The word I’ve been living with for as long as I can remember that it became chronic.
I am sure I’m not the only person in the world who sometimes feels like there’s not enough oxygen to breathe, chest tightening, lungs shrinking, and a god-awful ringing inside the head. I’ve lost count of the number of times I feel myself curling into a ball and hiding in the corners of my brain, as if I was building an invisible wall of glass, so clear that you can walk right through it, until you’re met by the barrier itself and you realize you cannot penetrate it. The truth is; I’ve never truly grasped the roots of the compromising situation I was found in. I never realized I was a victim of my own brain. Ironic and completely lacking sense (we cannot be controlled by our brains, as a matter of fact, we send signals to the brain to execute the orders). I’ve come to terms that I don’t like the word victim. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable, like the term you hear in the news to describe someone helpless, found in a difficult situation, unable to escape and if they don’t, they’re injured. Thus came my hate for the word. I was unable to find a more suitable word to replace ‘victim’ (again the irony is not lost on me since I am a person who loves words and has spent most of their life with their nose buried in English literature).
I remember something Father once told me: “look, daughter, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know who we are and what we’re going to do next, but that’s okay, child. I’ve found it! I’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle! If you know what you’re not, the rest is just accessories and it’s only a matter of time before you solve the whole thing”
At 21 years old, I finally know what I am not. I am not a victim, mental health sufferers are not victims, we are La Resistenza; aka the Italian groups during WWII who put up a fight and refused to surrender to Nazi Germany. We lead the same fight every day against our mental issues, we fight the same demons; we get up and wash our faces, we eat breakfast with our families and smile to our parents when we walk out the door, and they think ‘what is going on inside our child’s pretty little head’. And then we see to our things, we force ourselves to tell a lie and fake a smile, over time you get so good at it that people start to envy your peace of mind, but is it really peaceful inside?
And yet, we still bother to ask someone what’s wrong when they’re being awfully quiet. I’ve learned with time that tears don’t tell much, silence says a lot. Your tears are soaked by your pillow and your mother doesn’t see the stains when she changes your covers, time passes and you forget why you cried, even what pillow you cried on in the first place. But silence, you remember it forever, it stays with you and feeds on your soul.
You’ll get a “nothing, just need some sleep” in the best case scenario, worst case scenario? “Nothing’s wrong, I’m great!” That’s when you know; you can be so close to someone and not have the slightest idea on what goes on inside their brain, let alone their tipping point. We spend so much time analyzing our own feelings, we don’t even know what a proper analysis is, and yet we still don’t know what to do to know someone’s demons. So we throw an ‘it’s going to be fine, don’t worry’.
Anxiety, against all my better judgments, is still my ultimate demon, the monster under my bed, inside my closet. Everything else is just its manifestations in my turbulent nightmares. Sometimes it’s an exam I don’t know how I’m going to pass, sometimes it’s a plan I intend for the future, and sometimes it’s another night of insomnia.
In all cases, and against all odds, it still beats me. Leaving me heaving for air in a dark room. But you know what’s worse than not knowing how to deal with it? The closest people to you in the world not willing to help you deal with it.
In 2019, we still don’t know how to properly deal with mental illness. We still think someone is faking it and doing it for attention; we still can’t make the difference between personality and psychological disorders. Maybe this is the problem after all. At least that’s what my humble opinion states, but what I am most sure of, is that we never really learned how to healthily express our feelings, how to relate to people, and above all: how to listen to something other than the sound of our own voice.