Imagine fighting an everlasting battle, but one where the enemy is part of you. It’s the part of you that doesn’t want you to succeed, it’s the selfish part of you that doesn’t want you to talk to other people, it’s the part of you that wants to keep the rest of you to yourself. It’s just like a demanding, abusive partner that doesn’t give you permission to be happy because everything you do, including waking up, washing your face or even watching TV, is wrong. It doesn’t discriminate based on your actions, and if it had its way, you would be in bed all day for no good reason.
People often tell me no to “worry” but how do I explain that there is a massive difference between “worrying” and “panicking”. We worry about logical scenarios or sometimes scenarios we make up in our minds, but that’s usually manageable. Panic, on the other hand, is unreasonable. It comes on like a tidal wave and consumes you. It tightens the muscles in your chest, dries your mouth and sets your heart racing to the point that even if you are not having a heart attack, it feels that way.
These feelings can isolate you, to the point that you’re constantly afraid something will trigger it. Triggers don’t always have to be a bad memory or something significant. You have to constantly care for yourself. At this point, it’s easy to ask yourself if your mind is playing games on you, if you are indeed “normal” and if you’ll ever make it through this endless mental chatter and physical symptoms.
The anxiety itself is isolating enough. But coupled with is the fact that it forces you to eliminate things on your daily routine, like going to office or even tasks as small as getting dressed, which is even more isolating. When you wake up and feel like going right back to bed because you know your body won’t allow you to do anything is the heart-breaking part. Worse still, you fear talking about it, not just because of embarrassment but because even describing your symptoms is another impending attack waiting to happen. Anxiety has no mercy for you, your feelings don’t matter to it.
Slowly and steadily, as it promises to ruin you, it brings along its friend depression for help. Not that it needs help, because it’s doing a great job of winning this war already. But that’s the thing about greedy rulers, they want it all. “Try to see the bright side,” they often tell me. Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think it makes me all the more anxious because I know that nothing’s “wrong”?
If all this illness wants is for me to submit, it should realise that I submitted a while ago. I submitted when I stopped going to crowded places, when I stopped picking up phone calls, when I stopped going to work, when I stopped dreaming big, when I stopped accepting invites to talk. Yet, it marches on in hopes of winning something I cannot give it. It’s not a physical wound that I can bare since when someone is wounded, people want to help. It’s in my mind, which makes it MY battle alone and it can be a lonely place but more than anything, and exhausting.
Some mornings are better, I wake up motivated, to follow through with my plans, but by the afternoon my armor is drenched in blood and I have to bow out. I have to remember who owns me and that I am a mere slave, who has no right to dream. My passion is stolen within seconds and I am forced to submit to the palpitations, the tremors, the sounds. “Snap out of it”, another classic. Do people offering this as a remedy actually think I don’t want to snap out of it? If I had an on and off switch, do you really believe I would leave it on and put myself through this exhausting torture?
Amid panic attacks, I hear my close aide asking me “But what happened?” Trust me, I know nothing per se, except for the fact that I feel like I suddenly can’t breathe or feel my fingers and toes.
Anxiety is a lot like being scared of everything – light, sound, darkness, transportation, your own reactions… and it has very little to do with other people. Things that are unpredictable are things that we can actually manage; the certainty that I will wake up tomorrow with the same feelings is demotivating. It’s very demotivating when you wake up feeling fine and in the next instant, that feeling of fine is rudely interrupted by your heart pounding and your chest paining.
It’s sad to see myself alienating myself, it breaks my heart to be this way, to lose out of opportunities, to not talk to my friends or family, because no one understands that my mental illness directly results in physicals symptoms, ones that often feel like they pose a direct threat to my life. I understand where the self-hate comes into play, how can it not? In such a situation it’s like the only person to hate is yourself because there’s no one else to blame, but it’s important to know that this is not your fault.
For now, I’ll just sit here and write about it in hopes that tomorrow will be a brighter day, and by brighter, I mean “normal”. I long to find inspiration in the weather, the sound of rain and all the busy streets, but until they become bearable again, I’ll keep trying to find a solution. And in due time, I will win over my anxiety and maybe we can coincide in harmony and be friends.