Conquering Brighton, Part 2: Recovery and Catharsis

Conquering Brighton, Part 2: Recovery and Catharsis

Sometimes, revisiting a place that once caused a lot of pain can truly be liberating.
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[Trigger warning: discussion of anxiety, panic attacks, and dissociation].

My sister knew I was nervous.

As we drove to Brighton, I felt slightly on edge. I was irritable, and I knew this was because I was anxious. As we emerged from the parking lot and onto the high street, I felt the presence of the fog. As we walked down to our hotel, memories of the streets and my dissociation emerged, but I could handle them. They were not unpleasant like they used to be.

As it turned out, we were at the same hotel as last time. I remembered the lobby, where the anxiety used to start as we left the hotel for the day. I remembered the rooms and its bathroom, the place I recalled looking at my hands that had then felt so disconnected from my body. This was the past; I remembered where I was now, and how far I had come.

We settled in for the night, and the next day we went to the center of the city. Perhaps fitting for such dull, gloomy weather, I was a little disappointed to find the fog creeping back, as well as the memories of how flat the world had felt during my anxiety episode.

I was still on edge. As I looked around, the world felt a bit unreal, as if my mind felt like it was looking through glasses with the wrong prescription. As we walked down different streets, I kept thinking about how I had felt as I walked home from the pier five years ago; how fake it all felt, like I was in a dream. I was a little disappointed, but more so afraid. What if it actually happened again?

It was then that I decided to react differently.

That’s OK, I thought. I did not fight it. I did not allow the memories or anxiety I experienced to root themselves. I accepted I felt that way, and I moved on. It was oddly empowering: I had learned not to care so much about the symptoms of anxiety I experienced at times, and here it was paying off.

We even went to the pier, where the panic attack had happened. I got on with my day, and eventually no longer paid attention to the feelings and thoughts. I felt my anxiety lessen, and I managed to focus on the world around me.

The thing is, this was not a new ability for me: I had learned to not pay attention to the symptoms. Previously, in my own confusing and private experience, these feelings of dissociation and dread that I constantly felt were all I could focus on.

But that was five years ago.

When you learn to understand something -- an entity that previously controlled you, in this case -- it loses its effect.

Having a mental health problem now is an entirely different ball game but in a good way. It is often like playing an MMO and playing the tutorial level, fighting the same enemies, although this time the experience you have and your big fuck-off sword destroys these enemies in a few hits.

As my medication kicked in, as I socialized more, as I forced myself to do everything I was uncomfortable doing, I saw the fog that surrounded me fading. After a while, it went away. There are still bumps in the road at times -- that is inevitable, but I know when it emerges I know how to not let it bother me. Anxiety is no longer the monster I cannot beat.

So when I returned to Brighton, it was actually cathartic. It was me accepting that something that had originally torn me apart was now no longer able to do that. I knew visiting again would be stressful, but I had no idea it would be so liberating. It showed me just how far I had come.

The irritating thing about anxiety is just how much it can make you fear something, even if it is irrational to others. For a brief period of time, I was afraid to look at television screens because looking at them seemed to drive my anxiety wild. I was afraid to shower because I knew that when I closed my eyes, my head would run wild with existential thoughts. This is what anxiety does to you, and unless you have experienced it, explaining it is incredibly difficult.

But it does get better. A few years ago, I recall myself breaking down in tears, hopelessly desiring that I would feel better, that it would all just go away. At this point in time, I faced a glass wall; I could see the other side, the side I had once been on, and desperately wanted to get back there.

What it took for me was medication, therapy, time and exposure to help me break through. For another person’s recovery, they might need something else. Maybe medication does not work out and therapy alone is the answer. Maybe it is both, or neither; that is OK. But never forget that the glass wall can always be broken.

I have gone from being home-schooled, afraid to venture out into the world, to a university student that works and studies in the United States. I have come a long, long way. Recovery from mental illness is hard, but with the right support, it can be done. I am proof.

Cover Image Credit: Robert Wheatley

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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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I'm The Girl Who'll Never See Eye-To-Bleary-Eye With Mornings OR Morning People

Mornings suck... or do I suck at mornings? But, lets be honest, no one likes the sound of their alarm in the morning.

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7:10 a.m... BEEP BEEP BEEP... my alarm goes off for my 7:30 a.m. shift.

*Hits snooze*

7:15 a.m... BEEP BEEP BEEP... my alarm goes off again. In my head "It takes me about 10 minutes to drive to work, so I guess that it means it is time to drag myself out of bed."

I know this is not just because my customers will not walk through the door with a smile and happy comments unless they have had at least two cups of coffee.

So, why do we do this to ourselves?

I mean yeah, there are some people who are exceptions and actually like and thrive in the morning but most people my age have a rough time in the morning. They even tell you going into college, "Don't schedule an 8 a.m. because you will never go." Sometimes it is even hard for me to get out of bed for an 11 a.m.

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On a normal day:

When 7:30 a.m. hits, I look at the clock and realize I still have a few hours left and curl up in my blanket for some more pillow time.

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Finally, at 11:00 a.m. I am fully functioning but still, on some days you might catch me with a sour look on my face because I still do not want to be up.

Is this all just me? Or is it the majority of people... the world may never know. All I know is that morning sucks and I have no idea why they are even a thing.

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