As I lay down to get a good night’s sleep after a whole day of study my upcoming exam next day, my heart began pounding, faster and faster and I feared if it was happening again. I changed many sleeping positions before I took the fetal position expecting it would stop the sudden palpitations. But not this time. The thumping was more vigorous. It became evident as I put my arms close to my chest. My mind raced with endless thoughts, creating all possible worse case scenarios whose genesis I had no idea of. After all, thinking so many things at once was not my forte nor was it any normal person’s, considering the fact that thinking and analysing situations takes time, at least when thinking more than one thing at a time.
This had been happening since quite a few days…and like every night, I tried my best to dismiss it by thinking of the good times I spent with family, friends or moments when I felt encouraged or special. This was usually sufficient to give me interrupted sleep of 4-5 hours. But today, those thoughts lost their power to produce ‘feel-good chemicals’ – serotonin and dopamine. Instead, monsters in the form of incessant thoughts ambushed the moment I wished to rest, unleashing a madness within me, which I feared would take over my sanity entirely.
Realising that not even the verses from the holy book, the revision of my exam the next day and no amount of self-motivation and encouragement from my roommates would help, I felt powerless, for the first time in front of something I owned. I had no idea of the enormous power of the brain until that moment.
Splashing water over my face, I took a deep breath and lay down vowing to try my best not to do anything but relax. The descend started with the routine firing of thoughts but I combated every instance of it with an opposite thought, not trying to think how long it would take before I finally get a good night’s sleep.
Waking up early, around 5 a.m. I realised that I may have had around 2 hours of sleep only to get up in a panicked state again! This happened until my exams got over. Sleep-deprived, exhausted and confused, I had no clue what was happening, but the entire experience frightened me to the core. Even the usual fear of failing exams didn’t haunt me this time but, the fact that my inner self had become weak and powerless in front of the subconscious mind, that had already taken the reins of my thought process, even in my absolute consciousness, scared me!
Initially, I thought that this whole abrupt reaction of my body was an advanced feature of the adrenaline glands to counter fear. But I was wrong and was more monstrous than I had never imagined when I found that the usual joy and solace I found in my hobbies, meeting my parents, hanging out with friends and joking around faded away.
Dining out at favourite places no longer interested me. Everything became mundane. It seemed that I had no genuine emotion left, except agony and worry which I masked with my usual composed smile. The condition was inexplicable. What surprised me more was that though I passed my exams with a decent score (which I had not at all expected, considering my condition), nothing affected me. I was neutral. I discovered that I began to worry even about the pettiest of things, to the extent of them driving me crazy.
When I spoke of all the possible worst-case scenarios, my friends would laugh jokingly. I knew it was utter rubbish and investing energy in those things was not worth it. There were times I just wanted to cry, sometimes loud and sometimes when I was defeated by my own mind to maintain composure. I was now scared of solitude, my once most loved state that helped me introspect and get answers to countless questions now, gave me tears that lead to nothingness.
I was losing my dreams, my passion, my joy, my peace to the most dangerous, yet invisible emotion: Anxiety.
Fortunately, I didn’t go fully ‘insane’; I had enough sanity after counselling from parents and my well-wishers to understand that if I was not the master of my thoughts, it would soon pave the way for self-destruction and degradation. It was only 2 months before that I had turned 21, and a girl like me shouldn’t have faced such a problem, I thought.
I was not in any financial nor relationship crisis. In fact, I had the best family who loved me, provided me with everything and fulfilled every desire of mine. I was a pretty decent student and had the best of friends who were trying to help me get through the rough sea, not knowing what the ‘rough sea’ actually meant.
As days passed, focusing on studies was becoming difficult but, the newly formed emotion which rendered me powerless was also responsible for mounting intense pressure of performing my best at the cost of my declining health. That is the reason why most people never understood where the problem was and I don’t blame them. I was performing well at the cost of pushing myself beyond the boundaries of sanity; madness. Like they say, mad for love. I was becoming mad to keep myself sane.
My physical health deteriorated. I would become sick more often but care and love from my parents and family members and friends helped things from getting worse. I know that I was in the shackles of this prevailing, most dreaded emotion in the world. Taking or hearing its name always reminds me of the struggle that I am trying to fight and defeat.
It’s been 10 months, and things are better than before. I have learnt to control, trying to get hold of the reins which give me a sense of happiness and joy and satisfaction, nevertheless, there have been more instances of losing them out. But I will not stop. My life is my gift and my mind the spearhead of my dreams and passion, which one day, I believe, will know how to stop worrying to the heights of insanity and with the reins in my hand once again, I shall conquer.
There are countless people across the world with stories of anxiety attacks, depression and panic attacks. It is known to have created havoc in the professional and personal lives of millions across the world. I do not intend to explain what causes it. I am not well-versed in grey matters. Yet, I would want you to know what happens in the mind of a super anxious person. Despair, unhappiness, no pleasure at leisure, constant fear without any reason.
The problem lies in the over usage of the terms associated with mental disorders that have made people subconsciously think that they are well aware of their actual meaning, experience and aftermath. As laymen, we might not fully catch the complex chemicals’ names and biological processes involved and that isn’t necessary either. What is more important, is to acknowledge the gravity of the disease, as you would with any other physical disease; but to be realistic, it can often feel much worse much than any physical disease.
To put in easy words, the afflicted person is no longer experiencing happiness, excitement, pleasure, warmth, leisure, love and is bounded by the shackles of negativity which develop in his/her own brain even when everything is perfectly normal. Feelings of sadness and frustration prevail. It’s similar to a situation in which you’re being told that you will be locked up behind bars for no reason, and you’re threatened not to tell anyone and pretend as if nothing happened by some authority that has no logic, yet, you are obliged to obey because you are a part of it. Here the lockup is the negativity, brain the authority and the threat refers to the inability of people understanding you. And that is the worst part.
The statistics from innumerable health organisations across the world have convinced us that panic attacks, anxiety attacks and depression affect millions. And sure, there are many, maybe the person standing next to you is one of them, battling with the monster alone with the invisible armour and smile on their face. This goes unnoticed.
It is very important that we make ourselves very comfortable with such issues. Reaching out to strangers is definitely not possible. But family and friends, they are the ones who we confide in and know wholly by heart. Communicate, make them feel safe, acknowledge their problem, talk and check on them frequently. Sometimes the problem might not seem that big, however, everyone has different levels of tolerance and it can happen to anyone irrespective of age, gender and life situations.
Be the sunshine of a trapped mind who is fighting hard within himself for he wishes to live life as any other normal person and is trying hard to keep the spirit alive!
To all those brave souls fighting, “This too shall pass!”