I almost drowned once. I was an adult too, 26 to be exact. I was snorkeling on a reef in Belize, and I had wandered from the main group following a group of fish. Unknowingly I had gotten pulled by a current into the dangerous part where these enormous waves crashed down onto the edge of the reef.
Before I realized the danger I was in, a wave crashed onto me. It engulfed my snorkel and sent a tube-full of water down my throat. I began coughing, but the salt water made my throat close. I began to panic, gasping for air and nothing was going in. When I finally felt my throat opening again, another wave hit me and flung me into the reef. I inhaled water again and was flailing around in the confusion of the waves and the rocks. When I resurfaced I was still coughing and managed a ragged breath before another wave took me under. I was terrified; I was going to drown. I have been a swimmer since the age of 6 and a lifeguard for 4 summers in high school. Swimming has never been a problem for me, yet here I was about to die in the ocean.
I was suddenly being brought to the surface by my friend who had been close by. She saw me struggling and bravely came to my rescue at the risk of being tossed around like I was. I was still struggling to catch my breath and she held onto me and slowly swam me to safety. At this point our guide spotted us, (like hello? Where were you this entire time?!), and jumped into the water in extremely dramatic fashion, and helped me back into the boat.
Obviously, I’m very glad I didn’t drown that day, but I can’t help but think of this story as I reflect on a year ago when I almost drowned a different way.
The Perfect Storm
Last summer, my anxiety began to become uncontrollable for me. I talked about all of this in my blog here. By the end of July when I was back in Utah, it had gone from being an occasional issue to a daily issue. Pretty much as soon as I woke up, the panic would start. I would honestly dread the mornings and what the next day would hold for me. I attempted my best to hold it together but it got so bad that I eventually broke down. I’m not sure I know anyone who would not have broken down after enduring the nonstop panic. Thinking back on how fuzzy and how detached from my body I was is scary. I never felt like I was “all there”, and constantly worried about the next panic attack. I didn’t feel comfortable even in my own home and would try to escape that feeling by leaving and staying busy, but being in public also made me feel panicked because I did NOT want to make a public scene if I had another attack. I was exhausted but couldn’t shut my brain off at night, and being so sleep deprived exacerbated everything astronomically. I was literally feeling like I was losing my mind.
As scary as it may be to say, I got to the point where I understood why people with severe mental illness commit suicide. I was never contemplating it, but it was such an exhausting mental cycle I would go through every single day, that I longed for it to be over. I just wanted all of it to stop and to feel like myself again. I had a full fledged breakdown on the day when everything came to a head last summer. It was so bad that my husband drugged me so I would just go to sleep because I was so spectacularly hysterical. I felt like I was drowning in this mental anguish.
I was clearly in trouble, and my ship was sinking fast. Thankfully, I had the good sense to reach out to people that I loved and trusted to help. I sought help from my doctor who prescribed me life-changing medication for my anxiety. By the next day I could feel a huge difference and that fuzzy fog-like feeling I had was lifting.
I also started going to a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders, and even after my first session with her I felt SO much better. Over a few months she helped me develop some mental tools to help me combat my anxiety when it would rear its ugly head. I finally was feeling myself again, although it was a rough road at first.
The best thing I did for myself was to ask for help. Instead of enduring this scary anxiety- filled world alone I made sure I had my people there to help me. If I had tried to go it alone, I’m not sure where I would be today, or in what mental state.
For anyone out there who feels like they are drowning in their own mental health issues, just know that you are NOT alone. Here is the number for a suicide hotline:
The Raw Brunette