Bodily betrayal, stress, and the importance of getting help
Mental health is difficult to deal with. Even more so when you have no idea why everything is suddenly just … everywhere. When my mental wellbeing started declining I felt completely vulnerable. This period, before I realised what was going on and sought help, is by far the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Mental health in youth is different for every society, but in Denmark it’s estimated that more than 80% of all anxiety disorders manifest before the 20th year. This sounds really scary, but thankfully research has also shown that the sooner you ask for help, the easier it is to get it under control.
For me, it started with academic stress. I could only think about all the work I had to do. It took centre stage in my mind. I coped by distracting myself, which helped nothing. I was stressed to the point of panic - I couldn’t even open my computer to write an essay without feeling like I was drowning. The less I worked, the more stressed I became - the more stressed I was, the less I worked.
Thus thoroughly trapped in a downwards spiral, I tried to convinced myself I was fine. At the time, I genuinely believed that I was just stressed and lazy. Nothing was really wrong, and there was no reason to ask for help. The wakeup call was even more unpleasant than my general state of distress. During a completely normal week, one small comment from a classmate send me storming home while crying. I proceeded to spend two days in bed, unable to do anything but just lay there.
This was the time I realised something was wrong. I had no idea why my heart was beating at twice its normal rate, why my breaths were shallow, nor why I could physically feel the stress settle in my stomach. It became too big for me to handle, and I did the only thing I could at that point: I set up a meeting with the school counsellor.
Surprisingly, actually going to the counsellor wasn’t what made breathing easier. It was acknowledging that something was wrong. That I wasn’t just lazy and dumb and incapable of doing what everyone else did so seamlessly. Giving myself permission to feel my feelings was the first step. The rest came bit by bit.
So what do you do when your body starts physically manifesting your inner turmoil? Hopefully, you are more in tune with your emotions than I was, and you discover something is wrong before everything comes tumbling down - you ask for help before you’re panicking all of the time.
But if you are like me, if it takes panic attacks, weeks of distress and misery and very obvious physical signs for you to realise something is wrong, here are some signs that I wish I had paid more attention to: It’s not healthy to cry all the time for seemingly no reason. You are supposed to be able to sleep at night. If that knot of worry in your stomach becomes permanent, you might need assistance in getting rid of it. If you can’t even begin to think about working without feeling like the air is being sucked out your lungs, something is up.
I was lucky to be surrounded in an environment were mental health was an open discussion. I had the incentive and resources to ask for help the moment it became apparent something was wrong - I did not try to battle it on my own. And I’m so happy I made that decision. Many of us struggle with the idea that we are “not bad enough to seek help”. This mentality is harmful to your mental health. If you’re struggling to cope, there is no shame in asking for help.
It’s important to realise that our generation is under more pressure than any generation before us. Humans evolve, and as part of this, our respective societies demand more and more of young people. In this race to be the best, the brightest, the fastest, we have to spend a little bit of time once in a while being introspective. Take five minutes, assess your general level of happiness. If you find that your are in fact, quite unhappy; is it a response to a short term problem, that you are able to deal with and will go away with time? Or is it something that’s been going on for weeks, and can you look moths into the future without the problem becoming less present? If you said yes to the last question, it’s never wrong to talk to someone. A trusted adult, a friend, a parent, or a professional as I did. You are not a failure for needing help, nor are you weak for getting it. You don’t need to wait to the point where you can’t breathe anymore. The quicker you get help, the easier it is to feel good again.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.