It’s 6:00pm. I am not home yet. I don’t have productive evenings. I go to work everyday not really feeling my best most of the times and then I come home and are even more energyless. I don’t feel like doing anything. All day and all evening. Some people like to take the easy way and call it laziness. I personally don’t know how to describe it. I have tried using some words but they sound too extreme and make me feel like there is something wrong with me. Now it might not be completely wrong that something could be wrong but I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to think of myself as a sick person because on some level, I feel that everyone in this world is sick. Everyone is suffering from some sort of mental imbalance in their lives. Everyone has gone through some difficult times and that has caused their brain to think and live their lives in certain ways. I had some shit to go through too but it’s been a while since I “burnt” it in my mind. My inner self declared it as burnt and non-existant and recommended that I live my life without carrying the burden of the past.
The past year has been the second most painful year of my life. I think it was my year of experiencing the mind side of things. I have experienced a physical illness before but only until recently have I really fully experienced the depths of mental illnesses. It’s a whole new world. It’s almost as if the weak souls of this world get chosen to experience it. A world of darkness and strength. A world full of extremes. I have tried talking about it and one time, I did get it all out too but I deleted everything. I think the most important part of it was just talking about it, even just to myself, and actually saying those words out loud to make myself realize that what I am going through is real. It has been hard to explain it to people actually. I kept it hidden from most of the world just because I didn’t know how to explain it. If your leg breaks, you can say your leg is broken, but what do you call a person with thousands of thoughts repeating at the rate of 1000 km/hr. Crazy? How would you like to tell others that you are crazy? LOL! I am not calling anyone crazy here but I know that’s how people think when they hear you are suffering from a mental illness. Worse, most people don’t even know what a mental illness is and they think you are just being lazy about things and you should just pat your ass and ask it to keep going. But I am not going to talk about what people think about it or understand it. I think what they think or understand or don’t understand is not for me to solve. It’s just that I avoided telling too many people about it because I didn’t want to be thought of as crazy and also didn’t want to explain what I was going through. It just makes it easy to go through something difficult when you don’t have to deal with people not understanding you.
Throughout the past year, I kept a journal. I always enjoyed writing and talking to myself is usually how I figure out most of my life. Today, I kinda sorta want to talk about whatever I think I can talk about.
The first thing I guess is fear. I have seen the most extremes of fear in the past year. I had no idea that a person could possibly get so scared that even something like doing the normal things you do everyday can become scary. I didn’t know you could possibly reach such a limit of fear that you could think that the people who are there to protect you can possibly hurt you. I didn’t know that screams could haunt you day and night and most times you can’t even tell whether they are real or not. I remember waking up in the middle of the night one day thinking I had heard a scream. I was scared as I woke up but for some reason, that night was different from other ones. For the first time in 5 months, I said to that scream: “I will listen to you. Come at me.” And it simply disappeared. Screams continued but their impact on me lessened with each passing day. I think before that day I was extremely scared of even listening to a scream and was worried that someone will scream somewhere and I would go through an event of what’s called as anxiety. I was afraid of people possibly getting hurt somewhere and their screams were a sign to me that indicated that they could be getting hurt. I didn’t associate them to anything other than someone getting hurt. It tormented me day and night. And one time, in the middle of a swimming pool fulls of kids screaming in joy took a keep completely different toll on me and became a war like scenario in my mind. Luckily, by that time I had understood that I don’t need to pay too much attention to it.
It took one event, experienced indirectly, to cause this chain of scary events for me. Soon I was scared of every moment and started worrying continuously about the possibility that something could happen to someone. The worries reached their peak and distributed to other areas of my life. Eventually, I started feeling that I was in danger. That if something could happen to people around me, something could happen to me as well. I felt worried and unsafe all the time. I didn’t talk about it with anyone for months and tried to deal with everything on my own and unfortunately, it did not work out at all. I was so scared that even talking about what I was scared about scared me. Terrified is probably the right word for it. It took me many counselling sessions and many talks with my mother (who I also did not share this with) to feel ok in talking about it. Whatever words that came out of mind, repeated in my head like a recording all day long. So I got scared of talking about it too. It was as if it was trying to terrorize me. People who did not respond warmly to how I was feeling pissed me off to the point of no return and I kept fighting with them in my mind all day. All of this was beyond my control. I could no longer just say to mind, “STOP!” It was just out there to scare every inch of my body and my brain was simply getting tired of such racy thoughts all day long. I suffered from severe headaches during that time including sometimes partially fainting. There were many more symptoms too but I won’t bother going through them.
What I remember today are simply moments. Moments I was simply so scared in. Unfortunately, to this day, some people don’t understand why I was so scared and declared me as weak. I will ignore those people and their lack of understanding. Another moment I remember is of me sitting in the stairs with my mind scaring me, the world feeling like it has collapsed and the ground just slipping away. And in that moment, sitting in the stairs in my home with my family, I am just alone. Everyone is going with their day as they usually do but I am somewhere else. In my mind and in my life. That experience people call as a panic attack, I learned later. Those attacks happened a few times, I don’t remember how many times. The first time I had gone to my doctor and he had asked me whether I was experiencing any anxiety. I had no idea what it was so I said no. All I knew was that my chest was feeling tight and my arm was getting really numb. I thought something was wrong with my heart. I had gone home never wanting to return and had taken a few weeks sick leave. The problem was still not caught though. No one knew something was seriously wrong. I was sent back even though I wasn’t ready and that worsened things. I was sent back to a place I was scared of. If you are scared of bungee jumping and you decide to just go for it, it will either be a great experience or the most terrible one. For me, it was the terrible one. I remember being scared of every breath, every moment but I simply kept walking through it because I didn’t know what else to do.
I was on some meds at this point but they were so strong that they made me extremely sleepy. I decided to stop taking them but apparently there are side effects to that. Things worsened and I went through a terrible night of nightmares after nightmares and eventually going to work in the morning at which point I decided I couldn’t be there anymore. I talked with my mom but she wasn’t sure of what I should do. I spoke with work and luckily, they said to leave and take care of myself. In the months to follow, I learned how to talk about what I am feeling, whether it be with doctors, counsellors, parents, siblings. Talking scared me too but for some reason I felt I had to do it. Actually, it was in one of those terrible days in which I was back in my apartment that I went into a 1.5 hr meditation and asked everyone I had ever met to send me the power to deal with this mess in my life. They all sent me something and together that energy combined and settled into my heart like a warm feeling. I wasn’t ok yet but I knew that in the country I am in today with the resources I had, I had to use them all fully to get better. It took a lot of talking with a lot of people to finally talk to the one person who made me realize that I, indeed, was not crazy to feel what I was feeling. That it was completely ok to be where I am given what I had experienced. I feel so lucky to have experienced that moment because it was a complete turning point for me. I wasn’t crazy. It was a normal reaction. Layers peeled themselves off as I went to more and more counselling sessions. It was as if all of my past had suddenly taken the time to make my life miserable. It wasn’t all that ghost stories anymore. It was more of what I believe in. My beliefs were causing me misery. And I had to create space around them. They were not wrong but they became limitations to what I can become. A lot of time was spent changing the self-talk I had around scenarios that triggered my anxiety.
I kept going through everyday with my mum by my side and life just kept getting untangled one step at a time. I don’t know whether mental illnesses are the work of evil spirits or not because that’s what my culture believes in, but I feel that regardless of what causes them, the modern medications and counselling do help out a lot. They don’t just take everything away in an instant but they make it easier for you to go through life everyday. Being on meds was a struggle too because I didn’t believe in taking meds for such things and I felt that they would do something to me. A year later, I am so glad I went on them because I wouldn’t be sitting here living my life normally today if I hadn’t. There were some people who didn’t support this decision of mine. But them too I will choose to ignore. I am on my journey and I will make the choices that I think are good for me. If you cannot support my choices, you have no business sitting here beside me.
Life has been interesting. I did go through a phase of side affects when my medication was changed for a month. That was another month of miserable experiences. I couldn’t sit still and couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. I didn’t know it was a side effect and I thought I was just getting worse. That caused me to worry about my health even more and I got depressed. Luckily, we got rid of that med and switched it to the one that previously worked. I think I was lucky to have people around me that always listened to what I was going through but I felt that, to some degree, even though people were trying to understand it, they didn’t. It’s ok though because I think it’s not something you can understand unless you go through it yourself. But I think the most annoying moment was when I was told that I can’t possibly spend all my life running back to home just because I was feeling this way. Seriously, if I had a physical illness like Cancer or something, every single person in my life would be sitting around me all day long but just because it’s to do with the mind, I have to somehow live upto the dream of dealing with all this shit on my own because apparently that’s what adults should do. I call that bullshit. If you are sick, you go home. That’s what you do. You don’t sit there pushing yourself into this shit that makes you believe you should go through tough times by yourself. I understand people can get tired of supporting you but saying that you have to learn to deal with your problems on your own is simply shocking. It is not a problem, it is an illness. It is not something that can be solved by making people feel that somehow they are supposed to take “responsibility” for how they are feeling. Are people made to feel responsible for having a heart attack or a broken leg or any physical illness for that matter? Things just happen! You don’t choose shit for yourself. It somehow just dumps itself on you. It’s just not your fault! Ignoring that though, I think my family was really supportive through it. My mother even researched different ways of treating anxiety and all.
Together, it took western medicine, chinese medicine, ayurveda, and support from family, friends and work to treat it all. I tried meds, acupunture, counselling, just talking, drinking milk mom made with all the strengthening-your-mind goodies, journalling and believing in God. My work had a great counsellor referral program which helped me find a counsellor that suited my needs. It took 2 events to send me down into a hell hole but it took many many people to bring me back to normal life. Today, I wake up, go to work, come back home, eat and sleep. I don’t feel like doing much every day but I go through life because I have to. I have thought about quitting and running away but quite honestly, it’s getting cold out there lol. I don’t think it’s a option. I think life should be lived in only one direction and that’s forward. What can you do today that will take a step forward rather than backwards? I think past is a series of events that always tries to pull you into a time that’s gone but it’s upto us to make the effort to let that hold become a little bit weaker. And all that effort doesn’t have to be made by you alone, it has to be made with the help of many many people, in fact, with the help of all the people you have ever met in your life. You don’t have to explain anything to anyone but in your mind you have to ask the whole world to unite together and heal you. I think that’s what I have learned from my experience. If there are really evil spirits irritated by their fate trying to take over your body, then there are also good spirits that can unite their power to help you break free from the shackles of those evil spirits.
Lastly, I only have one thing to say. May life be wonderful for you. May these terrible experiences like mine never cross your path. May you be happy and healthy. I think health is the most important factor in your life and if that’s gone, everything else disappears. I don’t know when people will understand mental illnesses better but a part of me hopes that they don’t have to because it’s something you have to go through to understand. There is a world of extremes and in that world, you don’t get a say. Your mind drives your life and what you have in your hand is simply a steering wheel that’s not attached to the car. The car is driving itself and you are on a ride. For a while, anyway.