“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” Joubert Botha
I’m one of the last people on earth you’d expect to have an anxiety disorder, as a matter of fact, I would have never expected it too until I went to sleep one day and a panic attack woke me up.
I woke up the first day feeling the full wrath of my new found mental disorder descending upon me, my full body was twitching and in pain, I was unable to breathe, and my mind raced into a thousand different directions.
After two days of this hell on earth, to the point where I was afraid to go to bed at night, I decided that I really can’t keep living like this and that I should go see a doctor, at which point I was told that I’m suffering from an anxiety disorder.
The days and weeks to follow were no easier, I refused to take medication to treat my illness because I’ve seen their side effects on people first hand, and I never wanted to ignore my pain, after all, in a way, I felt like anxiety was my body trying to tell me something, so I lived through the sleepless nights, the panic attacks, the fear of going crazy… and in a weird and strange way, I’ve never felt so close to myself, and in tune with my own mind.
Since I decided against being medicated, I had to find alternative ways to improve my own mental health, and in the process took a deeper look at how I lived my life. I used to push down everything I felt, through big financial losses, through countless hardships, and even losing my father, I have never shed a tear nor acknowledged what I was feeling, Instead, I worked and drank myself to sleep every night for almost 10 years.
I lived for so long without acknowledging my feelings to the point where I was taking it out on myself, from alcohol abuse to destructive behavior, and at times I took it as far as pushing loved ones away, for no apparent reason aside from hating myself, and after all, why shouldn’t I hate it? It kept the real me chained in the dark for years feeling the full depth of my pain while I drank it away.
I took a good look in the mirror and I didn’t like what I saw, and suddenly, my terrible anxiety didn’t feel so terrible, it felt more like a final warning to get my shit together, and I wasn't about to ignore it, I’ve ignored enough things in life already.
I started eating healthier, cut back on alcohol, stopped smoking, got back to playing basketball, and I even started meditating, and although I’d be lying if I said that I felt much better after, I did improve, and I know it’s a journey that I need to follow through because it might help with my anxiety, but it will definitely make me a better person.
Through this journey, I learned a few things, such as never to tell anyone suffering from depression or anxiety to “get over it” because goddamn it, that’s not the way it works, and I also learned that no matter how fast you can run, you can never run away from yourself, but most importantly, I learned that taking care of your mental health is a must, otherwise, a panic attack might wake you up from your sleep.