Invincibility and strength, these are the two values that we are taught to value since childhood. Be strong, keep pushing yourself , crawl if you can’t walk, but don’t be weak. I think this is where we go wrong.
By current societal standards, I am not strong. Definitely not now, writing this article on a strong dose of antidepressants. I feel like my backbone is broken and I am being forced to walk.It’s as if an impenetrable haze of sadness has enveloped me, the reasons for which I fail to articulate. I am not strong, because at the age of 13, I had my first breakdown, only then I didn’t know the exact nature of it.Since then, I have been living in a constant dread of my despair hitting me someday in full force.I have periodically felt the tremors of the cracks in my sanity over the years . But I thought if I repressed it, it would go away. At least I could put on the facade of being strong even though I was slowly losing a hold over my mind. I could pretend to be a happy albeit eccentric person, who was prone to zoning out and mood swings. I had a list of personal and academic achievements and a fulfilling social life to showcase to everyone else. I thought I could continue to live in denial. That my manufactured self was the real me. I attributed my outbursts in college to either stress or a passing low phase. My act worked .No one noticed the fissures which were slowly appearing in my personality.
I thought achieving recognition for my hardwork would give me happiness. That the faith I lacked in myself could somehow be substituted by the praise I receive from others. Wasn’t that my dream? And many such moments arrived in my life. I gave excellent debate speeches, I was selected for an amazing fellowship, I had great GRE scores and I also managed to make friends , who have knowingly or unknowingly,pulled me back from the precipice of collapse on multiple occasions. I desperately tried holding on to material things, compelling ,myself to crave fame and fortune like everyone else, hoping that attachment to something material will anchor me, provide me a sense of purpose. But my detachment was growing . It was like I was negating life, I was being unmade,slowly turning into dust and one day there would be no trace of me left to be remembered.
And finally it hit me. Nameless terror. Increased heartbeat. Absolute agony. I tried finding some object to anchor my mind on but couldn’t. Nothing mattered to me anymore. My dreams of success, fear of failure, warmth of friendship…all such emotions have become distant. Sometimes I want to feel physical pain because it would provide me a moment of reprieve from the mental agony that is slowly destroying my mind, that I am unable to convey to my friends and family. Some visible form of pain to focus on.It’s similar to one of those dreams where you are trying to scream but you can’t and no one can hear you.
Eight full blown panic attacks, three psychiatrist visits and a music class later, I have finally mustered the strength to write this article. I have many vices , pride, anger, selfishness , but even at lowest point of my life, fear of judgement is not one of them. Perks of eccentricity. The brief moments of relief I feel, which are like flashes of feelings I try holding on to ,are ironically not the memories of glittery , glamorous moments of my past . It is listening to my friends recite their daily troubles, their experiences at office, breaking down while talking to my mother, video conferencing with friends who are kind enough to listen to me recite the same problems over and over again, even though they have deadlines to meet. I definitely count myself lucky in that department.
I am unsure if I will fully recover and even if I do,there is no guarantee that my anxiety and panic attack won’t strike again. But what I do know is that reading about people who have suffered from mental illnesses has definitely helped me when I was in the abyss of despair. Not in terms of providing any solution to my problems or even mitigating them but merely a sense of belonging. And even that small relief is enough. I am incapable of providing any helpful suggestions to others right now given that I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I have anxiety and panic disorder. My own mind, my imagination are the demons I have to face everyday. But there is one weird emotion I feel these days. Or rather the lack of it. I don’t feel fear anymore. Don’t mistake me. The panic attacks still stir a sense of dread and loss of purpose . But my past fears related to my career, my likability don’t matter anymore. I sincerely hope that one day I will be in a position to offer someone, breaking down alone in a room and crying in despair, some helpful advice. However for now, I quite selfishly leave you with the burden of my own pain.