Conquering Brighton, Part 1: Oh God, What's Happening To Me?

Conquering Brighton, Part 1: Oh God, What's Happening To Me?

Panic attacks can be a permanent scar, and a visit to Brighton showed me this.
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[Trigger warning: discussion of anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation and suicidal ideation. Also, a note from the writer: I know such stories can fill those experiencing anxiety with dread; note that there's a happy ending in the next part of this story].

If I told you this beautiful, tranquil scene in Southeast England -- its rich warm colors and the astounding silhouettes created by an impressive sunset -- was what led to my worst experience of anxiety ever, would you believe me?

If you were an anxiety sufferer, you would scoff at me. “Of course,” you would say, perhaps recalling an incident yourself. “They can happen anywhere, at any time; stressed, or not. Sometimes they just seem so random, and you wonder why it even happened.”

But if you were not, it would seem strange. You may question how it could instigate a panic attack or any form of anxiety, really. How could something so serene have such an effect on a person?

I do not have an answer for you, even though I was the one who experienced it. As I write, I look back and still question why this scene seemed to fuel the anxiety I had experienced. Was it the intense exposure from the sunlight? Was it the oddity of the colors reflecting over the city that made me feel so uneasy? Did I just secretly hate the sun?

What I can tell you is that it was not odd that it happened. I had been experiencing a lot of stress at school, leading to my being home-schooled to avoid the daily sickness and dread I felt for no reason. I was avoiding with my problems instead of facing them.

Do not get me wrong: facing one's fears is not an easy task. I did what many did in a situation that scared them; I escaped from it.

But this did not help at all.

Imagine a stack of cards; something really nice. It is not that stable, to begin with, but it still manages to make itself stand tall as much as it can. Now, imagine someone comes over there with a hammer and literally beats the shit out of it; just giving it a really good demonstration of physics. The paper cards are crumpled and ruined, and an attempt to put it back together fails because the cards are bent out of shape.

This was my first experience of a panic attack. When it finally happened -- something I had never experienced before -- it shook the foundations of my existence. I wanted to put myself back together, but I could not.

What made it worse was that it happened in my place of solace; my room. Before, if the world had proven too stressful, I could at least know that here I was safe and free from the nervousness that latched onto me outside.

But, as I sat there one day, my mind exploded. Suddenly, my head was amassed with a surge of dizziness and confusion, and my heart pulsated as I tried to comprehend what the fuck was going on. I threw myself onto my bed, as an onslaught of thoughts filled my mind. They kept flowing, and they would not stop; some of them demanding I question my existence, the others telling me I was dying and others that I should kill myself.

As I clenched my head between my hands, the only beacon of light was to think of my sister. I saw her smiling over the horrific thoughts that filled my mind, and I remembered how much I cared for her. I knew that I had to stay alive, for her.

Love won the battle, and the commotion stopped, but I had changed. As I returned to my seat, there was a weird barrier that separated me and the screen. An attempt to look at it made my mind foggy and blip as if there was a sort of glitch in my head.

This experience did not go away, and this was unfortunately not the last time it would happen.

On the pier of the quirky city of Brighton, during the magnificent sunset, my mind once again exploded. As I looked around at the scene cast in a beautiful orange glow, unreality took over. Time moved oddly; my awareness of the walk back to our hotel was sketchy and missing its parts. I recall seeing myself in the reflection of a bus’s glass, a neutral glare staring back. The world looked flat, and I felt nothing.

I hoped it would be temporary, but it was not. Existence itself had become unreal. Experiencing the world made my mind foggy, and I felt like I lived behind a pane of glass. Going outside really did not fare well with my mind, and it made me constantly want to escape. I could no longer focus on conversations, returning to my mind; the hideous thoughts of my panic attack returning, making me question who I was, what the world was and why any of it mattered.

I could no longer look in the mirror. This was not an emotional metaphor: there was a literal separation between myself and the person that looked back. Attempts to do so made the feeling of unease and confusion return.

There were times when I would get incredibly depressed for a few moments, my mind filling with notions of my existence being false. I could not escape this, and so I would wait it out. Eventually, it would go away, but they would be a permanent stain on my cognition. I would fear their return throughout the day because they would always return.

Leaping ahead to late 2016, I found I would be returning to Brighton. My original experience, the memories that were still lodged in my mind, resurfaced. My anxiety was already significantly conquered from that period of time a few years back, but I was still nervous. I knew I would fare better (and I did)… but this was where it happened. This was where I had lost control.

It is surprising how something so distant can still create such fear.

End of Part 1.
Cover Image Credit: Robert Wheatley

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Bailey Posted A Racist Tweet, But That Does NOT Mean She Deserves To Be Fat Shamed

As a certified racist, does she deserve to be fat shamed?
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This morning, I was scrolling though my phone, rotating between Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Snapchat again, ignoring everyone's snaps but going through all the Snapchat subscription stories before stumbling on a Daily Mail article that piqued my interest. The article was one about a teen, Bailey, who was bullied for her figure, as seen on the snap below and the text exchange between Bailey and her mother, in which she begged for a change of clothes because people were making fun of her and taking pictures.

Like all viral things, quickly after her text pictures and harassing snaps surfaced, people internet stalked her social media. But, after some digging, it was found that Bailey had tweeted some racist remark.

Now, some are saying that because Bailey was clearly racist, she is undeserving of empathy and deserves to be fat-shamed. But does she? All humans, no matter how we try, are prejudiced in one way or another. If you can honestly tell me that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect after a brief first impression, regardless of the state of their physical hygiene or the words that come out of their mouth, either you're a liar, or you're actually God. Yes, she tweeted some racist stuff. But does that mean that all hate she receives in all aspects of her life are justified?

On the other hand, Bailey was racist. And what comes around goes around. There was one user on Twitter who pointed out that as a racist, Bailey was a bully herself. And, quite honestly, everyone loves the downfall of the bully. The moment the bullies' victims stop cowering from fear and discover that they, too, have claws is the moment when the onlookers turn the tables and start jeering the bully instead. This is the moment the bully completely and utterly breaks, feeling the pain of their victims for the first time, and for the victims, the bully's demise is satisfying to watch.

While we'd all like to believe that the ideal is somewhere in between, in a happy medium where her racism is penalized but she also gets sympathy for being fat shamed, the reality is that the ideal is to be entirely empathetic. Help her through her tough time, with no backlash.

Bullies bully to dominate and to feel powerful. If we tell her that she's undeserving of any good in life because she tweeted some racist stuff, she will feel stifled and insignificant and awful. Maybe she'll also want to make someone else to feel as awful as she did for some random physical characteristic she has. Maybe, we might dehumanize her to the point where we feel that she's undeserving of anything, and she might forget the preciousness of life. Either one of the outcomes is unpleasant and disturbing and will not promote healthy tendencies within a person.

Instead, we should make her feel supported. We all have bad traits about ourselves, but they shouldn't define us. Maybe, through this experience, she'll realize how it feels to be prejudiced against based off physical characteristics. After all, it is our lowest points, our most desperate points in life, that provide us with another perspective to use while evaluating the world and everyone in it.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter / Bailey

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Managing Anxiety In College

It's harder than we think.

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We've officially hit the point in the semester where everyone feels like they are hanging on by a thread. Finals are coming up way too soon, and not everyone knows whether or not they'll make it through their classes. Most of us are forgetting how to breathe under the pressure. Seeing as it's my first semester in college, I never realized the toll this can take if you forget to take care of yourself.

Grades are only a tiny portion of the craziness we see in college, but at times, they seem to be the primary source of our stress. Personally, I have a few of my own signs of stress and anxiety to look out for. Sometimes, I might forget to eat. I'll struggle to feel like I'm getting enough sleep, and I'll feel like I'm starting to get sick. These things may seem minuscule at a first glance, but over time, they can cause your body to deteriorate.

As the year and semester come to a close, I encourage all my fellow college students to schedule time out of each day to breathe. In a few week's time, many of us on campus now will be back home, sleeping in way comfier beds, eating legitimate food, and possibly celebrating holidays with our families. No matter what your plans for the break may be, use the New Year as an opportunity to grant yourself another fresh start.

Remember, the late night cramming sessions are only going to be a small portion of the college experience we remember years from now. Before we know it, we'll all have left college and found our own paths in life, and some of us might even be sending off our own kids to a University of their choosing.

By then, we'll forget the anxieties surrounding individual classes ever carried the weight of the world.

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