When I was in 5th grade, I had my first anxiety attack. I sat in church, looked around at the rows of pews searching for an exit even though I knew exactly where one was. In my clouded state of being, here I was unable to find my breath and the ability the focus on what Father was saying. My stomach in knots and hands dripping with sweat, I longed for the very moment when the bell would signal the end of school and I could slip quietly into my house.
For years, I wrestled with anxiety and depression. I let a good portion of my social life as a child give in to the debilitating side effects of becoming agoraphobic and paranoid. I hated everything about my mental state and wondered if I’d always be prisoner to the vicious cycle of waking up happy and crashing by breakfast. I don’t think anyone REALLY understood what I felt other than my mom and my aunt. My dad would ask, “What’s wrong with?” in a genuinely concerned way, but it wasn’t like I could put my emotions into words. Mental illness was not something my father and his family talked about.
When I was 25, I hit that same mental wall again which most of you are already aware of the story. Bad breakup. Self loathing. Little confidence. Lack of self worth. And don’t forget, I was certain zombies were coming to get me, and I was conserving water and not eating because I needed to stop climate change. I would wake up at night just to look outside to make sure the world was still there.
I hate to say it, but the same kind of obsessive thinking is back. Over the last two weeks, I have felt the pain of the world as a highly sensitive person (HSP) and a general listlessness toward things that should make me happy. I’m not back to how I was when I was initially diagnosed with depression, but I’m recognizing the patterns that turned up nearly 4 years ago.
It starts slowly, a trigger of some kind that I have zero control over like an event or comment not quite directed at me but I still feel like fire. Perhaps one with no sign of a mental illness would feel bad about such scenarios for an hour or a day. No, I obsess. I curate elaborate reasons as to why I’m at fault, why I’m to blame. I hang my head in shame because my logical brain says, “Oh, seriously??” while the other side of my brain says, “You are terrible. You will be fired from your job. You will live on food stamps. People hate you.”
So yeah, the last two weeks have been anything BUT enjoyable. I don’t answer my phone (unless it is 1 of 5 people). I sleep through my alarm because I’m mentally exhausted from talking to myself all night. I look at my work in my office and think, “This means nothing. I’ll do it later.”
But then, I start to grow tired of Depressed Me. Yoga can only do so much for my anxiety, so I opt for runs on the treadmill, and after a splendid 4.2 miles I’m feeling OK. Like feeling is coming back into my limbs. So I start to journal and get my head cleared of all the cobwebs that have been hanging in corners for the last several weeks. I ask myself questions like, “How can I look at things more positively?” And I pay attention to all the little things: a smile from my barista, something silly my boyfriend texts me, an email from my mom of an image of Buddha meditating on a quiet lake.
So much to live for yet it always important to acknowledge the low points. I did that for two weeks and I’ll probably hit another low. It comes with the territory, I suppose. But I am alive. With hand to chest, I am breathing. I am slowly putting one foot in front of the other.
I am bouncing back.