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Some days my mind is as clear as a midsummer's sky and some days it’s simply jet black. Today, it’s a spectrum of grey.
Anxiety - it's a complex illness and if you hadn't guessed by this point, it's something I have suffered from for numerous years now, something that to this day I still hate to admit. That's one of the main issues with anxiety and mental health sufferers in general - we're the worst victim blamers around. I've spent much of my time suffering from mental ill-health being fearful of how people will perceive me, because when you can only see the madness within yourself how on earth can you expect another person to view you any differently?
Somehow in this supposed progressive society the process of anxiety is continually stigmatised, you're simply considered 'crazy' or 'attention-seeking' for your mental health disorder. People seem to deeply struggle with the concept that a person can be suffering so intensely even if the pain can't be witnessed visually. But when I'm 20 minutes deep in a panic attack, scratching my body to pieces because I am covered head to toe in rashes or vomiting from a recent episode, I am reminded that anxiety fractures my physical body in the same complex way it does my mind.
My earliest memory of my anxiety stems from being about 11 years old. I didn’t have the worst time possible growing up, but certain people definitely didn’t make my high school years an easy experience. In fact, the only thing I ever gained from a therapy session was the simple realization that the reason I had fear induced so deeply within me was due to the fear I would relentlessly feel walking in to school every morning, causing me to subsequently question every action I made in later life. Anxiety appeared in bursts for the years that followed, coming and going like the seasons and fluctuating in severity each time.
Anxiety appeared without warning and frequently without reason. Because that's the issue with anxiety, it has no face, it is a coward that lurks in the darkest corners of even the strongest of souls. Anxiety is the thing that stops me from feeling like I can go to class but of course I can't just write an email that says 'Hi Sir, sorry Sir, my brain doesn't want to function properly today' so I paint my face and tackle the day ahead disguising my deepest fears with a velvet teddy lipstick. But if I were to have had a headache I wouldn’t have minded writing ‘Hi Sir, sorry Sir, my migraine just won’t go away Sir’ so why is it that the pain in my chest and the shaking in my legs doesn’t justify itself as reason enough to not make it in to class today? Anxiety is what forces me to cancel plans with friends. Anxiety is what prevents me from making a phone call. Anxiety is sleepless nights. Anxiety is constant doubt. Anxiety is all-consuming fear. Anxiety stems from nothing. Anxiety stems from everything.
It manifests itself differently in every single person it affects, it can lead you to do crazy things in a way to maintain the panic you are feeling. I have been my own worst enemy in my formative years, abusing my body in ways that simply weren’t healthy in order to externalize the pain I was feeling. The most fundamental thing I have learned in my time dealing with this mental illness is to find a healthy way to express the anxiety that consumes you, and that’s exactly how I have come to writing this. Because the only way for me to truly externalise my thoughts is by putting pen to paper in a way to understand and more importantly, accept anxiety. I've learnt to appreciate that while my fears may be irrational, it doesn't make them any less real. If one can accept their own illness, then hopefully it can normalise the concept of it to those that surround them.
Remarkably, I'm actually managing my anxiety the best I have in years - but on days like today when the shadows creep back in to my mind I'm reminded that anxiety is something that cannot simply be recovered from, it will always be with you and it will be a battle I will face for the rest of my life. But it is something I will fight and will never let win.
The storm will no longer have the strength to knock you when you become the force of nature yourself.