Panic Life

Fighting Stigma and Living with an Anxiety Disorder

Healing Is The Next Step in Coping With Mental Illness

You've been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD or Bipolar. What's next?

The first step in living with a mental illness is to acknowledge that you have one. For example, I'm Sarah, a mother of two children, a writer, an actress, a good friend and I am living with panic disorder. I am not "panic disorder." We are not one and the same, but I do manage it. Just as someone with bipolar would say, I am Joe and I have bipolar disorder.

You are not your illness.

I cannot stress this enough. Your mental health issues are something you learn to live with and develop coping strategies for. Depression or PTSD doesn't define who you are. 

The next step to living with any mental illness is learning coping strategies to manage it. For example, I have been diagnosed with panic disorder. One of the ways I deal with panic in addition to taking an anti-depressant and seeing a therapist is I practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows me to stay in the moment even when I'm anxious or having a panic attack. I focus on a single point on the wall while I breathe in and out. I focus on the present moment. I remind myself that I am here in my body right now at this moment. Practicing mindfulness exercises has helped me with anxiety tremendously throughout my life. 

I was introduced to mindfulness mediation in the 1990's when I was in high school through Dr. John Kabat Zinn's mindfulness audio meditations. I would listen to them first thing in the morning before I went to school when I experiencing an intense level of anxiety. Before listening to these meditations on tape, I was so anxious I would throw up. I couldn't eat anything because of the sheer terror I felt inside. After listening to a mindfulness mediation, silently breathing and being with myself for 25 minutes, my body and mind were able to calm down enough to eat. 

Mindfulness has been helpful to me when I was an adolescent and it continues to help me in my 30's as a mother of two. It's overwhelming to be a parent in itself. When you add anxiety into that equation it is quite another challenge. I continually remind myself that my feet are on the ground. My heart is in my chest and this tantrum my child is throwing will end soon. 

I am grateful to mindfulness for enriching my life and allowing me to better cope with anxiety. Different coping strategies work for different mental illnesses. I challenge you to investigate what helps you to cope with depression, PTSD, bipolar or borderline personality disorder. 

Admitting that you are living with mental illness is the first step. Finding a way to cope and heal is the next step in your journey. You first accept that this is something you will be dealing with and then you learn how to manage it effectively so you can live a fulfilling life. 

Sarah Fader is a mental illness advocate and mother of two living with
panic disorder in New York City.

more...

Subscribe to Panic Life

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?