Two and a half weeks ago, I woke up in the morning and started about my usual routine. I went downstairs, brushed my teeth, washed my face…meanwhile, my breathing was labored and my thighs were shaking. I was carrying around a fifty-pound weight on my chest that refused to be shaken off. I popped a piece of bread in the toaster oven and left it unbuttered, bringing it with me upstairs. The thought of butter made my stomach turn, but now the thought of eating the toast at all was provoking similar feelings. This is how I had been feeling about food for a few days now. I put my breakfast down next to my computer and set off to work just as I had for dozens of days prior. I stared at my screen, trying to read the words scrambling in front of me. Nothing made sense. That was my first real anxiety attack.
I spent the next days vacillating between complete despair and numbness. I had nothing left in me but somehow the tears kept rolling almost involuntarily. Two days ago, my primary care doctor gave me a formal diagnosis of situational anxiety and depression. I haven’t been able to do much in two and a half weeks because of the sheer effort it takes to complete any given task with the limited energy that I have.
If you’re reading this and thinking that I “should just get over it,” I ask that you honestly question why you believe these feelings to be illegitimate. Is it because you have gone through this and were able to quickly “get over it”? If that’s your answer to yourself, then you haven’t gone through this, not even close.
I write this entry not because I want anyone’s pity. A good friend recently told me that We reserve our pity for people that we don’t respect. I write this entry for two main reasons: 1. Because this is part of my healing process. I talk things out, I describe them in detail, I open myself up frequently and to people from all walks of life. That is my personality. But more importantly, 2. Because in trying to make sense of what I am going through, I have been scouring the Internet for stories like mine. What I see time and again are the success stories of people who are now happy la-da-da so friggin happy, not so much about people who are deep in the hole. That’s not sexy. To speak of weakness without a turning point of becoming strong is unappealing. Yet here I am, sharing my unsexy, vulnerable, unappealing story in the hopes that, even if others don’t come forward, they at least don’t feel alone.
I have not yet recovered but I have been told that I am on my way there. I’m going to be clichéd enough to say that I have learned incredible lessons while down here in the hole – lessons about who I am and the kinds of things that I am willing to labor and suffer for. Emotional pain is real and ugly and invisible enough for others to have absolutely no idea that you are floundering in it, but if you are unfortunate enough to feel it in its rawest form, you might come out with a different understanding of life on the other side. Whether that shift is worth it is to be decided.