In the depths of my stomach lies a dark spiky ball that causes debilitating things to happen to my body. It’s very existence alien but at the same time all too familiar. It can and does still rattle me to my very core. It is like a nasty presence waiting to drop by at unexpected times. Sometimes this mass grows until it succumbs my entire abdomen, suppressing my appetite and paralysing me to the very spot. It can hold me in its grasp, control and manipulate me, flashing frightening images and provoking scary thoughts. This mass can also creep up into my chest, deflate my lungs whilst I desperately grasp for air. It’s very presence delicately caressing every single part of me. It lets me know it’s there, that it’s in charge. It makes me feel woozy, makes my heart thud that bit quicker and louder. Makes me feel like I’m on the cusp of death, teasing me then slowly bringing me back to reality. My body reacts like it instinctively does when under attack. I can vomit and sweat profusely like a poison is flowing throw my veins and the body wants rid of it. It can take many forms, each as real and deforming as the next. This ball is not physical in appearance but is still very real. I’m not the only one to possess it but it is unique to each individual. Could it destroy me? Yes. Could it kill me? Yes. Is it all bad? No. I only started recognising its very existence a mere 15 years ago although being honest it made its presence known a long time before that. I don’t think I could properly articulate its meaning until I grew older. It is essentially a part of me now and can wain in and wain out at any given moment. The reason I can talk so openly about it is because I got to a certain stage whereby I acknowledge its existence but I do not let it succumb me entirely. Clinically it goes by the name Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Low Mood Disorder or in layman’s terms Anxiety and Depression. So how do I feel writing those two words that still carry a lot of stigma? Liberating, not only for me but for everybody else who suffers with mental illness.
In the past 15 years whilst readily acknowledging my mental illnesses, one thing I have learnt to be true is that there is no shame in being mentally ill. Ignorance and fear exists due to a lack of education. All this fuels the stigma. I am at the stage where I’m not afraid to be vocal about my experiences. I’m very aware that some people are not at the same stage as me and I know how truly frightening and real it is. I’ve been through a lot of treatment over the years both psychologically and medically. I’ve also made sense of things in my own head and even though it still exists in me, I no longer let it control me. I don’t ignore it but simply acknowledge it. I ride out the panic attacks and let them pass. I check in with myself and ask how I am really feeling. I take note of those subtle alarm bells going off in my body and put the skills I have learnt into place. Be it, reducing my triggers or checking in with my GP or mental health team.
Can I manage its existence all the time? No. I can still feel extremely low, think things that are completely irrational, cry until no more tears would come, howl from the pain in the pit of my stomach, push my loved ones away, be frightened to my core and contemplate my very existence and place in this world. I’ve dangled my feet at the point of no return. I’ve also felt the immense pain of loosing someone close to me to suicide. I’ve felt like I couldn’t go on. So I assume you are wondering why am I still here? Honestly there is simply no one definite answer. I suppose I’m here because I reached out for help and in that, I could start making sense of the whirlwind in my head and the numbness in my body. I also experienced something that I never thought I would, complete and utter joy. I had glimpses, small ones of light cracking through a dark crevice. I started to understand who I am and why I think and feel certain ways about things. I’ve met fellow humans each going through a variety of different forms of mental illness and realised that they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Talking in a safe and controlled environment with others feeling like I feel made me realise, I am not a monster, I am not a freak. Although I can still get those very bad days I no longer regret going through what I have. It’s made me the person I am today and you know what I’m happy with that person. So what if I express my emotions or am too “sensitive” or empathetic. I rather care too much than not care at all.
For anyone reading this who is all too familiar with that dark spiky ball, I am not here to dictate to you or tell you what to do. All I can simply say is I understand. I am true, living proof that things can get better and that there is another way out that doesn’t include ending your life. The right support is out there albeit requiring a bit of searching but there is some fantastic services available to us nowadays and stigma is being reduced. Don’t be ashamed of being you. Also don’t feel ashamed in feeling how you feel. Those feelings are very true and real. Be kind to yourself and to others as some people are fighting a gruelling fight each and everyday but have become experts at hiding it.