As May draws to a close, it’s important, like, really important, to remember that mental health care and awareness isn’t a single-month thing. It’s something everyone, everywhere needs to take notice of all the time, particularly if they or someone in their life is struggling with a mental illness.
There are still way too many stereotypes and way too much misinformation out there. People who declare themselves to have anxiety or panic disorder or OCD or depression are often not taken seriously, ridiculed, dismissed, or even abused. And that is so, so wrong.
Okay, on that terribly depressing note, let me offer some hope to people like me who currently suffer from Panic Disorder, Anxiety (in any form), OCD or phobias. I have generalized anxiety right now, but about two years ago I had such severe anxiety it morphed into Panic Disorder, which brings those fun side-effects of insomnia and agoraphobia with it. I wrote all about that time in my life here, and I’m happy to say I’ve conquered most of my symptoms. I haven’t had a real attack in months, and day to day my anxiety is manageable. Sure, I still have days or even hours when it hits, and my body and mind shut down to deal with the physiological and mental pain.
And truth be told, since it stopped being super bad, I haven’t taken too many drastic steps to eliminate it altogether. (Diet and exercise, I’m lookin’ at you.)
But I have practiced meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and the elimination of negative self-talk and limiting self-beliefs. That’s what got me out of the worst parts of it in the first place.
Now though, with the pandemic going on and anxiety at an all-time high, I wanted to get in ahead of it and start seriously working on some life changes to help me kick it for good. The disorder, not the being anxious sometimes part. Part of recovery is realizing that anxiety is just another emotion that every human feels. The key is to get it back to the realm of just an emotion.
And so we come to the best book I’ve ever read for Panic Disorder/Anxiety/OCD/Phobias. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PH.D. I’m not even halfway through, but it’s amazing.
It is a workbook, which is why it’s taking me so long, because I’m actually doing the exercises. At first, it outlines what the disorders are and combats myths about them. That’s important, because a lot of the fear about having one of these disorders usually comes from believing something that’s not true about it.
For instance, it took way too long for me to find out that panic attacks are not physically dangerous in any way, especially when the mental side of them make sure to let you know you’re dying.
Yeah, it’s a comforting book. It lays out what each disorder is and plans to overcome them. Next, it takes you through each tool in your toolbox, each weapon in your cache. Things like relaxation techniques (hello progressive muscle relaxation, I didn’t know you were a thing), diet and exercise, and asserting yourself. It even goes into the different kinds of medication and how they work. Although the book does not recommend using medication as a first response, it accepts that it’s a useful and sometimes very necessary combatant for severe cases (as mine was).
Nothing beats a therapist, of course, who can guide you week to week as you fight, but this book does a damn good job of being an at-home therapist when outside is still kind of, like, full of coronavirus.
So in honor of Mental Health Awareness month, buy this book, learn about your own disorder or about the disorder of someone you love and continue to spread the education and awareness.
Let’s end the stigma.