“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination or forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing” – August Wilson
I hate that my first reaction to crises is thoughts of disappearing. I find myself fading to a place where I get lost in thoughts of how easier it would have been if I was never born. I have a fragile mental space and I easily get overwhelmed by life.
“I’m damaged at best, as you’ve already figured out” – Broken (Lifehouse)
In those moments, I find peace.
Everything comes to a halt (all in my head sadly) and the pain feels distant. I have to wilfully snap myself out of my mental walk towards oblivion. Those times it gets so hard being, I long for stillness in my head. I need everything to stop. Can life spare me a minute? Let me be still and breathe? Get things in perspective, have the world which seems to be spinning round my head pause for just a damn minute. But nah, I hardly ever get to have that moment of stillness. I find myself feeling like I am running behind, trying to catch up with reality. Life and time move so fast, I lose my breath trying to keep up.
Henry has said I should stop saying this, but the truth remains, a part of me believes I will die by suicide. No cause for alarm yet though, I mean, I don’t think I have the courage to actually hurt myself. I just find peace in thoughts of floating into obscurity, of finding that quiet I seek. I won’t say I am suicidal, maybe passively suicidal. But deep down, the thought lurks that someday my mind might break and I’ll do it.
I said this to the physician I went to see for my anxiety attacks. He immediately set me up to see a therapist. I noticed my attacks were more frequent than I had ever had in the past. I can’t count the number of times since early December last year (one of the hardest period of my adult life) I have been almost crumbled by this sudden overwhelming feeling of doomed approaching. My heart gets heavy, my mind goes dark, breathing becomes a struggle and then, the annoying tears that lurk. Two times I almost lost it at the office, my colleague had to hug me for some minutes to help me calm down.
I know my triggers, but I knew it was getting worse when the tiniest of things began to incite episodes. I have long been sceptical of seeking help in Nigeria because we most often don’t know where to draw the line between religion and professionalism. This came to fore, but I decided to let it go, being that I knew the doctor meant well. I remember him trying to look for a whatsapp broadcast video to show me, of a man who had no hands but could play a musical instrument and entertain people. His words to me were – ‘you need to calm down, others have it worse’. *Sigh
Why do we humans do this? Someone opens up to you about their pain, then we go trying to invalidate it with examples of others who seem to be having more difficult challenges. I don’t get it. That someone is going through worse, doesn’t automatically remove my pain or make me feel any better. I’m living my life, following my own path and whatever I have to deal with on the journey. I am not measuring my progress by other people’s misfortunes. Where I hurt is where I measure my pain from. I’m not in competition with anyone. That Mr. A doesn’t have two hands doesn’t mean its okay for Mr. B to have just one hand.
I ignored his unprofessionalism and got the prescribed drugs, of which I adhered strcitly to the dosage. Few days later I started reacting to the pills. I had to be taken off them but thankfully the few tablets I swallowed seems to have helped as I haven’t had any episode since last month. The side effects I suffered have also subsided but still, I am yet to go for therapy.
At first I wasn’t sure my health insurance will cover the cost of the therapy. This was my initial excuse. Well, it got approved but I keep dragging my feet. I think for one, I am scared. I feel like I am in a good place relatively. Yea, been kinda withdrawn for the past few weeks and off social media to silent the noise but it isn’t much of a dark phase. It’s nothing like the two mental breakdowns I suffered in January and July respectively.
Like I confided in Pascal, I am scared of going for therapy because I got scarred from my reactions to the prescription drugs. The drugs triggered something even more painful. I bore the pain for a week and then the drug given to relieve the side effects triggered a bad case of constant ulcer pains. I got so thin, I could see my ribs through my flesh. I suffered pain for two weeks straight up. There was a Saturday morning the pain was so real, I wished I could trade my body for a new one.
I have cold feet about going for therapy as I feel stable (for now). I am functioning well to a large extent though still trying to fit social media into my normal daily routine. I still feel off, but to a large extent I feel very okay. I fear if I go for therapy, I may be placed on meds again and then this may cause sideffects that won’t be pleasant. Or that I would go for therapy and the can of worms would be opened and all the shit I have been fighting in my head would show up for real and overwhelm me. That it would break me so low and I’d need time to deal and fix myself. That time, I really don’t have.
I remember back then in university, Chiyenum said that I am lucky that all the crap I have to deal with don’t affect my studies. I think I carried that luck into my work at the office. Maybe my job helps serve as a distraction from my reality. But this week, I had to pause and reflect if indeed my demons have started affecting my job. My boss said to me “you are losing your steam”.
That stung because I had already been beating myself over silly mistakes normal me won’t make. I had become sloppy and I still can’t tell if its due to physical exhaustion from chasing transactions back to back or me being a bit down mentally that I needed to stay off social media. I want to believe its physical stress and having to handle so much at so little time. I say so because the one thing that really crashes my mood has happened and I didn’t break.
A younger one’s health crises has resurfaced and got admitted. I wasn’t sure she was admitted but I had a feeling she had. I was a bit scared of confirming this from her parents, I was clinging to not knowing to keep my sanity. Funny, the day I was told, I was not shaken as I normally would have been (is it that I am now tired of it all? like I have given up)
My world would have gone dark but weirdly I found reason, found understanding and calm. By now I would have sought shelter in Henry or Pascal (my major support systems) but they’ll only know about this when they read this post. Let the therapy thingy hang for now, maybe when I find myself falling to pieces and needing to be saved, I can go for it then. I feel okay and my head is above water, no need running there and then turning my world upside down like those drugs did to me.
I saw this picture recently and it spoke volumes from two angles.
Firstly, it mirrored me. I know how I react at times to a colleague when he is having mood swings and also someone else I know who is struggling with bipolar disorder. I try to use logic to fix them and expect them to know to act in a certain way. Truth is, this is how society treats people with mental health issues. I have since forced myself to learn empathy, and it’s a continuous wilful action for me, to remind myself every time that it’s not them acting out. I have to see past their moods/actions and understand it’s the illness.
Secondly, a friendship recently almost got ruined because she failed to understand why I needed time to be alone, time off social media and also reduced human interactions. Before taking off I told her what I was about to do as per staying away to go recover. Unfortunately, she needed me to not become a stranger/shut her out. I knew she meant well, but I needed her to know that this was fully about me. I wasn’t okay but she needed me to act whole.
After a while, I began to feel bad that I was shutting her out so I cut shut my hiatus from social media and tried communicating with her. It was forced and I ended up exploding one day when I felt overwhelmed. Thankfully we survived it and we are back to being friends though I had to recluse again and fix up first.
See, this thing is a real struggle. Forget that what we see on social media these days is ‘choose yourself’, ‘stay far from toxic and negative people’, depression is tagged on every sad or low feeling, almost making it sound like a cliché. Some people are really dealing with a lot. Their own being, their very own minds warring against their survival. It gets so dark sometimes, so difficult that even talking becomes so much of a burden.
When I hear people say talk to someone, it makes me laugh. I know y’all mean well, but truth is majority of us are not equipped to handle these things. Sometimes opening up to the wrong person and getting the wrong response/vibe from the person, or them trying to invalidate your pain or going religious on you, or not saying the right words or giving off the vibe that they don’t get your struggle can set you back a thousand steps.
Lately I feel I have burdened my friends enough. I have leaned on them too much and its time I set them free. Maybe that’s why I didn’t tell them how I have been this period. I tried to ride this episode alone but I failed. I ended up sending an SOS to Philip who has been an amazing lifeline of recent. He patiently asked me leading questions which as I answered, I felt the gloom and burden ease off. It was a relief offloading but still, I feel like I need to learn how to take this road on my own. Be my own hero. I know I don’t have to go this alone, but I think my recent spat with Henry made me feel I lean too much on others and my honest vulnerability may just be a weak point that might be used against me in future.
Also, I had to block my ex on all platforms recently because I realized while the relationship was over, I was still leaning and hoping babe will come to my rescue whenever I vent online. I found myself yearning for that familiar safety I was used to.
While I had moved on from the failed relationship, I had a sincere conversation with myself and realized I was still holding on somewhat, and seeking refuge/comfort that was no more there. This sounds crazy even to me, considering its same ex that put me through hell and broke my heart to pieces worse than anyone has ever done.
“and my torturer became my remdey” – All night (Beyonce)
My ex was like a safe haven, though flawed. I knew my struggles were not fully understood and there were times I felt like my fears were invalidated but to a reasonable extent I always felt safe with. I was still holding on to that and lowkey longing for it, hoping I’d be rescued whenever I was drowning.
But in all, I think I was also hurting from the fact that I was walked out on (technically). When we chat once in a while, I never remain the same for few days afterwards. My head and heart starts clashing, my emotions get worked up and I become a mess. A part of me yearns for that safe haven while the other part says boy, it’s over, you gotta move on for real.
It is almost as if every time I am about to cross that final line of closing the chapter, my ex picks that moment to buzz to check-up on me or something makes our path cross and I am back to square one. I had to use the block button for good.
“Just when I felt like giving up on us, you turn around and give me one last touch that made everything feel better…” – California King Bed (Rihanna)
I get you chose yourself and walked away from the mess and chaos that I am. But you walked away, so be gone and stop caring for me. Stop buzzing to know how I am faring. It shatters me when you say I still love you and will always do and never want to see you in pain. You walked away and I’d never get over the fact that you broke your promise to never leave me, as irrational as this sounds.
“This all or nothing really got a way of driving me crazy
I need somebody to heal
Somebody to know
Somebody to have
Somebody to hold
It’s easy to say but it’s never the same
I guess I kinda like the way you numbed all the pain
Now the day bleeds into nightfall
And you’re not here to get me through it all
I let my guard down and then you pulled the rug
I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved
- Someone you loved (Lewis Capaldi)
It’s time I let go for real and seek safety in myself. Enough of leaning on others…
“There’s a reason I said I’d be happy alone
It wasn’t ‘cause I thought I’d be happy alone
It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart
I might not make it
It’s easier to be alone
Because if you learn that you need love and you don’t have it?
What if you like it and lean on it?
What if you shape your life around it and it falls apart?
Can you even survive that kind of pain?
Losing love is like organ damage, it’s like dying
The only difference is death ends
This? It could go on forever
- Words of Meredith Grey (Grey’s Anatomy)
I have a wedding to attend in Lagos ending this month. I am looking forward to it and hoping that before then, I would have sorted out all my transactions at the office so I’ll be free to travel. I see myself by the ocean, looking at the waves move back and forth. I feel free when I am by the ocean. I let go and experience freedom just staring into the waters. Travel is sort of therapy for me.
When I feet low, a trip always serves as a cure (it is part of my road to recovery). People say travel is escape, I agree. It has worked several times for me but I recently read a blog post on Huffpost titled ‘When Travel Becomes a Dangerous Escape’, written by Nicole Melancon.
It got me thinking a lot about why I travel and I realized that while I am truly excited about exploring and seeing new places, I have turned it to a means of escaping my life.
“Don’t get addicted to escaping. Face your shit, handle your business, and triumph. No battle was ever won by people who run” – Gregory Anthony
Here’s an excerpt from the Huffpost write up –
‘Oftentimes, the life of a world traveler appears to be glamorous and enviable on the outside. Their amazing stories of traveling the world are full of adventure, travel and beautiful photos from surreal places. Their lives seem so wonderful and happy and fun. Yet what is said to the outside world may be completely different than what is really happening inside. On the outside they may seem to have it all, but on the inside they may be falling apart, bleeding, hurting, and suffering in silence.
Of course, there are many reasons why we travel. We travel to relax, to have fun, to experience adventure, to see the world, to spend time with family and friends and to get away from it all. Yet have we ever taken a hard look at the real reasons we are traveling sometimes? Have we ever realized that sometimes we are using travel too much as an escape, to the point where it can become dangerous?
Throughout my life, I will admit that I have been guilty of using travel as an escape during hard times. Most likely we all have to some degree. So what is it we are exactly trying to escape? Unfortunately, our lives. We want an escape from the daily grind of a life of routine. Escape from the devastation of a broken heart or major disappointment. Escape from things we don’t want to necessarily face back at home like a serious illness, a death, a divorce, or a layoff. Escape from something we cannot change.
Travel is an escape. The further you go off the beaten path, the easier it is to forget. Yet traveling for the wrong reasons and not facing your demons in your life can be dangerous. You always have to come home at the end of a trip. Although you may forget about your struggles and pain while you’re having the time of your life half way around the world, it is important to have a good, happy place to come back to. An inner peace with your life at home and on the road.’
I wish I got the tattoo I initially planned on getting during my last vacation. I want to rebel against my body. Call it self-expression? The next best thing was to shave off my hair. It felt liberating doing it. I can’t exactly explain it but I felt lighter, felt relived seeing someone not so familiar in the mirror.
My scars may not be visible but I know I carry them within. My body may fail me, my mind may take me so low and my soul may feel weary from the daily struggle to stay happy and keep my mood up. But one thing I choose to do is keep on swimming and keeping my head above water.
I have had dark days, I have had days filled with sunshine and rainbows. I am learning to live in the present, shut out the noise from social media, live intentionally, stay healthy and keep going one day at a time. I may find stability someday or I may realize stability is just another myth we chase after, but what I’ll try not to do is stop fighting.
Sink or swim?