I feel it is time for me to break my silence and share my story with depression and panic attacks. I need to start by thanking my friends Nicholas Provenzano and Dr. Joe Mazza for leading the way in publicizing this way too common but often stigmatized illness.
From the time I was young I have suffered from panic attacks. It was not until I was much older in my mid to late 20s, that I had a name for what I had been dealing with for long time. People would say things like "she has separation anxiety" and that is why she does not like to sleep away from home. She is just a "sensitive kid". She will "grow out of it". I knew it was something more, but as a child you don't easily have a way to describe it. I did know that at times I got really anxious about things and would get sick to my stomach. There were things that I wanted to do with friends and others but was too scared to do.
I was accepted into Loyola College in Maryland and when I went to visit the school I fell in love with it. Even though it was a number of hours from my house I thought it was time for me to "grow up" and go away to school. Well I made it a day, had a huge panic attack got myself on a train and came home and refused to go back to school there. That is when I realized I needed help. I started seeing my first of a number of therapists that I have been to over my life. I learned that I was not just a sensitive kid with separation anxiety but someone with a mental illness who suffered from depression and panic attacks.
Through the help of medication and therapy I started to find ways to manage my illness. But I am by no means cured. I have ended up in the emergency room with a panic attack. I have left concerts and sporting events because I was feeling panicky. I have not gone places because I was scared of having a panic attack. And for a long time I did not do things because I lived in fear of having one. I have spent days at a time in bed because I was depressed. I don't do well with affection and don't do well with compliments. I am more critical on myself than anyone can ever be of me.
I have realized that once I embraced, accepted, and told the truth of my illness to myself and others that I the illness does not control me anymore. I know that when my heart starts to race and when I start to feel like things are closing in on me to take a deep breath and focus on something specific. I have learned that in time the feeling will pass.
This is something that I will struggle with everyday for the rest of my life.
Feel free to DM me or contact me on Facebook if you want to talk. Stop me if you see me at a conference and want to talk. I don't want anyone to feel alone like I did for so long.
I have found that when I talk with others about it I feel better because I realize I am not alone and that others feel the same way I do.
How #semicolonedu works: (taken from Joe Mazza blog post)
In the words of Nick Provenzano… I want people to ask us about this punctuation mark on our wrists so we can share our story. The more people know about mental health issues, the more we can get rid of the stigma. The more we get rid of that stigma, the more people will feel comfortable sharing their stories. We need students to feel comfortable sharing these feelings with their teachers and we need teachers to better understand mental health so they can support these students and their colleagues. It is not a fun conversation, but it is one we need to have if we want to help people and possibly save lives. There is something all of you can do to show your support.
I would love to see pictures across the Internet from all of my PLN on Tuesday July 14th with a
Semicolon drawn (or tattooed if you are up to it) on your body to show support for all of the educators dealing with mental health issues. Use the tag #semicolonEDU to show your support on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let’s show the world that we can come together and fight mental health stigmas by showing our support for one another. I know we can do it. Read Nick’s full #semicolonEDU post here.
Elissa Malespina is the Middle School Teacher Librarian in Somerville and a Presenter, Author and much more. The views are my own. Find my full resume above.