One time on facebook I saw a video that really changed the way I thought about my mental illness (in a really funny way you can watch it here) basically the summary of it is is what if we treated physical illness the way we treat mental illness. We would say things like "oh change your thinking and your broken leg will heal" or even "maybe if you cared less about what people thought about you maybe you wouldn't have caught the flu". All of which are CRAZY. But those are things that are said to people with mental illnesses all the time.
What people sometimes don't talk about are the physical symptoms that can come along with a mental illness. When you are depressed or in fight or flight mode (anxiety loves to live here) you are actually putting a HUGE strain on your nervous system. If you have been following me and my journey for awhile you know that I spent a majority of the last year very sick. Over 8 months I was on a total of 7 different antibiotics (which is NOT ok I should've known better than to put my body through that). The thing is I couldn't get over a hump of feeling like shit and I now know no matter how much Dayquill I took I was never going to get better until I gave my nervous system a freaking break.
That is easier said than done. It took time, recognition and therapy to help me get back to a baseline. I always said the day I woke up and felt "healthy" is the day I know my mental health has improved. Well... I have had some healthy days and that is so damn exciting, but on days when I feel sluggish, tired, or even a cold coming on I know to do a check-in. How is my mental health? Is there something going on that I can address and work to improve? I swear it can take me from some cold symptoms to living my life again.
Beyond these symptoms this summer my anxiety manifested on a whole new level. It was so unmanaged, so out of control and so ruling my life that I was in the hospital three different times (not counting my 3 day stay for mental health). It first showed up in a migraine that lasted a week. MY HEAD COULD'VE EXPLODED. It hurt so bad that I spent 3 days in New York in a dark room sobbing and begging for it to go away. One hospital visit later and everything checked out as ok - just a migraine from stress. Well, when you are anxious and you get a migraine you only get more stressed. But then... my body and mind's breaking point occurred when I least expected it. I had been living with my parents for a few weeks and things weren't so bad with my headaches but one night while watching a Dog's Purpose my arm went numb.
Literally, that was it. My arm fell asleep because I was laying on it weird, but my brain and nervous system were so whacked out that it thought I must be dying so what did it do? It sent me into the worst panic attack of my life. I thought I was having a stroke and was going to be paralyzed for the rest of my life. Because I stopped breathing I cut off oxygen to my limbs and my hands curled up into rubber balls that couldn't move. I was screaming, my parents were worried and I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance after being surrounded by at least 10 very kind EMTS. I will tell you with 100% certainty that my mind thought that was the end for me. I thought I was seconds away from dying. We all know it wasn't and it was a big scary trick it fell into but I will never. ever. forget that physical pain and feeling.
I still catch a common cold, I still get sore throats and I still have random issues (like my back that decided to stop working on me lol). I am not saying by any means that working on a healthy mental state will cure your physical problems but it sure will help. From 7 antibiotics, a TMJ diagnosis, severe flared up allergies (that required shots) and so much more I knew it was time for a wake-up call. Thank goodness I got one because a healthy body = a healthy mind and the other way around.
Nothing made my anxiety worse than being sick, little did I know that I was feeding into a vicious cycle that desperately needed to catch a break. You can read more about mental health and the nervous system here.