Hey! My name is Jess 🙂
How am I today? In a word, stressed. Family is crazy, and school is driving me nuts between deadlines and getting ready for graduation.
I wanted to reply and participate in Lets Get Emotional because I feel like if conversations about mental health were more common and less awkward, myself and others would feel a lot more confident and comfortable talking about how we’re feeling or what we’re struggling with, and might feel better about accepting the help we need.
I first became aware of mental health when I had my first panic attack. I used to show horses around 7th-8th grade, which sounds fun, except for the stress, expectations, and the not-so-friendly competition. In my second year of showing I was riding a new horse who had never gone through an obstacle course outside of the normal arena we rode in. I brought him into the show ring full of obstacles, and he froze so I took him out, but I was so happy that I had even got him in there! But once I left, his previous owner and my family all asked me “what the hell was that?” and “you should have pushed him, that was unacceptable”, and I was accused by the previous owner of “ruining her horse” (she had never shown him, so she had no experience with him in the ring, either). It triggered a panic attack, and I ended up hiding in my horse’s stall shaking and crying. That was my second to last show before I stopped, because I couldn’t handle the stress of if I failed again.
I’ve never been very open about my own mental health at all. To this day, I have only told three people in depth about it, but I felt like this program Stay Soft is creating is super freakin important, and it’s not mandatory to make a video, so why not help? But yeah, I don’t really talk about my anxiety or panic attacks much, even though I know it’s not the healthiest to bottle it all up. Talking about my feelings has never been easy. When I was growing up, my mom would try to talk to her (now ex) husband about how she felt and it would always end in fights, so it kind of stuck in my brain that letting stuff out ends in yelling and somehow being made the ‘bad guy.’ I know that isn’t the case at all, but growing up in a little trailer full of toxic energy has an effect that can be hard to shake.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for years, but I haven’t sought out any help with it. In tenth grade I had a school counselor tell me that I struggled with anxiety and might have an anxiety disorder, but I moved from that school the following summer, and don’t have the money or much time to go get real help. The idea of sharing so much with a total stranger is something I never liked the idea of much, either, which is probably another reason I don’t do anything to help it, as well.
I’ve struggled quite a bit with making connections and trusting people, going outside of my comfort zone due to anxiety. I’ve moved quite a bit throughout my life, and it always takes quite a bit to get settled. I moved to Surrey, BC in tenth grade for a year, and went to a school where I knew nobody. They called me “jizz” for a while because some kid came up to me and said “hey, is your name Jess or Jizz?’ and it stuck, so that was cool. I had always been into art, but when I lived there is when art became my way to escape. I started carrying around a little hard cover sketch book and during lunch or free class time I would draw in it, to get out nervous energy and to look like I had something to do.
I moved again that summer, and it took even longer to get the hang of another new place. I didn’t talk, I ate alone, and I started getting more and more panic attacks. There were a few times in class when I would speak, and I’d start shaking so bad that I’d ask to go to the washroom to calm down. I eventually settles, and I’ve made some friends, but there are still some days when a guy will make a comment and I just shut down.
I’ve got two friends who know about what I’ve been through and how it affects me now, but I still don’t really talk to them when I’m upset. One of them checks in on me now and then, and honestly that is so appreciated. Just knowing someone’s there but doesn’t require you to talk is comforting. My boyfriend knows I struggle with anxiety, but isn’t the best at picking up when it gets bad (which totally isn’t his fault and I don’t expect him to realize), but he tries his best and is always there to give me a hug or hold my hand. My mom kind of does, but doesn’t really get how big of a part anxiety is in my life. Really though my dog has the biggest presence when I’m mid-breakdown. He recognizes when I’m upset and will come and lay beside me or put his head on my lap, which helps me so much more than anything else does when I’m freaking out, just knowing I’m not alone.
I’m not on any meds to help me with panic attacks, but I do try to make some time for things I enjoy doing that calm me down. I work at a tattoo shop, and sometimes I’ll go there just to draw for a few hours. It’s a place separate from all of the stressors in my life, and I can go there just to chill and make some art.
If I could tell someone one thing to help them understand it all, its that anxiety attacks don’t always look like shaking and crying. Sometimes it’s me not talking and staring off into the distance, disassociating. Sometimes it’ll be me flicking my fingers or pulling at my nails. Sometimes it’s me being quiet and shaking my leg. Just because somebody looks fine, doesn’t mean they are. They could just be good at making sure others don’t realize what’s going on.
If I could tell my younger self some advice, it would be to keep on going, and not to worry too much about the future. You’re going to get that job because it’s your dream and you’re gonna work like hell til you get it. You and mom are going to be fine, and she’s going to love the person you’re growing into. And a big one, don’t worry so much about pleasing everyone else, because you have to make sure you’re happy to, even if it means saying no to a few people. It’s okay to be soft ❤️