Trigger Warning: This article consists details about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which may be triggering for some readers.
I should tell you that this article is not merely a piece of writing that I thought of putting out on the internet; this write-up is me, trying desperately to claw out of the infinite spiral that I am falling into. This is a cry for help.
In case you are not one of the few people who know ― I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder formed by persisting traumatic events. The beautiful thing about a mental illness is that it is not a literal, grey cloud over my head (though I could really use that in this outrageous Indian summer) but effectively it may seem almost invisible through a third-person point of view. My PTSD is more than just me repeating “Sorry. I have bad anxiety.” to everyone I know, going to therapy or writing to spread awareness about mental health.
My mental illness really is ― not getting out of the house for fifteen days in a row, crying in the middle of a crowded street when I am triggered, sleeping for 13 hours straight or barely at all, and skipping meal after meal and over-thinking every response, sound and situation.
Now before you start picturing me in a dark house, with eyeliner-streaked-tears streaming down my cheeks and Radiohead’s Creep playing in the background, let me stop you ― mental illness is not black and white like that. I am a person who attends regular therapy sessions and is on daily medication. More days than not I am a productive, creative woman constantly engaging in art, making travel plans and dancing around the living room while I drink my tea.
“Well then what do you mean ― are you okay, are you not?” you may ask, my imaginary second-half of the conversation. I think Sabrina Benaim explained it quite perfectly in her poem, Explaining My Depression To My Mother, when she wrote ― “My depression is a shapeshifter. One day it’s as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear; the next it’s a bear.”
I am on a medication called Lorazepam, which is a mood-stabilizer. Now I think you would relate when I say that as soon as I was prescribed this medicine I thought, “Finally my anxiety and depression will be gone! WOOHOO!” But that, apparently, is a completely unrealistic expectation, like thinking a shot of insulin will eradicate diabetes from your system. After a lot of my questioning, my psychiatrist went on to explain that the job of the medication is not to vanish all of my “undesirable” moods, but to lengthen the time in between my mood-swings. Which is a helpful short-term solution while I work on the long-term solutions in therapy. So here I am after three weeks of “I’m doing great!” to “I am falling into this familiar rut of overwhelming nothingness.” And it is so, so, so difficult.
I have been trying to write just anything for more than a month now and every time I switch on my laptop to write, I fall short of breath while my hands form fists and hover on the keyboard. So here I am struggling through it to do what I love the most ― Create! Even if that means getting real and writing about how miserable my mental illness is making me in the moment. Even if that means trying to unsee my roommate, Anxiety, sitting next to me and repeating “Look at me! look at me! look at me!” while I try to jot down my thoughts at 2am.
This piece or writing may seem like it is for the rigidly ignorant lot or the curious, compassionate ones who want to read more about mental health to become more informed and aware; and it might as well serve to provide awareness but this one, is for the ones suffering from anxiety, depression or any other mental illness that affects every day of their lives. After all, I have found the most comfort from reading another’s perspective on their own struggles and knowing for sure that I am not alone in this, because it often feels like it.
If you are someone who suffers from a mental illness ― I do not know your exact feelings, thoughts and what you are going through but I assure you that they are valid and you have every right to feel compulsive, anxious, paranoid, numb or whatever it is that you are feeling. I know it is hard to explain when people ask you “What’s wrong?”. It is hard to get out of bed or to fake smiles when you feel like collapsing. I understand there are days you let the messages pile up, brush your teeth at 7pm, cry in the shower or don’t shower at all. Please know that every little thing you manage to do is victory, even the half a glass of water that you drank today. It does feel like the end of the world right now but the beautiful truth is that, it is not the end. You will get through this like I will get through this, I promise you. Make yourself another cup of coffee, light a couple, scented candles or maybe listen to that song you once loved so much! Make sure to give yourself all the love on your way to better days, dear reader. I will meet you at the end of this tunnel!