It has always been important to me to talk about mental health issues. It is still a thing that people keep quiet about and suffer in silence, without the support they need, for fear of appearing weak or incapable. How we deal with this needs to change. We cannot afford to let our friends, or our colleagues deal with it on their own.
Within teaching, this is becoming a more and more prolific issue as external pressures on us get bigger and bigger. This is leading to longer work hours, and a work/life imbalance. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in is not a new concept and occurs in a lot of professions, but over the last few months it has become particularly apparent how bad this issue is. It has hit me, and as I started talking to my friends and colleagues about it, their stories started coming out too.
About 10 months ago, for no apparent reason, the panic attacks started. There was no pattern, no trigger. I could be on my way to work, or on the way home, on the way to see my friends or simply cooking dinner or going to bed. I would hyperventilate, cry, lose energy and collapse, and for a long time I told no one about it. I was more tired because of it, less focused at work and less bothered in other aspects of my life. I got lazy with cooking and wasn’t eating as well as I should have been. It was not particularly great…but then I sent a text message to a friend who I knew had suffered similar symptoms a few months earlier, said what I was feeling, and asked what she did about it. She told me about some tablets you can buy at the supermarket which help with the symptoms, and told me that I should go to my doctor and talk to them about it. It was a very hard thing to do but I followed her advice. The doctor gave me a few things I could do and a help line to call, and things have been getting better. Not every day is a good day, but that is ok, I know that now.
It was through me not coping, and learning that it is ok to tell people when you aren’t, that I have been reminded how big an issue this still is. I do not understand why there is still somehow an element of shame involved when it comes to mental health. I don’t know what to do about it, or how we can change it. I do not have the solutions. I do however, hope that if anyone who is reading this is going through a hard time, or knows someone who is, make sure you, or they, are not going through it alone. Make sure you talk to people who care, admit to the tough days, enjoy the good days, but most of all, do not hide from what you are feeling.