I’m Fighting You Just Can’t See It

There continues to be a very real stigma around mental illnesses, despite the fact they are just as valid, and sometimes more painful, than a broken bone – as Adriana explains.

Anxiety is a harsh war, an invisible battle against yourself. Continuous fear-driven thoughts deteriorate your self-esteem, paralyse your mind, numb your own conscious; it disables the very thing that keeps you alive. The tightening of your heart fused with an overwhelming sense of fear results to an unloving torment of anxiety.

Picking, scratching, pulling and cracking are routine for your body. Anxious thoughts and feelings of tension spark the unconscious habits. It is only after you have pulled a handful of your eyebrows, or plucked a bouquet of eyelashes that you finally realise the growing mess upon your desk, but it is too late. As you pull each eyelash, you feel a sense of relief. A relief you can never receive from any type of treatment or ‘therapeutic’ conversations. A relief gained through the manipulation of your own physical body in order to take shelter from the thoughts and darkness composed in your head.

Your mind is like clockwork, always occupied with queries and irrational answers. Family and friends often comment, “You’re so fidgety”, so you place your hands by your side momentarily in a state of embarrassment. More often than not, your body can’t keep up from the clutter that occurs in your head, so you panic. You panic about the external environment, about what others think of you, about everything. Your mind begins to manufacture an unrealistic set of scenarios, that are very unlikely to occur, but you worry and panic anyways. You panic even though you are lounging on your couch with your family around you, what most people would consider a calm or comforting scenario. It is within these circumstances that you realise simply how lonely it really is inside your mind, alienated from a place so familiar. Your mind once again juxtaposes your own thoughts and you find yourself trapped in such a vast, open space.

The heart becomes desperately afraid, aimlessly running from a threat that only exists within your mind. The moments of terror almost feel like your thoughts are strangling you, one hand grasping your neck while the other tightens the vice on your head. It is undoubtedly the most excruciating pain you will ever feel; and once it hits, it snowballs through your veins, encasing your body. Within the haze of your mind, you become distorted by panic, no recognition of your environment. All you can hear is the banging drums within your chest. The uncontrollable sweating, clammy hands and incline of heart rate, are the only physical signs that you are entering a stage of anxiety and panic.

You try to find help that you need, but don’t necessarily want. You struggle to talk to your parents about something that you wished they had just noticed about you, years ago. You begin to wish that mental illnesses were physically noticeable, but they are not. You begin to wish that they understood that breaking a bone is just as painful as enduring a panic attack, the emotional strain lasts longer than you would expect, longer than a cast on your leg. You begin to wish people understood that your stomach twists and turns because of the unknown each day.

You often temporarily drift off, into a more pleasant world of your own. It is peaceful but only short lived. Sleep is seen as a sanctuary, a time where you are completely unconscious and ultimately relaxed. It is so freeing to be alone. You would rather sit in your room and avoid attention, than sit with a small group of friends, submerged with the feeling that you are plunging into a social inadequacy with a parachute that won’t open. Silence is your relief, and yet this very comfort leads you down a dangerous path. Silence is haunting; a domain where you are left to the sound of your own thoughts.

“Are you ok?”

A constant question that is hauled over you, adding to the pile of unwanted thoughts. You smile, and give a few frantic nods. Yet you question yourself again, am I really ok? Is it normal to stutter, to have blurred vision at random? Is it ok to be drowning in a pool of emotions night after night?

You can’t always maintain that pretty, happy face because inside you, your thoughts are playing pinball. The feeling of not having control eats away at you, slowly but surely. The frustrating thoughts of not being able to control time is just like hitting a boundary in a dodgem car. You lose control of the wheel, your thoughts. You don’t physically hurt yourself, maybe a few scratches on your arms and legs, but the impact on your mind is as perpetual as denting steel. The concept that you can’t seem to understand replays in your head, just like a broken record. It repeats itself until you scream and become entirely sick of your own melody.

Words by Adriana Coscia.

Images by Grace Mackay.

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