If you’ve ever had a panic attack — or anything even remotely close to one — then you know it can sweep up out of nowhere, grab hold of every fiber of your being, and leave you feeling debilitated.
It can knock the wind out of you and leave you breathless and struggling for air. Some say you can practically hear your own heart beating in your chest; others say it can feel like you’re dying.
But telling you all that — describing it in-depth, with the words of others who have been there — wouldn’t be enough. Until you’ve seen one, until you’ve felt one, knowing what a panic attack is really and truly like may be hard to understand.
A woman from Rugby, England is setting out to change all that, though, by bringing a whole new kind of awareness to anxiety-induced panic attacks. In an April 3 Facebook post, Amber Smith revealed to followers that there are two sides to her: One she shows the public, and one she hides behind closed doors, often in shame. The first, she explains, is often happy and positive. It wears makeup and looks confident and sees the world through a warm, golden Instagram filter. This, Smith writes, is “the ‘normal’ side of me.”
The other side is decidedly less picture-perfect. It wears no makeup, it looks frightened, and it stares back at the world through fearful eyes. This, Smith counters, is “also the ‘normal’ side to me that most people don’t see …”
In her post, which has since been shared over 19,000 times, Smith’s message is simple, yet powerful: “To anyone who is going through the same, please do not suffer in silence. There is so much support around – don’t be scared to ask for help.”
“I’m so sick of the fact that it’s 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgemental over the topic. They say that 1 in 3 people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their life. 1 in 3! Do you know how many people that equates to worldwide?! And yet I’ve been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there’s still people that make comments like ‘you’ll get over it’, ‘you don’t need tablets, just be happier,’ ‘you’re too young to suffer with that.'”
Countless Facebook users have chimed in on Smith’s post with messages of encouragement — from those who congratulated her for being “brave” to those who shared their own stories.
“So glad I read this, I feel exact the same with my anxiety and fed up with people saying ‘you’ll be fine, get over it,'” wrote Amy-Louise A.
“Your a very brave, strong lady,” added Laura Michelle H. “It’s so nice to see someone speak out about it. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for almost six years now (from the age of 20) … it’s such a taboo subject. Lovely to see it being spoken about, it’s also nice to know your not alone.”
It certainly is; and when you consider the stats, Smith’s message clearly is one that needs to be heard: According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., and yet only one-third of those who suffer ever seek treatment.
In a follow-up post yesterday, Smith admitted just how “overwhelmed” she is by the outpouring of support she’s received from all over the world — and even shared a post from a man she’s never met, who was inspired by her to reveal his own private struggles with the disorder:
“Never realised I would have this kind of response,” wrote Smith. “It is so overwhelming and at the same time, so incredible.”
I couldn’t agree more.