That’s how long I have been signed off from work with panic attacks and depression and I’ve just been signed off for an additional 4 weeks. Struggling to get out of bed, a sudden irrational fear of talking on the phone, panic attacks and tears galore, a hypersensitivity to sound and sudden movement: the flat buzzer, the wind against the windows, the noise and rush of traffic, even having the TV on has become troublesome with anything unexpected or loud being enough to send me into a world of panic. Every day is exhausting as I go back and forth between feeling numb and drifting into a faraway state of nothingness, to my heart racing as anxiety and panic attacks take over leaving me in a heap of hyperventilation and tears. All I want is to be able to go to sleep in the hope that once the sun rises it leaves all of the pain and the suffering behind. It never does. One pill to try to make me feel better but takes weeks to kick in, one pill to try to calm me down which makes me feel drowsy but is not enough to get me to sleep, and one pill to help the insomnia (because despite being fatigued beyond belief my brain would like to torture me some more and refuses to let me sleep) but makes me feel sick in the morning.
These past months have felt like an eternity. Call a friend they say- unable to use the phone. Go for a walk they say- too scared to leave the house. Make yourself a cup of tea they say- buried too deep in a pit of despair to even get out of bed. Read a book they say- unable to focus on anything. Watch a movie they say- panic because something unexpected happens or aimlessly stare at the screen seeing but not watching, hearing but not listening. The list is endless.
Mental health is such a crippling illness. It took me weeks to even make it to the doctors because I couldn’t get myself out of bed. Months later and my appointments are still only made when C is able to go with me to console the tears and provide the pep talks and assurances on route. Things are improving, slowly, very slowly, in all honesty too slowly. Each day comes with its own obstacles and frustrations, its reasons for uncontrollable tears, its reasons for not moving from bed, its reasons for lashing out, its reasons for not saying a word, its reasons for panic, its reasons for wanting to give up, its reasons for being angry. Sometimes they are old reasons and sometimes they are new reasons- sometimes they are for no reason at all. PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic attacks; the statistics of just how many of us suffer from some form of mental illness in our lifetime is disheartening and those reading this will probably know someone with mental health struggles or have experienced some themselves.
I was first diagnosed in 2011 and as a result had to leave studying to focus on my health. After years of being healthier and being able to get on with life it has been completely demoralising to find myself back in such a dark place. Panic attacks and anxiety were something I still had to deal with every now and again but it was more than manageable and I was in a good place. I know I am getting better or I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this, but it’s hard to see the progress when you feel like everything is falling apart and every synonym of the word despair pretty much sums you up. To say things are still difficult would be an understatement, but I guess all you can do is take it one day at a time.
“Life has moments that feel as if the sun has blackened to tar and the entire world turned to ice. It feels as if Hades and his vile demons have risen from the depths of Tartarus solely for the purpose of banding to personally torture you, and that their genuine intent of mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish is tearing you to shreds. Your heart weighs as heavily as leaden legs which you would drag yourself forward with if not for the quicksand that pulls you down inch by inch, paralyzing your will and threatening oblivion. And all the while fire and brimstone pour from the sky, pelting only you.
Truly, that is what it feels like. But that feeling is a trial that won’t last forever. Never give up.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway