“My husband found me in the foetal position on the bathroom floor, hyperventilating. There was snot and spit running down my chin. I was pulling my hair. I felt like the water was coming in over my head.” Cat Sims on the reality of suffering with anxiety…
If you suffer from mental health issues, you’ll know that we don’t talk about the ugly stuff. We might allude to it, we might even mention it briefly in passing but we rarely take a minute to stop and describe the realities of what we go through. It’s one thing to say, “I suffer from depression,” but it’s another to describe exactly what that looks like when it happens.
But, I’m nothing if not affrontingly honest so here goes. Last night I had a panic attack. I was overwhelmed with responsibility because I’ve taken on too much. There’s nothing grander or more philosophical than that going on. As a mama to two, with a husband who’s touring, a business that myself and my partners are building from the ground up and a huge charity event coming up next week which will see me complete five hot yoga sessions in one day to raise cash for Cocoon Family Support – a charity that helps mums and families suffering with mental health issues … it’s just too much.
Last night, my husband found me in the foetal position on the bathroom floor, hyperventilating. There was snot and spit running down my chin. I was pulling my hair. I felt like the water was coming in over my head. I felt like I couldn’t kick to stay above the surface any longer and that every breath was going to be my last. My rational brain knew that wasn’t the case, but the rest of my brain wasn’t interested in listening. Eventually I vomited in the bath. My husband held back my hair and gave me water. The vomiting was good – it forced my body to remember how to breathe. And like that, it was over.
The reality is, while it’s technically possible for us to ‘have it all’, it’s physically impossible to ‘do it all’. Throw into that a predilection for any kind of mental health issues and it’s a recipe for the lid to fly off the can of crazy. We ask so much of ourselves and we equate saying ‘no’ to failing. We hold ourselves to such enormously high standards that we forget that sometimes a frozen pizza and with an ice-cream chaser is fine. In making sure the kids are ok, we forget to check in with ourselves. We run and run and run until we fall and it’s so hard to get back up. We need to learn to pace ourselves; we need to know when to run, when to walk and when to just find a park bench and sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
It’s easier said than done. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we need to start challenging this idea that we have to do it all. You can have whatever you like, but it doesn’t have to be everything.
My mission is simple: to normalise mental health issues. It needs to be ok for us to talk about our depression, our breakdowns, our anxiety attacks, our OCD, not so that we can bore the pants off anyone who gives us the time of day but because in normalising the issue, we can make people less fearful when it comes to asking for help. There’s so much shame, guilt and fear attached to admitting to mental health issues that it stops people asking for help when they really need it. If we can encourage people to say, “I need help,” for the first time then it’s worth it. In fact, if I can encourage one person to say, “I need help,” for the first time, then the anxiety attacks, the insomnia, the panic … it will all have been worth it.