My dear readers, this is a tale.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman in her early 20s. She has achieved a lot in life- with her adventurous college years coming to end with her greatest achievement: with honors. She has worked hard enough to battle poverty to finally come to a place where her career takes off for her to be stable.
She has been through a lot, with so many scars to mark her battles, that the concept of mental illness is so foreign to her. She believes that you can control your mind to handle pressure; it is just a matter of who has enough will to do so. And boy, she was really confident in hers.
Until one day, that is, a series of unfortunate events has made her, one of the greatest warriors, to admit defeat.
First, the denial. You think of other illnesses that may be associated with what is happening to your body. There are times when you feel sick and unable to eat, or how your heart palpitates and you can’t breathe. The tests will usually come back fine with no alarming results, leaving the doctors puzzled because they can see that there is still something wrong with you.
I did not expect that it will also be the trigger to other health issues as well, but that’s just the thing with anxiety- the more you deny it, the more it makes its presence known, like a weed that grows no matter how much you try to make your garden appear perfect. It is frustrating that it gnaws on you when you fight it out.
I was filled with anger and pity. You look for events and people to blame. You backtrack on happenings and ask yourself why you; because no matter how much try to calm down, you just can’t. You end up pointing the finger back to yourself as nobody will ever get what it feels like and it’s probably your fault. It drains you of your dreams, snuffing out the light and leaving you in the dark with your worst thoughts. It drowns you with doubt, and you can’t float even when you know how to swim.
A mixture of feelings, a roller coaster ride. It is exhausting, not only to your soul and mind but to your body. It never lies, but you pretend anyway. You pretend that it is just one of the other sickness that you have. You pretend it is nothing; when indeed it is everything. Poor you, so alone, in a world where your downfall will not be justified or recognized because there will always be someone who has it worst that you and you should be thankful.
Thankful, for your threshold breaking, a threshold that should I remind you is different for each one of us, and is therefore immeasurable. If it were that simple, we shouldn’t even be having these problems in the first place.
The acceptance is made after long hours at the hospital, going from doctor to doctor and experiments to verify that it is indeed what it is. Even in our progressive world, we are still so sensitive about giving the final stamp to any mental illness, especially ones that are easily claimed when one is in distress or sad. We label our moments, normal humane moments that showcase our feelings with terms that should deserve attention than just not being okay.
As a working adult, you learn how to deal with the meetings on your own. I don’t know if I love the long hallways at the hospital, or if it feels a little too crowded with everyone having anyone else. It is quite a shame to check yourself in or to practically drag yourself to the hospital in the midst of a panic attack, with your work clothes on looking so important, your coat so crisp, and yet you are like a child again, holding your chest because you just can’t breathe.
I think, the hardest has been seeing the way your doctors look at you because they know your condition. They are not puzzled with it like others are, and as professionals they recognize that you are probably tired. It becomes a little bit easier to accept it after that. They ask you about your job, your lifestyle, trying to pinpoint the cause why you are breaking down at such age- and deep inside, you know but refuse, of course, to share it with anybody else.
And then the treatment. I cannot say it is healing; maybe my anxiety itself does not recognize it. I have, though, learned that the best way to deal with it is to know that it is an endless battle you face every single day. That’s the thing with mental illness- when your mind is sick, you cannot just target the sickness and expect it to be done. The drugs, yes, they do help. I have been fascinated by how even experts are reluctant to prescribe sedatives, but it’s a name I have lived with. Sedatives to calm you down, sedatives to make you sleep, just the right amount. Not too much, not too little, for the mind is already fragile. It is already broken, held on together with the tapes you put on it every time you overcome the struggle of a breakdown. The lines are visible; they are there, they will never fade.
You continue with life as it is. You go to work daily to sustain your expenses. Some days, you feel free of it- hopeful even- but in truth it is a chain that you must carry and learn how not to let it suffocate you. It is definitely okay to say you’re not okay- a cliché, perhaps, but the most useful one.
People with anxiety wear masks all the time, because we have to show face that we are still fighting, still living, still breathing; even when sometimes, we find that we are out of it.
It is about embracing that you are flawed and you will be for the rest of time- but broken things are often so beautiful, are they not?