Shattering Stigmas is an annual blogging event that lasts two weeks. During this fortnight, we’ll be talking about anything and everything mental health related. The aim of these posts are to take away some of the stigma surrounding mental illness, to invite people to open up about their stories, and to help others learn.
Make sure you check out our other stigma ninjas:
- Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight
- Holly @ The Fox’s Hideaway
- Taneika @ Flipping Through Pages
- Taylor @ Stay On The Page
- Vlora @ Reviews and Cake
Note: I don’t often write these sort of posts. They’re a bit negative, and I’m all about spreading positivity and hope throughout the mental health community. However, for the sake of our Shattering Stigmas event, I am being open and honest, warts and all.
I practise the art of invisibility, and I practise it well. Nobody looks twice when they walk past me. I am completely forgotten seconds after being talked to. I just want the least attention on me as possible, and for a while, I managed just that.
But thanks to my anxiety and my depression rearing their ugly heads, I have officially fallen into the category of “the burden.”
My parents would never tell me I am a burden, of course, but I am 25 years old and still completely dependent on them. I need them around as motivation to take care of myself — they’re the biggest reason why I get up in the morning, or why I’m not a complete mess anymore.
I lived alone for a while, when I was in college, and that’s where everything turned to hell. I couldn’t leave my dorm without self-medicating (don’t self-medicate!) or getting panic attacks. I stopped going to classes. I was no longer able to use public transport, when I used to enjoy taking the train. Something as mundane as grocery shopping became nearly impossible and took everything out of me. I stopped seeing my friends. Every day was a full-on war against anxiety. There were days when I stayed in bed until 5 PM because what was the point of getting up? I couldn’t leave my dorm, even though I was completely sick of it — by the end of my time there, I practically wanted to jump against the walls. Eventually, I had to drop my studies and move back home.
I’ve been in treatment and on meds for the past 2.5 years now, and I’ve come a long way since then. But I’m nowhere near “normal” yet — there’s still that aspect of having to rely on my parents for everything while taking away their chances. They can’t go away together because I can’t be alone at night, and I’m still not seeing a lot of people, so inviting everyone over for a fun slumber party is not an option. With everything they do and all the plans they make, they have to keep me in the back of their minds. We all worry if I’m ever going to make something of myself. I know I need to take care of myself first, but I’m filled with all these wants, and nowhere to put them.
Some days, “your day will come” just isn’t enough.
My parents are absolute troopers and I constantly feel like I’m holding them back. So I try not to be a bother. But that’s a lot easier said than done when you’re dealing with mental health.
Outside of the safety of my home, it’s even worse. Let’s take a look at the last time I was in the hospital. I was having ear surgery done, something that was very important to me. I woke up from the anaesthetics and felt like horse shit. This was the first time I threw up in 15 years, which was incredibly jarring. I was so nauseous and uncomfortable, and there was this pressure bandage wrapped around my head, giving me headaches. I was miserable and I was scared, which triggered a full-on panic attack. It was the most horrible thing – I was shaking like a leaf, crying my eyes out, hot flashes were happening, my stomach was upset.
But let me tell you something really quickly — I am not an attention seeker. The very last thing I want is to have all the attention on me. But that’s what happened, of course. During that panic attack, I wanted nothing more than the ground to swallow me whole. Instead, I got a group of nurses gawping at me like I was the next big attraction — they honestly had no idea what to do with me. “Stop panicking,” one of them said, “it’s no use to hyperventilate.”
Just like that, I was cured.
Just kidding, that shit never works.
We never want to feel like we’re a bother to anyone. We certainly never want to feel like a burden. But just like that, you become “the difficult patient.” I was scared out of my mind and I rang for a nurse so often — I hated myself every time I pressed that button. I fired so many questions at them: was it normal that I was shaking, was it normal that I was feeling so hot… But that is what an anxious brain does. It requires constant reassurance, and a helluva lot of patience.
This is the same in any relationship; that constant fear that you’re not good enough and they’re going to leave you. You ask “are we good?” a little more often, because you genuinely worry and need that reminding.
Or what about when you’re on a plane? Sure, these flight attendants deal with their fair share of nervous flyers, but what about full-blown panic? Do you immediately turn into “the difficult client”? Because damn it that is the last thing on Earth that you want but you can’t help it, you can’t help it.
Shall I talk about restaurants for a second, too? Having to ask for dishes “but without the…” and worrying they think you’re going to be difficult. I don’t want them to hear my request and think “there we go again” while they roll their eyes on the inside. They don’t know that I’ve had constant cramps for the past twelve years; that my anxiety is such a vicious cycle that if I’m having a bad day and eating something deemed “unsafe”, my tummy will almost instantly lash out. I don’t know how I ever got through high school, because there were days where I simply didn’t dare eat until I came home at 4 PM. (But high school is a different matter altogether and let’s not open that can of worms. We’ll be here all day.)
I don’t want to be the difficult patient or the tricky customer. I don’t want to be annoying and have all the attention on me.
I’m just doing what I have to do so as not to freak out all the time, because I am afraid of the world and I am afraid of myself. I could just really use a little extra of your patience and have you reassure me a little more while I feel uncertain.
People like me, we just need a little more kindness, that’s all.