I woke up today, howling from a nightmare that felt like reality. In my mind, I was screaming over my mom’s dead body. My mom? grandpa?? I can’t even tell anymore. “You’re going into shock! breath slowly Shruti…” my Aunt holds my face close and whispers into it. “I can’t! I can’t stop!” I sob incessantly as she rubs my back and holds me tightly to herself. Two days ago, it was a dream about my parents fighting.
One week ago it was about my family forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do.
Last year it was about how my life was falling apart as I decide to walk out of my degree and internship.
Its been more than a year since I’ve been having these dreams. Post-trauma like symptoms, my counselor calls it. I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m suffocating. I can’t stop sobbing. Sometimes, it feels like my lungs will give out. It usually hits me anywhere at all and my entire world fills with anxiety and catastrophizing. Imagine being abandoned in a jungle, with the creepiest animals you’re scared of. You’re terrified. You run. You scream. You’re mortified. That’s what my anxiety feels like. I’m running and screaming at the top of my lungs. In my head, and often in real life. Usually, I need to call a friend and keep sobbing, until I’d calm down. My cousin, Aditi, was my sobbing buddy, who’d talk me through many of my panic break downs. “Just breathe” She’d say. “Relax. It’s not real. It’s not happening. It’ll be okay”. Other times I get dehydrated and just stop crying my self. I prefer the former of course. The latter makes me feel lonely and scared. Over time, my anxiety got worse and worse with every passing incident.
Meditation helped a little bit, counseling also helped. But it’s a long battle that I’ve set out to fight – the prioritizing and destigmatizing of mental health. I’m not a counselor nor am I a mental health professional, but my counselor says I know more than I think. And somehow I believe her because I’ve been very passionate about it. I’ve read books, followed talk shows, and made notes from my own therapeutic experiences. People have complimented me for investing in this aspect of my life so early. If only they knew, that when you have panic breakdowns that get triggered and start anywhere, you don’t have much of a choice but to learn to take care of yourself!
Most people who get into this field and become a professional or an activist, have had some sort of personal experience with anxiety. Their agenda behind helping other people is pure: Get help early. Do what you can to take care of yourself. There is a lot of empathy in caring for another human being on such a deeply emotional level. There are no bonds or strings attached. No gain or selfish agenda. Just the pledge to help alleviate human suffering for someone, as we would want the same for ourselves. Which is why I wanted to reach out and let you know Dear Reader:
If you have anxiety and you need someone to talk to about it, I’m here. I’m always here. I know what it feels like to have innocent thoughts twisted into a living nightmare. I know what it feels like to be surrounded by a danger that is construed by your mind. I know that it feels like it’ll never end. But it does, and it will. So, Dear Reader, don’t lose faith. Reach out and seek help. You’ll be surprised by the number of people that care.
Just remember to breathe…
I’m fighting this battle every day by your side,
And Everything will fall into place. The moon will be shining again.