One late night in December while talking to a friend I started shivering violently. I had just received a bad news, so the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach was justified and the shivers could have been because of the cold. Only it didn’t get better as the shock of the news wore off. It was followed by racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and nausea. I spent the entirety of the night in my bathroom. Waiting for the little relief that follows after you empty your stomach’s contents and the nausea subsides, but that feeling never came.
I was 15 the first time I experienced a panic attack. It was the hardest night of my life. Afraid of being alone I made my friends talk to me give me assurances till sleep finally took me. It was a difficult time for me. My parents recent split, my first heartbreak, losing my best friend. All caught up with me in that one particular night. Psychologist often give the example of a glass of water, if it’s full to the top even a single added drop can cause it to spill. I didn’t even realise how full my glass was till then.
After that it was a regular occurrence. Sleep was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Every waking hour I’d have this feeling in my stomach. Like something bad was going to happen. It took everything from me. My self confidence, my logic, I had doubts about everything. Getting up, walking out the door to face the world seemed like an impossible feat. At times I’d feel guilty like it was all my fault my insecurities seeping in. Somehow I was cursed or hexed. I remember being afraid of abandonment. People were leaving me and I couldn’t deal with it.
Endless nights where I couldn’t sleep. I’d roam around the house at times watch the stars or listen to music. Anything and everything to calm myself that the internet recommended I do. I was too young to understand what it was back then. Since a lot was going on at home I didn’t bother telling anybody about it. My routine was to wake up sit by the toilet till the nausea passed. Force myself to go to school and always, i repeat always stay close to a trash can in case I needed to puke. Honestly, that stomach pains felt as painful as failed organ. Most people think mental illness is easier to deal with compared to physical. I tell you it’s not true.
This went on for a while, By the time i got into highschool I took this psychology class on a whim. Guess what I found during the lecture one day? My symptoms mentioned in one chapter! Now, this wasn’t one of those experiences where you read the symptoms of something and you go like oh I might have this. It hit me like a slap in the face. I finally found an answer to what I was going through. As soon as I knew it was a mental illness, I realised that I had two options start taking anti-anxiety pills, depend on something or fess up.
I have no idea where I found the courage from but I decided to face my fears, my anxiety made me dependent on people. The only solution my 17-year-old self found was to let go of everything and do exactly what I was scared of, so I did. I detached myself from every single person that was close to me thus ending my fear of losing someone. Leave them before they leave you was the motto of my life. It might sound a little stupid and bizarre but it worked. The easier way to define it would be that I switched off my emotions.
Every day I would wake up and tell myself that I could do anything I wanted I didn’t need anybody and I was fine. The result; I was no longer scared of facing the world out there. Somehow I got confidence in myself. Since I believed that, everybody else did as well. By the time I got into college I was no longer the same girl that needed to give herself a pep talk before walking out of her room, every single person in my class used to think that I was very confident and bold. Ironic. But see the thing is turning off my emotions might have worked but it wasn’t a permanent solution. I couldn’t stand by and watch my life pass me by in fear of all the bad things. I didn’t wanna continue that way so very slowly I started to let people in. Gradually, I opened up and in doing so brought back my anxiety. Fortunately or unfortunately by then it had been years so, I had learned to control it somewhat. I started dealing it as regular nervousness. When the panic attacks came I couldn’t pretend anymore, I’d have to lock myself in my room-since I didn’t want anybody to take care of me lest I started depending on them, or depend on medicine that could one day not be available in the market if a zombie apocalypse happened-I’d wait it out. It’s actually been really helpful. I don’t get panic attacks anymore.
I didn’t at least, till today. I had to visit my school and seeing the places everything happened where I experienced everything flashbacks and memories they all came rushing back and for a few minutes I couldn’t breath like I was drowning in them. I managed to successfully get it under control by admitting everything to myself out loud. The rest of the day went normally. That is a major step up.
For now I’m happy with the fact that I’m okay now, today I kicked anxiety’s ass. Might not be able to tomorrow which is why I’m going to bask in the glory of my achievement for a day. Before I admit that I need to talk to a professional. I wasn’t ready to admit that earlier but I am now. This anxiety has taken so much from me. My sleep cycle hasn’t been the same. I no longer sleep peacefully even after a stressful day when most of us just cry at the sight of our beds. I lie awake most nights thinking and then a little overthinking. I lost the person I was because of it. I won’t let it take anything anymore.