I have traveled quite a bit in the past few months. I went on my first international trip to Thailand, then a work trip followed by a reunion trip in the mountains with old friends. With a tough one year, I was hoping that traveling to a new place will get rid of all the baggage of the past year, even if for a little while. But when has life ever been this kind?
When I landed in Thailand , I was pumped up. I thought no matter what happens , I will be happy and engaged. The demons plaguing my mind wouldn’t cross international borders. But they did. It wasn’t as if these journeys were unpleasant. In parts, they were loads of fun. But the distinct feeling of being a part of the crowd, just like everyone else, a faceless tourist was horrifying. All my latent fears of being forgotten, of having done nothing of consequence bubbled back to the surface. It was just downhill from there. In my entire life , I never felt the exhaustion similar to the one I did after taking a simple walk on the beach. Moreover, seeing my friends and stranger tourists having fun made me feel abnormal, disconnected. The same pattern was repeated on my second trip as well. What was wrong with me! This wasn’t supposed to happen.
And I felt something I have been trying to keep at bay for a long time. Bitterness. Utter and extreme bitterness. Why me? Sure other people have problems too but atleast it doesn’t mar their every experience, rendering them incapable of enjoying new things. Is this what my life is going to be like? Having fun will become an activity which I will have to force and feel drained as a result of the effort. Why would anyone want to be with me ? The thought of wanting to push people away didn’t originate from any external issues because I have dealt with them successfully in the past. Only now, sitting at the beach alone, I realized that much like the deep waters, some experiences will be out of my reach. Every new place, I will keep thinking if I will be in the grip of my fears once again and spoil the experience for everyone else as well.The valid solution in my own skewed way of thinking was to just shut everyone out.
Yes. That’s it . This is the solution, my demented self thought. No people, no expectations. No more questions about whether I am improving or not. No more pretense of being my old self now that I don’t visibly have panic attacks. Panic attacks were an attempt to resist after all. Now I easily slide into a state where I know I feel like a husk of my former self. And the more people get angry or offended, the easier it will be to justify shutting them out.
I was ready to follow through with this. Till someone asked me if my friends are worth the effort of trying to explain what’s happening to me. And to be honest, I have been extremely lucky in this department. They are worth it. I am not going to shut people out because that’s insulting to them . It is cruel and unkind to make others feel that they are the cause of your aloofness. There needn’t be a long drawn out justification but there has to be some explanation for the ones who have stood by you all this while.
Mental stigma doesn’t isolate you as much as the vicious thoughts of escaping expectations do. The expectation of recovery isn’t necessarily a bad thing because even if forces you to feel happy, for a moment or two, the laughter is genuine. It is true that all people must stand alone to face their own demons. But there is a strange dignity in knowing that you never allowed them to make you feel so undeserving of understanding and love that you locked yourself up in dark lonely room. Perhaps communicating your vulnerabilities, not knowing whether you will be understood or not is the very definition of courage.