So it was just a normal working day in the office when she suddenly found herself unable to breathe. There was a heaviness in her chest. The more she paid attention to that heaviness; the more she felt like she was on the verge of passing out. She started breathing in and out, very heavily.
She could not keep standing and felt she had to sit down. Sitting made her feel like she was slipping out of consciousness. She was convinced that Covid-19 had finally caught up with her. After all; she had read about heaviness in the chest and breathing issues being symptoms of Covid-19.
She kept breathing heavily until she was hyperventilating which was horribly unpleasant.
She closed her door and started playing a worship song by Hillsong with her eyes shut. Finally after what seemed like a long time; but was actually a few minutes; her breathing got under control.
She had no idea what had just happened and what caused it but she was just thankful that she was able to get on with it after a while. So she did not tell anyone about it.
There are many people in similar circumstances today.
Her ordeal was to visit her again. This time she was at home and had been watching something on the news about Covid-19 deaths in one of the European countries. She just started feeling afraid. The feeling persisted until she felt a chocking sensation.
She felt panicked. It was horrible.
She was to feel this same thing again each time she heard something unpleasant. She was to feel this way again when she came across nasty or mean encounters.
Now we all know that with adult life; there is actually more unpleasantness in life than pleasantness. So she was to be hit by more unpleasantness which meant increased frequency to these attacks that she still had to name and understand. She got worried. And began to speak out. How many people are going through similar or worse situations but are not speaking out?
The first people she reached out to; told her to pray. Others told her not to talk about what she was going through especially to the church folk as they would not understand what was happening. She reached out to another trusted person to help with prayer because as far as she was concerned; she was under some form of spiritual attack. She was told that fear could not be cast out and she needed to toughen up. So she clammed up, becoming more and more convinced that she was going mad.
She spoke to her doctor and initially he dismissed her for over-thinking. How many people have you dismissed on the basis of what you term ‘over-thinking’ or ‘over-emotional’?
She ended up going to Google where once she typed out what she was going through; it became clear she was suffering from anxiety. Only then did she start speaking to specialists. A mental health nurse family friend started to speak to her and in no time her doctor was also on board; which kickstarted her treatment and support. There are many who never get to this point.
Welcome to the world of anxiety attacks, panic disorders, depression and mental health issues in general in the country.
We have not yet come to terms with the reality of mental health issues. In fact there are many people going through things and not opening up or just not knowing where to go for help.
The environment we find ourselves in lately even globally has become highly uncertain and stressful that our coping levels have been put to the test.
While some cope quite easily; some think they are coping but are actually not really coping as well.
Do you know that Covid-19 and everything that it has brought upon the world has led to a rise in mental health issues across the world? When the first lockdowns were introduced; so many people struggled and are still struggling. Just being locked up plays havoc with the mind. Add the relationship issues, workplace stresses, reduced incomes, and basic everyday life challenges and you have disaster.
Incidences of depression have been going up and during the lockdown there was a rise in all manner of problems; among them domestic violence, suicide, family and relationship breakdown while others were hit by panic attacks.
There was a season in January at the height of the bloodbath caused by Covid-19 when many people became afraid of following the news.
I know many people who completely stopped watching television or listening to the radio during that season because they felt it was too stressful and scary. Such people took these decisions as a way of protecting their mental well-being. Kudos to those people for knowing their triggers. There are many who do not have any idea what their triggers are.
Others struggle to sleep while many others suffer from stomach aches, incessant headaches and many others. My friend in the UK was telling me that her child is struggling with physically going to school following the long lockdown they recently got out of.
This child is constantly complaining of tummy ache when faced with going to school. For others; it is struggling to sleep while for others; it is altered eating patterns with some eating too much or too little. Tummy aches are also a sign of stress. Mental health issues are real and it is high time we began to understand them and respond to them.
There are many who have lost jobs recently due to the pandemic who are struggling. Others have found themselves struggling with reduced income; forced leave and other challenges; leading to some form of mental health issue or other. Some workplaces have responded by offering support in this area and just being alive to the reality of it. Many others however have no clue and breakdowns, high stress levels and physical illnesses are increasing.
Now; there is a reality that we need to face. For a person to be well: their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health all come into play. We cannot pay attention to only one part of it and neglect the rest.
Wellness is holistic. It is for this reason that there is growing awareness about mental health world over.
Mental health is the ability to cope with stresses of life, manage life changes, work productively and function satisfactorily. I like to tie it up with emotional health as well; which is all about self-awareness; being in touch with your feelings and emotions and being able to manage them or self-regulate. It is about coping with emotional challenges of life.
People are going through these things. And how they cope differs. It is important that people know where to go and who to call when faced with such challenges. If you would like to contribute to this discussion; drop me a line. We need to begin to normalise these discussions for people are going through the most. Let’s be kind in all our doing for we never know what people are going through.