reaction.
I didn’t want to hear “It’s all in your head.” I didn’t want to see the disapproving looks. I didn’t want anyone to look down on me because I have mental issues. I didn’t want their view of me to change because they think I’m weak or flawed.
The stigma of mental illness is real. My fears are not imagined. But now I wonder how much of the stigma is self fulfilling. How much of it is mental illness sufferers being caught in a vicious cycle of wanting to open a dialogue about our plight but then worrying about being looked down upon when we finally open up about it?
I made up some excuse and went home at 4:30. I’m mad at myself for letting the panic get the best of me and I’m mad at myself for being angry over something I really couldn’t control. I’m mad at myself for being so weak and mad at myself for thinking I’m weak. I’m everything I perceive the enemies of mental illness to be; I look down on myself, I berate myself, I don’t allow myself breakdowns or panic or low cycles without thinking I should be better than that, I should have learned to rise above all of this by now.
I do these things and feel this way because society has made me believe I am weak and flawed. But I perpetuate it by believing it.
When does the cycle end?