How to see the unseen – Identifying mental health issues.

I put on my glasses for the first time. It was amazing. I could see. I could read things across the room. I see details in peoples faces. I didn’t know I couldn’t see it was just the way I saw the world. Then in one moment I realized what I didn’t know I wasn’t seeing.

I was driving down the road when I found out I had a problem with my vison. I was trying to read road signs and couldn’t. My friend looked at me and said “I don’t think I feel safe with you driving.” He was poking fun of me. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his glasses. He gave them to me and said, “Try these.” By some miracle, I didn’t appreciate at the time, his glasses helped me see better. After that I went to the optometrist.

I looked back and realized there were signs showing I was loosing my vision. I didn’t see them because I wasn’t looking for it. I was good at baseball growing up, but I could no longer catch or hit a baseball. I was starting to recognize people more by thier body and clothes than their faces from a distance. The signs were there but I just didn’t see them. If I would have I could have changed my life sooner.

Seeing ourselves properly

Some time after I recieved my glasses I was sitting on my sisters couch. I was figuring out college, had a struggling relationship, and felt a lot of weight on my shoulders. Suddenly, without much warning, I was laying in fetal position with my mind racing and I was breathing quickly. I remember trying to just focus on my breathing tring to get it steady. My sister saw me, held me, stayed with me until I was able to calm down. After my breathing stabilized she walked me to the car and we went to the doctor.

I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

Through the years I have reflected back and realized that I have been struggling with it for most of my life. Trying to deal with something I didn’t know I had. Similar to the eye glasses the signs were all there, but it was just the way life was. No need to tell anyone because that was just the way it was.

I am extreamly grateful for the time on the couch for the same way I am grateful for the night in the car I found out I had a problem with my vision. Grateful because now I can see.

These are some of the signs that I have looked back on and continue to see. Previously I had seen these as flaws, things to be ashamed of. Now I see these more like symptoms. Something to watch out for so I can treat them to feel better.

Signs and Symptoms

These are things that we can watch for inside ourselves and those around us. These combine feelings of depression and anxiety. I compiled this list based on what I have felt and what some of my friends and family have felt. We aren’t doctors, but we have gone through this. My goal is to be like my friend and give you a pair of glasses to see clearly.

Download a printable version here.

Actions

These are more easy to see because they are outward expressions of what we are feeling inside. You can physically see these things happen. They are outward expressions of the churning feelings inside.

These include sleeplessness, Loss of apitite, and running from things that feel overwhelming. They also include reaction of tears or anger with little or no provication, sometimes crying or anger with no reason at all. There can also hide your self from other or even yourself. This would include not being able to look at yourself in the mirror or look other people in the face.

Some signs show deeper depression and anxiety. If you see these then you need to act quickly. If there is rapid breathing or hyperventaliting also in connection with curling in fetal position while rocking. If there are signs of self harm, wounds or carrying items for self harm, or if you feel tangible feelings that strongly suggest doing something towards self harm. Or you feel tension in your chest or other muscles that result in curling, like in the hands and arms. If you see any of these signs immediate intervetion or change is needed.

Emotions

These emotional symptoms are more of an overall feeling or sense than a specific thought or action. They are drivers for thoughts and actions and can be driven by them.

It maybe a feeling like you are a failure or feeling overwhelmed like a few things feel like 1000. Everything may feel doomed or worthless. There maybe an overall feeling of anxiousness or anger that may not be connected to anything. There may be a lot of feelings of absolutes like everything, always, nobody, everybody, these feelings start driving thoughts like ‘nobody cares’ or everything you think about seems worthless or empty.

These signs are warning, if you see or feel these you need to take action. If it seems like you can’t feel anything, like there is a void inside of you. This void can lend way to the feeling that things you love seem empty or worthless. With anxiety you might be feeling a fear or panic that may or may not be associated with anything in particular. This panic may feel all encompasing and lead to a panic attack.

Thoughts

These are the things we say to ourselfs. They can be thought of as our inner voice. This is usually the origins of our actions and closely tied to our emotions. Anytime thoughts are overpowering and pointed at your self deprication they can be dangerous.

I have often felt like my thoughts are like slogging through mud, like thinking in fog. Other times they are like a tape player or a broken record playing the same thing over and over again. These thoughts aren’t happy. They are typically things like “You are so stupid”, “You are an idiot, you mess up all the time”. These thoughts and feelings make it almost impossible to believe praise dismissing it as “not true” or “they just don’t really know.” Often these lead to the feeling of “why should I even try?” often thinking, “I’ll just mess it up again.” When this is coupled with axiety the thought of doing anything more is overwhelming.

If they thoughts ever turn to feelings of self harm immediate action is needed. The thoughts may start by feeling the world, your family, your friends, some of the people you care most about would be better without you. These thoughts move into thoughts of self harm and suicide. Sometimes anxiety gets to the point of self harm, scratching, or using other tools.

You are not alone

Any of these need action and help. You are not alone. People love you even if it is hard to believe. If you are feeling any of these you can feel better. They can be countered, they can be fought. You can live a life that is happy. There really is light, there is air, there is love.

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