Anxiety makes even the simplest tasks feel like mountains to climb or marathons to run.
When you’re already out of air, everything is too loud, too blurry, too fast.
You feel weak and sweaty and you just want to lie down and cool off like you’ve already run miles, but you haven’t, it’s only 5 minutes after your alarm has gone off, and you know you have to leave the house so you gasp for air and will your body to move, to go through the motions and try to think to yourself above the chaos of noise I CAN DO THIS.
You try to look past the swaying room and focus your eyes ahead fixed on your next task, every small task one by one -wash face, brush teeth, you try to eat but your mouth’s dry so you grab a drink and struggle out the door and suddenly everything is brighter, louder, faster, closer, more textured, overstimulating, like someone turned the graphics up on a computer game and the closer you get to your destination or task the further away from reality.
You feel like this world is too big for you to be a part of and you go off in a corner in your mind to breathe and try to sit at least mentally though the ride you’re stuck on.
And on it goes through the day like being caught in a rip, fighting the waves, half drowning and sometimes relaxing enough to float for a minute, until another wave hits and you’re scrambling again, growing ever more tired and ever more susceptible to the loud and certain voice in your head telling you this will never end give up, you will never swim, no one can swim forever, give up now because I’ll get you in the end anyway and everything in you wants to hit the beach but you know if you leave the waves, the destination, the task you had to do to lie on the sand, you will soon be dragged back under and over rocks this time of guilt and shame and back out to the waves again you will go, this time bloodied and bruised from your last attempt to swim, so you stay.
You ride the waves as they say until the calm and then the sea spits you out on the shore when you finish and it’s had its way with you but you survived and earned yourself a place on higher ground so you can dive in next time and give the rocks in the shallows in a miss.
This is life with panic disorder/anxiety – some days you swim some you sink, the tides change, the waves rise and fall, but everyday you get up is a day you face the sea.
Don’t underestimate anxiety don’t call us weak don’t tell us to get over it or face our fear because if we are standing in front of you we are facing so much more than you can see and your ignorance insults us.
Don’t push us under with big tasks or you’re-not-doing-good-enough plans from your place on dry land, don’t sweep over us with platitudes like a life guard floating by on a rescue boat looking the other way.
Every one of you is a life guard try to see the sea and please if you see it while you’re floating by, our hands are up for help, please give us yours to hold don’t fob us off to professionals or type out your social media complaints about funding when our hands are hanging.
Do you know what it’s like to be told to go somewhere they can’t help you every time you ask for help because people don’t understand they have more to offer than anything at the place they keep suggesting?
Imagine you’ve been to the bank and they have given you a 500,000 loan but the house you need is $500 more than you have and you’ve sold everything you work tirelessly and you go without what you can but you just can’t get that last $500 to save your house up for mortgagee sale no matter how hard you try.
So you start walking up your street and asking your neighbours for a loan, a donation, a dollar, anything, it all counts and you know if enough people give a tiny bit you won’t lose everything but at every door they tell you to ring the bank next door sorry can’t help we got our bills next door man I wish I could help I’m going to write a blog about funding for this next door no answer next door a dollar next door they tell you to get off their lawn and call u a bludger, next door they accuse you of being a scam artist…
people start looking at you funny, being wary of how close they get to you in case you ask for something and on and on through the neighbourhood ‘till you’re so beaten down you’re already bracing yourself for disappointment, even as you put your hand to the next door.
How long would you do this? One day? Two days? A week a month maybe a year? Try doing it for a lifetime, it really sucks.
So am I typing a post about more mental health funding?
No. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want this blog to help you understand here.
I/we/us mentally unwell/anxious are always being fobbed off to mental health but what I’ve described here is panic disorder, treated with the best drugs, free therapy, a case worker, weekly mental health involvement – the point is that mental illness can’t always be fixed, often it can’t.
Sometimes mental illness just is how it is, and it’s the public that need to help us, to reach out a hand, to realise that we live this out beside them, among them, not in an office far away somewhere for an hour once a week.
I want people to stop blaming mental health alone and start realising that the hand to hold closest to us is theirs. Some things can’t be fixed but all things can be fought and every enemy subdued – not by an offices intellect but by the collective might of enough civilian foot soldiers.
Ruby is 24 years old, sex worker and social activist. Lives in Auckland