You wake up in the middle of the night with a queasy feeling somewhere in the pit of your stomach. The sub-conscious part of your brain has already registered what is happening but it is battling with the part which doesn't want to succumb to that horrible feeling.
Fight it, you tell yourself. But even as you say it, you know it is of no use.
You get up, run to the bathroom, and throw up; you release that ball of dread that you were sleeping with inside you. You wash your face, and with that momentary release you go back to bed, only to remember that it is not really gone. It will come back. And then you are scared.
The monster inside you
When you wake up the next morning, you don't want to get out of bed. You would rather stay in bed, hug yourself, stare at the ceiling all day. Anything but face the day. Because there is a monster inside of you, that rears its head when you least expect it, at any time of the day, without warning.
And then it starts gnawing at your insides, reaching everywhere.
That is what it is like, living with anxiety.
You are standing with your friend one minute, talking about this and that. The next second, some unpleasant thought builds up in your head and grows at the speed of light, until it clouds everything around you, everything you are. Your whole body goes numb with a coldness only to bring out in stark contrast the uneasiness that is roaring in the center of your body. You try and get a grip on it: you breathe deeply, you go outside for air.
If it's an okay day, you make it through. If not, you rush to throw up, or worse, blackout.
Or you sit there with a heavy heart, a stressed out mind and the nausea as you try to reason out every facet of the dark thought that has come to greet you like a dreaded guest. You undo the thought, strand by strand, reaffirming yourself exactly why the thought is stupid or unreasonable and has no basis in reality.
"He will not leave me."
"Mum will be fine, you will see her again tonight."
"The train is not going to crash, it won't happen to you."
"She still loves me. She just needs some time."
"You will not get fired, you are doing well."
"You are enough, you are loved. You will find someone."
Slowly, you calm down. The monster is thwarted; it disappears, swearing vengeance.
You make it through the hours, hopefully through the day. And when night falls and you finally land in your bed, you feel okay, because even if for a few hours, you can sleep. And you can escape the pain.
Just let me make it through
"Distract yourself, that will help," is easier said than done.
It's hardly like we sit with our knitting and wait to be visited by a panic attack.
"Distract yourself" works in different ways for different people. For some, it's watching a TV series they have loved all their life. For some, it is diving so hard into work that they don't have even a second's window to sit empty long enough to be struck down. For some, it is spending time with their loved ones.
You see, in all of this, what we go for in the time of drastic need is comfort. Comfort and warmth of what is familiar: things we know for sure, people we know who love us, places we know we will find safety in.
We want comfort, and love, and security. Because what are the monstrous thoughts that build up inside your head made of? Born of our fear of the unknown, the fear of losing love, the fear of losing to our pain and sadness.
And just how no two people's pain is the same, each individual finds their own way to figure out what works and what doesn't work for them.
Workplace feels too crowded? Sit in the lawn and work.
Take a walk, come back to the desk. Breathe. Plug into some happy songs. Breathe. Take a small vacation. Breathe. Go to the cafe that you really love. Breathe. Talk to your friend. Breathe. Talk to a stranger. Breathe. Redecorate your house. Breathe. Sing out loud. Breathe. Paint a mountain. Breathe. Dance it out. Breathe. Watch something happy. Breathe. Get a massage. Breathe. Wear something nice. Breathe. Write it all out. Breathe. Go out with your sister. Breathe. Take your nephew ice skating. Breathe. Cook with your mother. Breathe. Fight the pain.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Bad day, okay day. Good day.
When you are living with a mental illness, everyday becomes a battle. Everyday is new. There are days you will be okay, you know? You are fine. You threw up in the morning and you made it through the day okay.
Then there are bad days.
You wake up, throw up, and all you want to do is call in sick, make up an excuse about stomach infection and just go in and out of sleep all day. If you actually manage to pull yourself out of the bed, you dread every minute of the entire day. You hate your job because it didn't allow you to stay back, you hate yourself because you are at work and just can't work, you hate everyone who comes and asks you if you are okay because you don't know what to tell them even as you stare into nothingness and try to be okay.
All this you live through and you wait. Wait all the while for that one day when you will wake up, well rested, breathing in a fine rhythm and go about your day, laughing, smiling, not pretending to be happy, and feeling so good about yourself.
But that is not something you remember, is it? When you are grabbing onto the commode and hating your life, sometimes thinking that death will be the easier way out, it is so, so hard to remember that this will pass.
One more day, always
When you are sitting in that garden, running away from people and the cluttered office space, do you notice how bright and colorful the green trees are, and how blue the vast sky is? Do you feel your heart lift, even if for a second, at the beauty that is all around you?
When you listen to a song that makes you imagine better days, do you catch on to that flicker of hope that sparks up?
When you hug your mother goodbye when you leave the house, do you take in all the unconditional love that wafts from her?
If you don't, you will.
You will collect all these tiny moments and stitch up a yarn that you will wrap around yourself for warmth as you make your way to being okay again.
Because you have to know, you will be okay again.
You have to tell yourself that you will be okay. When that black hole of nothingness is screaming suspicion and fear at you, scream louder, louder, LOUDER. Drown the voice out, fight the insecurity. Tell yourself how great you are, how loved and capable you are of housing happiness inside your soul. You have so much life ahead of you that this is just a temporary roadblock that you will eventually jump over.
Because that is all there is to do you know. You keep one step ahead of the other. You take one moment at a time. And you keep breathing.
So that even as you fight your battles, and your own demons, you remember that you always have it in you to make it through. You remind yourself that you are armed to fight this. Even if the fight is hard and is drawn out, and you are so close to losing, you have to remember to find the strength to save yourself.
Because truth be told, you will always be enough to save yourself. No matter what you feel right now, you are enough.
You are enough for yourself to see you through into another day.
And that will be enough for one more day.
Author's Note: If you are battling with depression, anxiety or if you felt like you related to the article, I just want you to know that you are strong enough to fight this. You are loved, you are worth it, and you will make it. Sometimes we are so wound up in our pain that we can't look up enough to see all the amazing things and people around us, and that is okay. Just know that those things and people are there when you are ready to get up from the floor again. There is much to help you get through this. All you have to do is ask and just let them know when you are ready.