A word is a unit of language. Words are the way we communicate. Words have meaning however, words that say one thing can often mean another. There is the connotation and the denotation of a word, which is the difference in the way we associate the meaning of the word.
The denotation is the actual meaning of the word and the connotation of a word is the association of a word in addition to its actual meaning itself. I know what the word happy means to me. I know what sad means. I know what the word love means to me and adversely, I know what hate means.
I know what the word family means to me, and still, I remember a class of mine at the homeless shelter. I asked the classroom to give me their definition of the word “Family.”
A mumbled voice from the back of the room spoke out and said, “Broken promises” because this is what the word family meant to him.
See what I mean?
Years back, I made the decision to learn more about certain words. I wanted to understand what words like depression and anxiety meant to other people. I wanted to hear from as many people as I could and let them talk about what their lives are like and what they go through. I wanted to hear from people that went through panic attacks as well as anxiety attacks because there is a difference between the two.
Anxiety attacks are stressor based. Panic attacks can come on out of nowhere, which is absolutely frightening. I wanted to learn what people experience during their attacks and how they handle them. I wanted to know what works and what doesn’t. I wanted to know, so I listened.
As for anxiety, I know what my attacks are like. I know what works for me; however, I also know that stressor based concerns can literally fray the nerves and make me crazy.
I know that anxiety is an overreaction to fear. I understand this is the fear receptors overreacting. As a result the body produces more calcium. I know the lactic acid in the blood goes up and the oxygen level in our blood goes down.
I know that breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth can be lifesaving at a time like this. However, unfortunately, breathing does not relieve the stressor, which is why anxiety attacks can last a long time.
I understand what insomnia means to me. I also know there are others in this world that live with insomnia. And it’s not like we don’t want to sleep. It’s not like anyone asks to have this or all of the above. But yet, we have them. Like it or not.
Consider a roomful of people. There are several lines in this room and each line is to apply for a certain trait. Say, for example, there is a line for bravery. There is a line for beauty. There is a line for athletics. There’s a line to be wealthy. There is a line for success and a line for intelligence. Of course, all of which are great things to be. And the lines are crowded and long but of course, the outcome would be worth the wait, right?
No one ever signs up to be unattractive. No one signs up to be clumsy. No one signs up for the awkward line or joins the line to be rejected and no one wants the line that causes people to be picked last. No, these lines would be empty.
No one chooses this the same as no one chooses anxiety. No one chooses mental illness or to have personality disorders. No one ever asks to be learning disabled. And look at what I’ve just mentioned. Look at the mood change. Look at the connotation and the denotation of the words that coincide with mental illness. No one ever asks for this.
If you ask me to describe my anxiety, I can tell you that I feel it coming on. I feel it coming like an upcoming storm. It’s like being caught outside and one drop falls. I know there is a heavy rain coming.
All I want to do is find shelter before the storm hits. It’s like running for shelter, only, I can’t move fast enough. It’s like trying to find my way to safety, only, I’m lost and I don’t know which way to go.
Suddenly, the world is closing in on me. I am doused with bouts of shame and fear of exposure. I have fears of being humiliated and fears of being totally cast aside and ostracized. I have fears that I will be discovered as an imposter or a fake and everyone I know will literally abandon me. And there I am, alone, cold, and stuck in the storm like an unwanted dog somewhere, left to starve for food, attention, affection, and love.
It has taken me a long time to understand the difference between rational and irrational fears. Safe to say that learning the tricks of mindfulness has been exceptionally helpful to me. I use my breathing skills and my awareness skills. I had to learn to challenge my irrational assumptions which is the culprit for many of my irrational fears.
I have listened to different speakers that talked about the whats and the whys and the how to ideas about anxiety attacks. I have sat in with speakers that talk about what they do for people with mental disorders and challenges. I have listened to people discuss what they went through. I have heard speakers tell the crowds how there are helpful tips that can be learned; however, I’ve usually heard one or the other but I’ve seldom been to a presentation where people discuss the whys and the wheres, the hows and the whats, all in the same discussion
As someone that knows anxiety and depressive thinking all too well, I made the decision to speak with as many people as possible.
I did this because I wanted to hear all about both the commonalities and the differences between people. I want to know what works for some people and not for others. I wanted to understand what happens to people with medically resistant disorders to help create a useful pathway, not only for myself but for as many others as possible. More than anything, I wanted to simplify a pattern to create a pathway; so I don’t feel lost when the panic hits and so I can help others when they feel the storm is coming.
We use words like, “Snap out of it,” or “Just get over it,” as if they are helpful. We say things like, “I’ve been there before,” and “Don’t worry about it.”
At the bottom of this the truest saying ever.
Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.
This is one of the reasons why I became certified to teach mental health first aid and why I decided to create different emotional and mental health first aid programs.
Take for example the person that hears voices. Or think of someone that is suffering from a paranoid episode. Go ahead and tell them the voices aren’t real. Go ahead and tell them their paranoid delusions are not real. Regardless of what anyone tells them the voices are real to them. In which case, the words we use are meaningless to them.
I’ve reached out to as many people as possible and found that oftentimes, the most helpful thing is that someone was actually interested in listening. The most helpful thing is often to lay our words to rest and let people speak their words to reveal their fears. It’s called listening.
I know . . .
What a strange concept, right?
This is an acronym of mine, which I use in my empowering life strategies program. I chose this because if you want to help someone, this can help people to have a new lease on life.
Listen, Encourage, Acknowledge, Support, and Empower
Listen when someone is in crisis
Encourage them to go on and continue talking
Acknowledge what they say and interactively listen
Support them and . . .
Empower them to come to their own helpful understandings.
Trust me. This is definitely helpful.