TW,: ANXIETY, MENTAL HEALTH
Odyssey recognizes that mental well-being is a huge component of physical wellness. Our mission this month is to bring about awareness & normality to conversations around mental health from our community. Let's recognize the common symptoms and encourage the help needed without judgement or prejudice. Life's a tough journey, we are here for you and want to hear from you.
One relationship that is hard to disclose is that between one and their mind. Over the years I have always had an interest in Mental health and illness. It wasn't until my shoes were filled with anxiety and depression that I didn't want anything to do with mental health. You don't realize there's a problem until your world is crashing inside of you rather than around you. When is the point, where it all gets too much? When the world comes crashing down. When everything pauses. When you lose yourself?
Looking back to where I was, it's scary. I can say those few months were consumed by my lowest lows. During some of those moments, it felt like the world was crashing around me.
It wasn't until the late fall of 2019 I realized I needed to stop pushing my mental health aside and acknowledge that a "normal" person doesn't make themselves sick before every presentation or competition. A "normal" person doesn't shake uncontrollably when they get nervous or spooked. A "normal" person doesn't bottle everything up, hide things from people they are supposed to trust and then in a snap of a finger break into a million pieces. But what is normal?
It had been years. I had kept all these overwhelming feelings to myself. I didn't want to burden anyone. I believed I could fix these feelings on my own.
Turns out I bit off more than I could chew.
I began to lose myself; I didn't find joy in things that used to bring me a natural high. My emotions were uncontrolled. I would cry and cry until my body had no more tears.
Waking up every morning from a night of insomnia. Lucky to sleep for more than two hours. My body was exhausted, my brain was wired with overthinking thoughts.
Tossing & Turning.
This became my new normal. Exhausted, triggered by any little thing. That's what a lack of sleep does to a person. Not only do sleepless nights make a person irritable it makes everything more difficult. My brain was filled with fog and of course my normal overwhelming thoughts.
Sleepless nights turned into baggy eyes and a lack of motivation.
My gears in my brain were constantly turning, grinding.
Thoughts that didn't matter. Thoughts filled my head of what I was going to do the next day. The thought of if I was going to go to class, do my schoolwork, or even make it through the day. These thoughts were overwhelming. This ongoing feeling of thought was so intense that it affected almost everything I did. From going to class, and getting food, talking to people, and voicing my opinion.
I was falling behind in my classes. I barely went to class. I'd rather lay in bed numb to the world.
If I didn't see the world, the world didn't see me... right?
Every day it was a battle, and most times my anxiety won. There was always a persistent feeling that crept around in the back of my mind. The best way that I can explain this feeling is as if the world around me is constricting, intensified. My brain cannot keep up with the world around me. At times, I can look in the mirror and not recognize the person looking back at me. It's distorted, messy, and free-falling.
It's all just a blur.
That's what anxiety does to a person; it feeds them all these self-consuming thoughts. Until one day those thoughts are the only thing in your life that is happening. Your life revolves around anxiety, it controls you.
This normal I was building my life around would one day kill me.
When I realized I had an issue; anxiety had already been in my life for quite a while. It was just very low-key and I could always push past the overwhelming thoughts. Anxiety made me a ball of stress. I began chewing my nails, not noticing how far I had gone until my fingertips were bleeding. My stomach churned constantly. My hair was falling out in clumps.
In the short few months of autumn, my sickness took over me. I wasn't eating, because tears of 24/7 filled me up. I wasn't socializing because my anxiety told me I was weird. I wasn't enjoying school. I wasn't enjoying my passions which brought me to school. I wasn't living, I was just there.
The daily vomiting, panic attacks, tears, and sleepless nights made me realized that my new normal wasn't okay.
As a practically healthy 18-year-old, this shouldn't be my new normal.
My body was falling apart, my mind was screaming for help. I just allowed things to pile up and keep all my worries inside. I didn't want to burden anybody with my problems. I didn't want anyone to know I was struggling. Apparently my ego was more important to me than my overall well-being. Hiding my struggles behind fake smiles and excuses.
My mind screamed for help but my mouth turned the key, locked those thoughts inside my head, and threw away the key.
My mother wanted me to see someone. This concern made me feel overwhelmed. This meant someone noticed I wasn't the same and something was going on that I was hiding.
An appointment got scheduled, but later canceled. So, I continued to suffer in silence with my inner demons.
My first public panic attack… was a turning point in my journey with anxiety. It was the first time my thoughts had pushed me over the edge. I was free-falling into a mess that I had created. It was the first time my body shut down to the point I couldn't control myself. My heart began racing… pounding. In a full face of makeup, I was crumbling. My world crashing, my mascara smearing.
I was practically in the fetal position, rocking back and forth. I could not focus on the world around me. The colors around began to mesh together. Between the tears flowing out of my eyes and the world becoming a blur around me, I was crashing.
My heart pounded so loudly that my eardrums were overwhelmed with their persistent rhythm. Typically, I could push through this feeling, but that day was different. I had let everything pile up inside until I exploded in a pool of my own panic.
The bathroom floor was cold from the mornings' brisk fall air. I sat there rocking back and forth. My mother barged into the bathroom; she had seen me dart into the damp dark room. My coat was being used as a tissue to soak up all my built-up emotions. I unleashed everything that had been manifesting.
Sobbing, as I had just lost the most important thing in my life…
I was crashing.
After this incident that's when my mom said enough is enough. She demanded I get help, from some outside source. I needed somebody to help me because I couldn't continue to "help" myself.
My lifestyle of constantly being overwhelmed and anxious had consumed everything. I didn't know how to live any other way. Overthinking was scheduled into my life, consuming every minute I had in my day.
It was time for a change.
My first step in the healing process was to admit that I had an anxiety disorder. The first few months of this journey sucked. The journey of acknowledging that anxiety is normal was hard. I still wanted to fight this battle by myself, and obviously, I couldn't. I didn't know how to fight me for me.
I had to realize that it is OKAY to not be OKAY. Every day I had to work on the part of me that I had kept hidden for so many years. That these feelings are normal, that so many of my peers fight this self-damaging disorder too. I'm not alone. I learned small ways to help ME get through the day. Taking time for myself, rewarding the little things.
This is the part of the story in which I could say that I won the battle between myself and my anxiety but I would be lying. I just learned how to even the playing field. It's a constant dogfight.
A constant battle.
When Mental Health Awareness month rolled around in May, I was finally happy with myself and my opponent. During May, someone reached out to me if I could share a piece about mental health. To be honest, I wasn't going to do it, I didn't think anyone would want to hear my perspective but, I sent something in anyways.
I see mental health as a rolling mountain. There are good days when you feel like you are on top of the world. Days that you can accomplish anything be everything. Then there days that you're in a valley that seems like you can never reach the top. To get to the peak of the mountain you must go through the valleys. Every bad day can help create a week of goods. It's okay to have days where your mental illness "wins".
Some days your mental illness wins and you just have to learn how to bite back.
For the first time in my life, I'm fighting for myself.
The tricky thing about mental illness is that it's naked to the human eye. So, remember you are not the only one who needs a little help getting through the day.