“Thump, thump. I could hear my heart beat louder and louder as the hours went by. It was 4 a.m. I had work in the morning. I was in a state I didn’t know, with no one I knew. I was starting a new job from scratch. I couldn’t breathe. The stress of the realization of my inevitable lack of sleep and the stress of my situation weighed down on me heavier and heavier. It was at that moment while working in Alabama that I realized I was having a panic attack, and I needed help.
Mental health has always been one of those things I took for granted. It didn’t seem like a ‘real’ thing. But that night I learned just how real it was. To give a little context of the situation; this last summer I was in Alabama doing door to door sales selling pest control. It was a brand-new office for our company. They sent me out as one of the top salesmen to pioneer the new office. Because of the start time of the season I had to leave my 5-month pregnant wife behind. Being a teacher, she wouldn’t be able to join me until June. So, for two months, I would be completely alone. I didn’t realize how much I would miss my wife. Not seeing her at the end of each day was incredibly hard for me. There were so many things about my wife I had taken for granted. The dinner that was ready at the end of each day, her warm smile, and her loving embraces…I had none of it. I had nothing but my bed on the floor, and a barren couch to sit on.
I didn’t realize how HARD it would be to start a new office. When I got to the apartments – I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on. I had to get everything from the ground up. Also, I didn’t know anything about Alabama. I didn’t know what neighborhoods would work best, or what hours would be ideal for this population. I felt entirely overwhelmed and alone in starting up this new office.
The hardest part was after work was done each day. I was left all by myself alone in my thoughts. It did not take long for the anxieties of being a new parent to manifest in my mind. My wife would be giving birth to a new human! I would ask myself, ‘Am I cut out to be a dad? Will I be able to be the person that baby boy needs me to be? Am I even good enough for that?’ The thoughts and anxiety would pile, but I would quickly bury them.
Day in and day out I would try to follow a routine. I would work hard, try and keep a positive attitude, and keep pressing forward. Missing my wife, being insecure about my position, being overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility, all took a back burner. I literally looked myself in the mirror most days and said, ‘You are fine. You got this. You don’t need help.’ I was living in denial. All of the negativity was crashing into my thoughts. All because I refused to believe I needed help.
For some reason, I had always seen reaching out for help as a weakness. I thought that needing help somehow made me less of a man or less of a person. I was incredibly ignorant of the world of mental health and even more ignorant about how many people need help and don’t get it. During that first couple of weeks in Alabama, I was so stubborn and just shoved all my sadness and depression down deep and denied it existed. I told myself that I didn’t need help and I was fine. Naturally, it was all a façade. I needed more help than I thought.
It was after an average day, and I had just eaten dinner with our lead tech and his wife. They were the sweetest couple and my only friends in this strange new land. We had some amazing barbecue, and it seemed to be a good night. I had gotten some sales that day, we were all in a good mood, and everything felt ok. I got home after dinner and talked with my wife on the phone until midnight. I always hated hanging up the phone to go to bed, but I knew I could talk to her again tomorrow. I showered and climbed into bed. That is when it began. At first, it was just restlessness. I couldn’t get comfy and I wasn’t tired. Then a few hours went by. Old thoughts of sadness and depression started to resurface. I began to rethink every decision I had made up to this point. ‘Was it a mistake to move to Alabama? Would I be able to provide for my family? Are we going to be able to handle having a baby with this inconsistent lifestyle? Is my wife going to love me after this long separation? Does she even miss me? Do I know what I am doing? Am I fit to be a manager? Am I fit to open a new branch?’ The questions of doubt came flooding in and couldn’t be tamed.
You see – I was a bottler. I bottled my emotions. If something negative surfaced, I would push it down and say it wasn’t valid. And right now, I was paying the consequences. If I had just talked with ANYONE about my fears, things wouldn’t have gone this bad. If I had told my wife how scared I was to be away from her. If I had communicated to my bosses my insecurities about starting this new branch. If I had told my mom I was struggling instead of just saying I was ‘fine’ when she would ask. I had so many ample opportunities to talk about all these negative feelings and let them run their natural course, but instead, I shoved them down deep – and they grew. They grew so large at this moment in time, they were preventing me from getting some desperately needed sleep.
Amidst my flood of insecurity, the physical symptoms began to manifest. My heart started beating louder. It wasn’t going faster, but LOUDER. It got louder and louder with each beat, and I was getting more and more scared. My throat started to dry up, and I began to sweat profusely. ‘Thump, thump.’ I could hear my heart beat louder and louder as the hours went by. It was 4 a.m. This is when I began to panic. Why couldn’t I sleep?! Why couldn’t I just ignore these feelings like before?! I had to work in the morning! I was going to be so tired! I am not going to be able to function! WHY CAN’T IT JUST STOP! Amidst the screaming in my head, I swallowed my pride, and made the realization to myself, ‘Dude, you need some help.’
Having nothing else to turn to, I turned on my phone. I thought maybe scrolling over my Facebook feed would help. I only follow pretty positive or funny people, so maybe it could help me relax. The first thing I saw on Facebook was a post from an old friend about a crisis hotline you could text, and someone would text you back and forth until the crisis was over. I knew this would probably help me so much, but I was very nervous to do so. I had never done anything like this, and I was very hesitant. But in the end, it was my saving grace.
I texted out one simple line: ‘I think I am having a panic attack, I don’t know what to do.’ Whoever the blessed soul was at the other end of the line may never know just how big of a difference they made that night. They were able to talk to me and help me put things in perspective and helped me calm down. They didn’t try to fix me, they just listened and validated me. They were also very real to me. I remember seeing a message that read, ‘I’m glad I could help you through this, but you need to tell people about these emotions and feelings. If you keep on shoving them down, this kind of thing is going to just keep happening.’
As the morning light broke through my window, I knew I was going to be ok. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t asked for help. I know my wife and son are happy I did since I am still here trying to be the best father and husband I can be for them. Although that fearful night was a terror, it taught me some valuable lessons. Firstly, I needed to make my mental health more of a priority. I needed to talk about my feelings and not shove them down. Having feelings is not a bad thing! They are not something to be controlled – they are something to be treated with care.
Too many of us were like me, ignorant and stubborn. Too many of us think we are above help, or above worrying about our mental health. Take it from someone who knows: we all need help. We all are going to have rough patches in our lives that we cannot navigate by ourselves, and THAT’S OK! We are never ever truly alone. If you ever feel the weight of the world bearing down on you, please reach out and ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. Strength to let go and admit that you do it on your own. Strength to realize your limits and seek assistance when they’ve been reached. We all want to see you again tomorrow. Fear not to ask for help. If nothing else, I know that the folks at 741-741 will listen.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nathan Webb of Logan, Utah. You can follow his anti-bullying journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
Read more from Nathan, about being bullied as a child:
‘A push in the hall, being thrown in the trash. I dreaded school. I would end the day in tears. It wasn’t going to change. Why? I was an easy target.’
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