A bit of background to what you’re about to read. I wrote it on Monday night, having had a bad day and a terrible evening. I’d taken the two weeks of mid-semester break completely off from uni work or anything else that couldn’t be considered holiday time. It was a mental health break, and I needed it. Come Monday though, it was time to get back into my studies, which I had deliberately not thought about for a fortnight.
I suddenly realised how much I had to do over the next few weeks, and didn’t know where to begin; consequently, I wound up having a bad day and a terrible evening. After dinner on Monday night I went to the gym, where I spent all of ten minutes working out before I started feeling even worse than I’d had before. I had to leave. I hadn’t felt this low, anxious and angry in such a long time. As soon as I got home I sat down at my computer, opened WordPress and started aggressively typing.
I contemplated deleting this and pretending like it never happened, but I’ve decided against that. I’m going to be brave and share it with you. It shows a very vulnerable, unhappy and unstable version of me, but I think it’s important (if scary) to put that side of me out there for everyone to see. Why? Because it’s real. It’s honest. It’s a glimpse into the mind of someone in the middle of a full-on anxiety attack, something that’s so often swept under the rug (even on this blog!).
I want to show other people who suffer from anxiety that they’re not alone. And I want to show people who don’t really know that much about mental illness that this is what it’s like. Say what you will, I’m proud of my decision to upload this post. (Importantly, I want everyone reading this to know that on Tuesday morning I woke up feeling a million times better and the rest of my week went really well. My head was clear and my mental state was good. I’m very much fine now.)
The following is everything I wrote on Monday night, unedited and unchanged.
September 7th, 2015.
I tiptoe around the words ‘anxiety’ and ‘panic attack’. I try to say them bravely, without flinching, like this is who I am and I refuse to be ashamed of it. But deep down I’m always cringing a little. Still. And I’m not proud of that. But that’s me. This is who I am. I am that kid with an anxiety disorder! I am that kid who has panic attacks! It’s not all I am, make no mistake. But it’s a part of who I am, and it colours nearly everything I do. Maybe not as much now as when I was really bad, but still, it does. And it probably always will do.
But fuck, why am I still afraid of even admitting that out loud? It’s okay here, when I can sit behind the screen and type the words and feel safe because no-one’s looking at me, not really. And if you’re judging me, I can’t tell. So I’m not affected by it. And that’s fine. But in real life, I feel so ashamed. I feel so insecure. I feel like I should be more. Like I should be better by now. Why am I still ill? That frustrates me so fucking much sometimes. Most of the time I’m pretty good at pushing it down and ignoring it. But not tonight. Tonight it’s bursting out of me.
This is me, unedited and honest and frank. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish it. I hope I do, because you guys, the people who read this, deserve to see it. I deserve to show it to you. Because this is mental illness, guys. It’s not just recovery and being an inspiration and medication fixing everything and conquering my problems. This is the ugly side of mental illness. The very real side. It does horrible things to you. It makes you do horrible things, to yourself and to other people. And sometimes I don’t want to fucking hide it.
Because my anxiety did horrible things to me.
It made me stay up until 2, 3am working with shaking hands and a half-drunk bottle of wine near my fingertips because I couldn’t sleep until it was done.
It made me get so drunk at parties that I couldn’t stand on my own, because everything was too loud and scary and the alternative was running off by myself into the botanical gardens and god knows what happening to me there.
It made me not sleep at all that one awful night when I had waves of panic from midnight to eight the next morning.
It made me afraid of everything. Of leaving the house. Of nighttime. Of having to sleep. Of doing the fucking dishes.
One time I had a panic attack when I got into the shower because the water was hotter than I was expecting.
I hated myself. I hated my mind and my body because they were waging war against me, a battle I was very ill-equipped to fight.
So this is me. The side of me you’ve seen so far on my blogs, she’s me too. But she’s the polished, professional, edited version of me. This is me unedited on a Monday night, tired and stressed and shaking and maybe a little bit tipsy because for the first time in over a year I’m drinking on my own to try and drown out that feeling of fear and the overwhelming torrent of thoughts. And this is what I want people to know:
Mental illness is not a fucking joke.
It’s real, and it fucking sucks, and I’d do so much to be rid of mine for good.
It’s scary even thinking about posting this. Close friends read my blog. My family reads my blog. I want those people to think I’m strong and capable and put-together. I don’t want them to see this side of me. But at the same time, I want this side of me to be seen. I want people to see and to know what anxiety can do to a person. What it has done to me.
People need to understand. Mental illness is not something I would wish on anyone. It claims lives. It makes other lives a living hell. And that’s without all the stigma surrounding them. Sometimes I just get so tired and I can’t keep pushing through anymore. I need a break. I feel like I’m wading upstream and the current is so fucking strong, and most of the time that’s okay, most of the time I’m stronger than it is, but sometimes I just get so tired and my muscles won’t work anymore and I just would rather it sweep me away.
That’s what this is.
And is that going to be the rest of my life?
Sometimes it seems impossible. This recovery thing. Sometimes it seems like no matter what I do, how hard I try, how much help I seek, I’m never going to be better. At the start of the year I was so filled with energy and excitement and happiness. Right now all I feel is drained. I guess that’s the way it goes.
To those of you who are close to me, my friends and family: I’m sorry if this hurts to read. I’m sorry if it sucks because this is the most you’ve ever heard about the reality of living with panic disorder. I’m sorry if it sucks to hear that I’ve had a bad night.
But I’m not sorry for having a bad night.
That’s not on me. I didn’t set out to bring myself down. In fact, I work so hard to ensure the opposite. The cold reality is that if I was made of weaker mettle I wouldn’t be here typing these words right now.
And that’s not on me. Through the luck of the draw, there’s something chemically wrong with my brain. And this is the result. I get an anxiety disorder, and I have to deal with that. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I didn’t do anything not to deserve it. It’s just how the cookie crumbled. And that’s fine.
But don’t you dare think I’m not strong. Don’t you dare read this and think, she’s just complaining about nothing, she’s so weak, she has such an amazing life and she’s not even grateful for it. Don’t you dare. Because I’ve been through so much fucking shit, okay? And I’m still fucking here. You might not understand what that means, but to me that means everything. I’m a fighter. I’m a warrior. Even on the dark nights like this one, I’m fighting. In fact, I would argue that this is when I’m fighting my hardest.
So don’t you dare think I’m not strong. I’m one of the strongest people I know.