The dilemma of choice
I often wondered that if we were born in a world where our duty was to do the bidding of some master, would we have pondered over our lack of freedom. If we were told that the norm was to pledge unquestioning obedience to authority and everyone around us adhered to it, would we have pined for the ability to create our own destiny. The finality of the statement “You made the choice so …..” seems to be quite terrorizing when you are unhappy. As if feeling trapped and suffocated is a conscious choice that any human being would ever make.
Over the past one month, my most agonizing moments have been the ones where I weighed the consequences of my choices. Did I fail to pursue my passion? People my age are inspiring others with their talents in science, art and music , whereas I……I never took the plunge(don’t know for what) and hence I am condemned to live with the knowledge of never realizing my full potential. The thought of all trace of my existence , my work being erased by time, amounting to nothing after I am gone paralyzes me. If I can’t leave behind anything worth remembering, then what is the point of trying to achieve anything at all . More importantly, what do I want from life. Definitely not fame, money or social status. I see their necessity but also their hollowness. Like a band aid over a bone deep cut, unable to stop the person from bleeding to death.
I have been desperately searching for some end to my endeavors. Because walking into a dark tunnel, fighting hundreds of monsters, sustaining multiple injuries, I need to know that at the exit, there will be freedom, no not even freedom, just peace. The peace which I have never once experienced in my recent memory. Every failure, every mistake, has been like a punch in my throat, rendering me helpless and suffocated.Every achievement has been the setup for some inevitable failure or pain which will strike in the future to balance the scales of fate. For so long I have been trying to gag the voices in my head. Sometimes I succeeded but never for long. The noise always returned. And now there has been this supersonic blast in my head which has left nothing in its wake. Absolutely nothing. No desire, no feelings which last for more than a moment, no will to live.I do feel anxious but about nothing. It is as if feelings are pre-programmed into my system but I can’t experience them anymore. I should be able to but I can’t.The advice of my friends and family is like a distant voice that I hear but can’t process. And the worst part is watching them feel helpless , waiting for me to get better because it places a responsibility on me that I don’t have the strength to bear anymore.
Before the panic attacks began, the fear of them discovering how disturbing my thoughts were was debilitating. It made me double down on the effort of downplaying my problems, so that their illusion of me as person they can depend on, as a person who won’t drain them of their energy and happiness isn’t shattered. The effort it took was exhausting. So exhausting that now the mask of my earlier self has corroded away by being constantly exposed to the acidity of my own thoughts, revealing the raw damaged skin underneath for everyone to see. I am waiting for them to recoil disgust and give up on me . Honest to God truth is that I had no desire to put them through this and want to tell them that their affection and love is what had kept me afloat for so long . That their care is what forced me to loosen my grasp on pieces of broken glass when I wanted to distract myself from mental agony by inflicting physical pain on myself. That every time I feel like throwing away my medicines because I hate the idea of being dependent on them for being mentally stable, I don’t because they are around me laughing and joking, providing me a sense of normalcy.
The problem is that when you have trained yourself to feel unworthy, every word of kindness and affection becomes like a burden on your conscience. You want to expedite the process of them giving up on you so that there is a finality to your situation. A ray of hope is absolute torture for a person who is waiting for the doctor to proclaim that darkness will be a permanent fixture in their lives. I keep thinking that the medicines have stopped the panic attacks and the long walks assist in calming down my thoughts. But what if my nervous disposition keeps returning. Eventually people around me will get tired of waiting on me and move on , which is fair. And I will be left alone with my worst enemy, my own mind.
The thing is , mental illness might be triggered by externalities such as genetics, lifestyle or social norms . And full recovery might just never be possible but learning to control your thoughts definitely is. A huge part of recovery is experiencing the panic and anxiety of being alone one day and making peace with it. Of all my past fears, loneliness was never one of them. Though medicines help, I hate not being able to control my thoughts through the power of will. In such moments, I have to remind myself that when I suffered from Tuberculosis, power of will wouldn’t have stopped the chest pain and coughing. Medicines did. Sure exercise and morning walks helped in regaining my strength but in the absence of medical help, the mantra of mind over matter wouldn’t have been useless hokum. Like my best friend said, if panic attacks happen despite everything, don’t ask yourself why is it happening?Just acknowledge it and wait for it to pass. Don’t give it any more power over you. Don’t fetishize its existence. The complexity of the thoughts can only countered by accepting the simplicity of existence. This would be my advice to everyone who is suffering from similar illnesses. Recognize it’s existence but don’t give it power over all aspects of your life. Feel free to discuss it and sure you run the risk of people attaching that label to you. It is at such times, that the idea of free will won’t seem so haunting. Because you can choose to rip those labels into tiny pieces , burn it and count on the uncertainty of life to know that tomorrow might just be a better day.
Lastly, while writing this article, I realized that even if we were born in a dystopian society whose sole aim was to enslave us and force us to conform regressive norms, we would have resisted. Maybe the idea of freedom and choice is a part of our genetic makeup, our DNA. It can both be the shackle, under the weight of which we suffocate to death or the key to our endless freedom.