World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day so I felt it’s very important to add to the conversation this week. I have generalized anxiety disorder. With anxiety, talk therapy is one of the best ways of treatment. This is why talking to friends or your loved ones is so important. It can help you realize that you were letting anxiety win the fight, and that it’s time to stand up to it again.

When anxiety strikes, I often get angry. I’m angry at myself for letting the worry win. I’m angry at circumstance for having this disorder. And I’m angry at anxiety for doing this to me.

That anger fades and I’m left alone to deal with the repercussions. Anxiety never has to clean up the mess. I call what’s left in anxiety’s wake the wreckage. It’s all of the jobs, friends and loves I’ve lost. All part of anxiety’s plan to keep us together and keep me alone.

I’ve decided to fight back by seeking help with my doctor and a therapist. I was lucky to be referred to a very helpful therapist who was kind and caring. It was on my first try. This doesn’t always happen. If something isn’t feeling right or the therapist isn’t helping, look for another. I know my anxiety stops me from confronting people until it builds up and boils over. But in cases of your own health, you can’t let this slide. Your mental health is the number one priority.

When I was creating my graphic memoir Float, the process became a form of art therapy. When I’m drawing and writing, I’m free. Anxiety can’t touch me. He’s silenced. You have to do something you love. It will allow you to feel joy.

I know our lives are busy and you feel like you don’t have time. But you do. You can make time. On your lunch break, go take a walk. Walk around the building. At work, if needed, do simple breathing exercises. The 4-7-8 breathing method got me through one of the roughest weeks in my life. You breathe in deeply for a count of 4. You hold your breath for a count of 7. And then you exhale for a count of 8. And repeat as necessary. It’s one of my go to weapons in my battle with anxiety.

This is how I currently deal with it. I often lose the fight and end up on my floor curled in a ball suffering from a panic attack. I’ll freak out and think the world’s ending. But then tomorrow comes and anxiety lost. So I keep fighting. Anxiety is a symbol of shame. It’s a symbol of strength. Look at how strong you are for fighting it daily. And often you win! And when you don’t, you pick yourself up and attack anxiety again. You are incredibly strong. And I’m so proud of you.

Love,
Howie