Another day, another anxiety attack. Only the person on the other end of the phone was my best friend’s elder sister. She is an endearing thing, full of hope and optimism. I was just describing to her how humiliating these attacks can be . The inability to complete a sentence without your voice breaking , being unable to sit at a place if things aren’t going your way and worst of all, fearing that you are using your mental health as an excuse,begging people to cut you some slack.
You see, paranoia is a huge part of mental illnesses. Am I irritating my friends? Would my parents be better off without me making them sad?Do I seem normal? Can others see through this facade of being put together? Are people around me getting tired of me not showing visible signs of improvement? This stage is usually followed by lashing out at everyone. If they don’t give up on you, why not be a bitch and push everyone away. That way you won’t have to deal with any expectations.
It was then that she mentioned that if I heard myself talk, I would realize that even now other people’s perception of me affected me more than my own mental state. I squirmed on the inside, not saying what I was actually thinking. That’s not true, I thought. I am cool, I don’t care what others think of me. After all, when have I ever tried to tone down my eccentricities. I have always been openly odd and taken immense pride in it. I haven’t been afraid to take a stand for what I believe in knowing full well that it would cost me friendships and peace of mind. You are wrong. I don’t care what others think of me! I didn’t agree with her.
But if you ponder over it with a calm mind , you would realize that whoever is telling you this is right. Recall the first time the breakdown happened. The sense of emptiness, the panic over realizing that everything is gone, all happiness is over and you will never have a sense of purpose in life again. The dreadful void of hopelessness. And you are right! What the hell in this world can give you a sense of purpose, a feeling of calm if you hate yourself. If you believe that you come last not for others, but even for yourself.Sure you can be odd and eccentric and diverge from all norms as an act of defiance. But you never defied that hateful insidious voice inside your head that has poisoned you over the years , whispering that you are worthless and irrelevant. How can you claim that you can’t connect to your friends and family when you yourself have always prioritized your own feelings last?
There is a difference between caring for people and treating yourself as the last option because you think that you can find your own purpose if someone else needs you. This creates a damn vicious pattern. You see people around you who will keep attacking you at your weakest spot and you feel like you have to take it to prove how tough you are. To not break down in front of others so that they don’t feel uncomfortable. To take the onus of recovering at a visible pace so that everyone forgets that you have anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder. Whatever demon you are facing, you have to focus your energies to blast it off. You don’t have the luxury of doing this, then hating yourself, then allowing people to be a bitch to you and think that you shouldn’t overreact.Fuck that!
While misdirecting your anger is wrong because you don’t have the right to spoil someone else’s mood to compensate for your bad day, being a doormat is bad too. Unless we learn the kindness to value our uniqueness, our ability to feel more deeply than most people do, our creativity to see worlds where others notice nothing, you won’t recover. The fight is against that voice which tells you that you are undeserving of happiness and meaning. In such moments, recall the times that you did come through. Returning to your job after a sabbatical, lending a shoulder for others to cry on when you didn’t have the energy left to even stand up straight, being moved by a movie when you thought that you are numb on the inside and most importantly the courage to fight vicious thoughts day after day, year after year ceaselessly. Herman Hesse, my favorite author, was right when he wrote:
“Every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way, and never again. That is why every man’s story is important, eternal, sacred; that is why every man, as long as he lives and fulfills the will of nature, is wondrous, and worthy of consideration. In each individual the spirit has become flesh, in each man the creation suffers, within each one a redeemer is nailed to the cross.”
Or as a wise woman keeps reminding me,”Maybe we are the normal ones. Others just need to catch up!”