TRIGGER WARNING: ANXIETY
The air around me is getting heavier, it’s as if all the oxygen has been used up and there is barely anything left for me to breathe. For some reason, there is a sense of impending doom, like everything that can, will go wrong. There’s a rhythmic sound I hear, like someone is violently beating the drum and I realise it’s my heart. There’s a lump in my throat, formed by hearing the words coming out of an inconsiderate mouth and it slowly consumes me. “It’s fine, it will pass”, is all I can tell my brain but it doesn’t seem to listen; instead it decides to fixate on words I know are supposed to be “just a joke”.
I remember I read somewhere that if you think of five things you can touch, four things you can see, and so on, all of this will stop; but what am I supposed to do if the only thing I can think of is that I’m not good enough. After what feels like a lifetime, I can finally breathe and my mind slows down and now that I think about it, the cause of all this would seem quite silly to an outsider.
What I just described above was an anxiety attack. Anxiety is a mental health disorder which can lead to various physical symptoms in a person, such as a pounding heart, difficulty in breathing and even gastro-intestinal issues, when triggered. The triggers may vary from person to person, and could even be something as trivial as commenting on someone’s haircut. A general misconception is that having anxiety just means ‘worrying too much’, but it is so much more than that; it interferes with your ability to efficiently perform day to day chores. It is an actual medical condition which needs to be addressed, instead of being brushed under the carpet .
However, in spite of it being an extremely painful process and something I would want to work on, it has actually made me grow a lot as a person. It has taught me how to be kinder and more considerate, how even the smallest things you do could have a major impact and how differently everyone’s brains work. Five years ago, I wouldn’t mind laughing at a mild, good old fashioned roast of a friend, but now, I make sure I know it’s not something they’re already struggling with.
Once you go through it yourself, you truly begin to understand how hard it is, to just stop yourself from spiralling over that one sentence again and again. It has helped me empathise with others in a way I didn’t know I could. It’s hard for people who don’t struggle with things like these to fathom how a small comment or a slightly uncomfortable situation can make a person feel like they’re choking, and I know that because that’s what I thought until one day I was the one who was gasping for breath. What everyone needs to understand is that not everyone has the same thought process and not everyone can just brush off ‘roasts’, and most importantly, what everyone needs to do is, be kind to people. Once you start putting yourself in people’s shoes, you’ll see a whole new world.
Then again, this is not me romanticising a mental disorder, it is far from it. Just because it has made me a better person in one small aspect, doesn’t mean that it’s all sunshine and roses. I still get jitters when placing an order, still feel strangers piercing holes into my body with their judging gaze and still feel my throat closing up even in the most normal conversations. Nevertheless, I’ve done things, such as writing this hauntingly public article about my struggle, which would’ve had my past self ridden in anxiety and for this, I am proud of myself. What might seem like a small heap to you, could be a mountain of an achievement for someone.
Having a mental health disorder should never be considered as a weakness; living with it, turning up and doing things with it, takes a strength most will never know.
Written by Shruti Saraf for MTTN
Edited by Shivangi Acharya for MTTN
Featured Image by Nailone
Artwork by Linda Schneider