This isn’t the poster of anxiety. When I get episodes I’m not smiling and happy and looking forward to my next meal. My heart is clenched and my hands shake. I don’t want to leave my bed and I don’t want to talk to anyone. It’s not you, it’s me. As cliche as that sounds it is me and it must be exhausting for our conversations to be dependent on how I feel. Will you understand if I tell you to stay away because your energy is overwhelming me and I feel physically drained? Will you reassure and tell me that I’m enough and these feelings will pass?
So I happen to have anxiety, the OCD was diagnosed later. I’ve been trying to see when all of this started but I haven’t come to terms with all of this yet. This involves me coming to terms with events or memories I’d rather keep buried or I have repressed.
I was having a bad day or an ‘episode” on Friday afternoon on the 22nd of March. I remember the date because I marked it as the day I started taking my antidepressants. My heart feels clenched and I felt like I could not breathe, I was on the verge of tears and I couldn’t tell what was wrong. If I went to the clinic I knew they’d tell me to calm down or just breath but would they understand what I was feeling? So I decided to go to a place I thought would understand, let’s go a few months back to when I had to go the eye clinic at school and I saw a door right next to it that said, ‘Mental Health” and I kept telling myself that I would stop by but I never did but that Friday I knew I would have to see someone. So I went and knocked on the door but someone was in I had to wait my turn. When I finally went in I found an old man with kind eyes now see I like old people, their wrinkled skin and air of wisdom. So he asked me how I was feeling and the first thing I said was, “I think that something is wrong with me.” I started to cry and tell him about the times I’ve had panic attacks. The first panic attack I had was when my mother got admitted into hospital and I was hit with a wave of emotions (anger, fear, dread, sadness) I was angry at God for letting this happen to her because my father died in the same hospital and I’ve always hated hospitals because they usually bring death. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my favorite cousin (George) tried to calm me down. I don’t know how to explain the feeling but its dreadful. I literally couldn’t breathe and I felt like whenever I took a deep breath in I couldn’t feel any air coming into my lungs and then I started to cry now tears and failure to breath and a choking effect. I can’t remember what my cousin was saying but he managed to calm me down then he asked me if I’ve experienced this before and I said no. I’ve had other panic attacks after that but I don’t want to get into that because of triggers.
Now listen my knowledge on mental health was relative, the basic stuff. When I was younger two of my mother's brothers suffered from something and I didn’t know what it was but all I know was they got committed a couple of time’s and they were on medication that would make them slow and they would drool most times. Years later(last year) I asked my mum what they had and she said schizophrenia and it’s really bad. Mostly involved hallucinations and hearing voices and they seem so real that you think everyone around you is “crazy” for not seeing or hearing them. I read about all of this because I get lost in Wiki rabbit holes like so many other people.
Now I’m trying to see what is my anxiety and what is me and the line is quite blurry. Does it define me? Is it all I can be? Will I ever get better?
I’ve been taking antidepressants since March. My psychiatrist, I once asked him if he’s a psychologist or psychiatrist and he smiled and asked me what I think he is then I said, a psychiatrist. He gave me a prescription the first day we met, we talked for over an hour. After I talked about how he felt, he did the basics asked about my family and my upbringing and past illnesses. He also asked me if any of my family have committed suicide and if there’s any history of mental health illnesses in my family and well there is on both sides. He went all scientific about what happens in your body when you’re having a panic attack. Now I was wary about being on medication because I’ve read about people getting addicted to antidepressants and I let him know and he went all scientific and talked about how people abuse drugs or alcohol because they’re suffering from mental health issues. But anyway he said I should let him know if I have any side effects.
I was on medication for about a month when I started to feel numb. Stuff that made me happy before would not get a reaction out of me and it made me upset because I wanted to feel. I called my mum on the verge of tears and I told her how I felt and she said I would be fine eventually because medication take’s a while to work. I think my mood stabilized after that. I don’t feel numb per se but I don’t get the mood swings I’d get before. The medication isn’t a cure but it just helps me go about my days.
I’m not saying that I only had bad days before I got on medication but the days are better. I’m not ‘moody” anymore and I don’t have extreme highs and lows as often. I have bad days though when I have this restless energy that I can’t shake. I went running from 23–24 hours last week because I was restless. There are days when I wake up and I’ll wash the dishes and my clothes and clean the room and I still feel restless. This feeling lasts days or hours but I’ve come to realize that running or working or doing yoga makes me feel better. You could call them coping mechanisms and they are in a sense, the calm me and keep me sane.
I cannot remember the day last year but I could not stand being in class and so I left, I was so convinced that sleep would help but it did not. I drifted off into dreamless sleep, I was surrounded by sticky darkness that felt like tar. I could feel the darkness swallow me and attempt to drown me. I eventually woke up but still felt the same and I decided to listen to music and put my playlist on shuffle and Manhattan by Kings of Leon played and I put it on repeat, I felt a sense of relief. The song has nothing to do with what I was feeling but it was fitting and I still listen to it when I’m feeling down.
I’ve had people call me bipolar and I hate it. You don’t throw that word around and what measure are you using? Some half-assed analysis you saw on the internet? Also it’ not funny or cool when you say stuff like, “I get angry so quickly I’m bipolar.” It’s not funny and there’s someone that’s actually suffering from it and it isn’t as glamorous as the internet makes it seem. How would you feel if the very thing that’s supposed to help you function is working against you?
I’m not being a reliable narrator because my thoughts are jumbled but I learned that in the new wave of writers the narrator has an unreliable character that has a jumbled flow of thought.
OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder isn’t wanting to be in a spotless place or sweeping and moping the floor multiples times because you feel like its still dirty. It isn’t always doing repetitive movements like brushing the rest of your fingers against the wall because you accidentally did that with your thumb. It isn’t packing and repacking school papers or assignments according to courses and types of assessments. It could be pondering over a bad comment someone must have offhandedly said and it hurt your feelings and they may have said it two weeks ago but you can’t stop thinking about. It could be fixating on a happy moment because your days are dark and it’s the only hope you can cling to keep you grounded.
I haven’t been taking my meds consistently because I have to study and they knock me out. But that’s beside the point. But therapy is great, we talk about my day and how life is going and how I should deal with people around me. I’ve always hated opening up but I have to because I need to let all that anger go, I need to let bad jokes go, I need to know that I am enough and not everything is my fault.
Will my anxiety and OCD give me problems in the future? I don’t know but if I keep taking my meds and I do hope I get off them soon and keep going to therapy I’ll be fine and it won’t develop into psychosis or bipolar disorder. We talked about that and he said I’ll manage just fine, now. I don’t know if he actually means it or he thinks I need a push.
Sometimes I worry that I’ll pass this on to my kids. And I wouldn’t want that for them. These feelings of despair are so deep that I don’t want to get out of bed. Thoughts of slitting my wrists or overdosing on sleeping pills. Now one of the side effects of the medication I’m on is that you get increased suicidal thoughts which are messed up if you ask me. Shouldn’t this make me feel better? I romanticize my death, overdosing on sleeping pills and dreaming about my father and never waking up. Running in front of a moving car and getting hit and I can hear my skull being crushed on the tarmac while I slowly lose consciousness and bleed to death. Slitting my wrists and the drops of blood hitting the floor match the beat of the song I’m listening to and that sense of release finally floods me knowing I’ll never suffer from a panic attack ever again. None of this would matter if I didn’t have things and people to live for. I have a great support system but the mistake I make is I push them away instead of keeping them close. Like my mother, God bless her soul. She’s constant, throughout my life. I think the grief of losing my father matches hers. Hers is probably greater but it was just us two and we got closer after that. I make a lot of reference to my father in my writing and I know I got this gift of writing from him.
I don’t know what the moral of this story because life is horrible and the suffering it comes with is endless.
I’m conflicted because I don’t know what causes my mood swings. Is it me or my anxiety? I won’t let it define me though, I won’t let it be my identity. Instead, we’ll live in peace and harmony. Some days I’ll win and I’ll be happy and outgoing and other days I’ll stay in bed and dread the possibility of human interaction and keep conversations minimal.