Choose a single strand of hair. Find the “Y” where your split end starts, and slowly peel it back, tearing the strand in half until you reach your scalp. Then move onto the next strand.
Stick a pin into every pore on your face. Then pick them out and do it again.
Ask yourself why you’re doing these things, but don’t expect an answer. Tell yourself to stop and get back to your daily business, but don’t expect to be able to. You’re going to keep splitting hairs until you go crazy.
That’s what having a mental breakdown felt like to me.
I look back now to December 2010 and can recognize the signs of an impending break. I started skipping classes and calling out of work. I spent more time within the confines of my bedroom than anywhere else. I slept upwards of 14 hours a night, but because I was still, for the most part, functional, I didn’t recognize an issue.
February 2011 was when it happened. In the middle of a busy Friday night shift at the restaurant, I dropped the tray of drinks I was holding, a wave of heat hitting me while my sight tunneled. I became very fearful, very quickly, that something bad was going to happen and my chest collapsed. Everything happened so quickly, yet so slowly; nothing felt real, like I was existing in a dream.
This wasn’t my first anxiety attack, having struggled with social anxiety for at least half of my life. But it was certainly the strongest and scariest. That anxiety attack lasted for over a month, getting worse with each day. I couldn’t leave my house, I couldn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t think about anything except the crushing dread that plagued every waking minute.
I would try to talk myself down, but I could call myself on my own bullshit. I would try to give myself some tough love, but I would retreat further. With every heartbeat that I heard clear as day in my ears, I felt that this was the end of my sanity and that I was going off my rocker. I was ready to die because it was the only way I was ever, ever going to feel peace.
A friend told me she would take me to yoga classes, because meditation helps with anxiety. Another friend told me to cut caffeine and sugar from my diet. Someone else told me to snap out of it.
After a month of watching me waste away in my bed, I was finally convinced by my boyfriend to see a therapist, who then had me see a psychiatrist in conjunction with weekly therapy. As I went through weeks of CBT with my therapist, medications balanced the chemicals in my brain to allow me to feel emotions and other feelings as I normally would. Fear of the outside world dissipated and I began to live my life again. I got to the point where I felt comfortable ending my weekly therapy sessions, and continued on with medication alone.
Last month, I lost my health insurance and suddenly couldn’t get my medication. My pills are $230 and $140 for my dailies, plus $75 for my PRN. I make decent money, but I couldn’t afford that and had to forego my medication for a month until my new health insurance started up.
This past month has been a living hell.
All of the fear that I thought had been lifted came flooding back within a week of taking my last pill. I called out sick from work. My chest feels like it is being stepped on, hard, all day long. It has been both difficult to sleep and difficult to wake up. I find myself feeling like I’m on the outside looking in, but still feeling every soul-crushing, physically-debilitating anxiety attack. And in the midst of it all come those same friends offering me yoga and meditation and diet advice. Here come the mental illness nay-sayers who swear medication is a crutch and that I’ve relied too heavily on chemicals to get through my daily life.
New-age, spiritual healing will not give my brain the chemicals it needs in order to function properly. Some people suffer from anxiety that can be treated with meditation and anagogic treatment. I am not one of those people.
The brain is an organ, and it can get sick just like any other organ.
I get the fear about putting chemicals into our bodies endlessly. It’s something I’ve questioned for myself. But not every illness can be healed by faith and diet, and I think the reason why so many still push for meditation and diet changes is because of the stigma around mental illness. We’re supposed to be able to control our brains, so if something goes wrong, it must be user error. But that isn’t the case.
We don’t always make our own happiness. Sometimes we need a daily dose of chemical to help us function.
And that’s okay.
Featured image courtesy of pixabay.