#1in4

You know life sometimes is like a video game,

Each day comes as a new level, nothing is the same.

Aside from a secret underwater kingdom portal,

A chance anyone could take in a bid to be normal.

And I know where it is, I try getting through every time,

To try something new, I just want to see the excitement that’s behind.

But it doesn’t always last.

There’s something in my mind,

And it causes me to glitch,

And I’m not one of a kind.

I press X 61 times,

hoping for resolve,

Wild Dog mode comes on and my brain doesn’t do as it’s told.

To the point where I shout and tear everything apart,

Shit songs pour out my ears and I’m sent far away from the start.

The screen turns black.

I’m in curled in the corner and I’m crying,

Watching the countdown screen,

And here come the options to sort out my wiring.

Press circle they say to go off and cower,

Search for one way tickets to Canada for an hour.

Press triangle they say to go right off the mark,

Go out with no phone all alone in the dark.

Press square to cry until you can barely breathe,

So much you drift off into a sleep hoping when you wake the thoughts leave.

Press X to teleport to NHS tower,

Go see the wizard for potions for a happy hour.

Press UP and travel to mindful mountain,

And a parrot over 10 weeks will stop you from doubting.

Press R2 to talk to a friend,

Then constantly worry you’ll drive them round the bend.

Press R1 to commence battle with your twin,

About all the mistakes you’ve made only to never win.

And the final option,

Is to press nothing at all,

Countdown goes to zero,

Watch as the black screen falls,

And then you realise you can’t just press pause.

I’ve tried every option,

I even let the countdown get to 3,

Before things got in the way and I internally screamed what was the matter with me.

And everyone always says never wear your heart on your sleeve,

Because when you do they’ll take advantage of you,

They’ll grab your throat the second you’ll close your eyes just to sneeze.

Please tell me what’s so bad about being free,

To say how you feel if any of you have ever felt like me.

Anxiety depression and panic disorder,

When are we going to discover a new outlook is in order?

And I’m not just talking about guessing games when your heart is involved,

I mean when your life is on the line and nobody has been told.

I call bullshit and it makes me angry,

When somebody doesn’t show they cry because it looks more “manly”.

They say it costs us our identity and our pride,

If we ever bother to show what we have inside.

Well I say just take mine, and serve it up hot,

I’ll say exactly how I feel when I feel if it means I’m here, and that’s all that I’ve got.

One day I hope society can see the bravery,

Behind breaking free from emotional slavery.

I hope when someone says they are looking for a “man”,

The answer always is if that means I’m open and honest then I am.

So here is to being one of the 1 in 4,

And hoping that next time they tell you suicide is the number one killer of young men,

That it’s only to say there’s been a change in the score.

Saving our lives is more important than our prides.

Last thing we need is another death to suicide,

The more we talk about it the more we stop letting it slide.

An Honest Overview, Anxiety and Panic Disorder: My Story, And Why It’s Not Embarrassing.

Someone once asked me, “Why do you talk about suffering from a mental illness on social media? Nobody needs to know, it’s embarrassing.”

It’s exactly questions like that which urge me to do so.

If all I did was be ashamed of myself, and ashamed of what I go through, I would be in the same state I was two years ago having panic attacks in toilet cubicles minutes before my lectures questioning myself. It’s 2016, why does this stigma still exist?

I talk about suffering from anxiety and panic disorder over social media because every time I do, I wind up with messages from close friends and acquaintances admitting to me that what I have described sounds similar to what they go through, yet are too nervous to get diagnosed. Sometimes even out of embarrassment.

There is nothing embarrassing about suffering. There is nothing embarrassing about dark thoughts and trauma. There is nothing embarrassing about being amongst the 3 million in the UK alone that feel the need to hide. And if a random (lengthly) post over social media is enough to encourage others to be less afraid, then it’s worth every word.

I like writing, and I have a knack for writing far too much and sometimes even being overly dramatic. But when I tell people my life changed when I began suffering from nocturnal panic disorder, it’s with no exaggeration whatsoever.

When people talk about the lowest they’ve ever felt, what’s made them the most upset or what’s hurt them the most, to me what comes to mind is all the time I wasted. In complete seclusion, sometimes even sadly with witnesses, I’d cry so much my eyeballs swell and I hyperventilate while wishing I was a better person. I wouldn’t feel good enough, I’d feel like I was a fraud for even having a life at all, and that none of my efforts could ever make anything or anyone feel like they wanted to know me or be around me. I became obsessed over whether I was good enough for others, and hated who I was because of that before even considering if I was happy with myself first.

All I wanted to do was hide away, because in my head, that was the best solution.

I wouldn’t disappoint anyone anymore. I wouldn’t be a burden to my closest friends. If I kept well away, they would be happier. If I expressed my feelings too much it would put people off me. If they knew what I was going through they would see me as an attention seeker. They would think I was a psycho, they wouldn’t understand. To be upset, and to barely sleep, and to cry more so than speak wasn’t an excuse for falling grades or not going to uni. It’s probably just overreacting. It’s probably because I need attention.

And yet if Doc came and offered me a go in the DeLorean and the power for none of what happened to have ever happened? I’d take that opportunity.

I’d be walking upstairs holding my chest feeling palpitations and nausea darting my eyes at the people around me. I’d wake sometimes up to 5 times a night from the exact same dream unable to lift myself from my bed, because it felt like someone was sat on my chest. I’d fall back to sleep in complete exhaustion, and turn up to lectures unable to process a single word being said or concentrate at all. My vision would progressively blur in social scenarios and my hearing would zone out as if I was about to pass out, before the feeling of dread would squeeze my brain and tell me to get out before I embarrass myself. In those moments you feel entirely, completely alone, and get scared when people offer to help because you don’t want them to even witness how vulnerable you can be.

And the doctors first thought I had asthma!

I was eventually (finally) diagnosed in October 2014 with anxiety and panic disorder (specifically nocturnal). Anxiety and panic attacks that don’t just happen when they need to, but uncontrollably at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy, about to go to a lecture, in a museum or with your friends on a night out. It doesn’t just pick the perfect moments. It happens so often that it literally stops you from wanting to go out, just in case. The medication that I had to take three times a day required me to stop drinking, which meant being a sober uni student. I had therapy, medical check-ups to check up on how I’d been feeling. The sanctuary I found was being locked away, on aeroplane mode, and not telling anyone what exactly was going through my mind. Because I thought it was embarrassing.

A good friend once said to me, it’s like a broken leg without the cast. Because you can’t see the cast, people assume it’s not there or not real. People still have this stigma against mental illness. That it shows weakness, vulnerability. Even suffering from it makes you believe you are weak and vulnerable. Don’t show how you really feel, don’t let anyone know what you’re up against.

Yet within this time, I found another sanctuary. My blog. Words On A Whim was born just a week after my first uni exams. I had this weird urge for some form of escape at the time and I didn’t revisit the blog properly until I began frantically writing in anything I had available for a form of escape that wasn’t “snap out of it” (because believe me, no matter how many times you tell someone with a mental illness to “snap out of it” 10/10 times it won’t disappear overnight). From nothing, to 10,000 views a year, working amongst a group of others helping the development of ‘Koko’ the mental health app, receiving various nominations and recognition from companies I’d talked about in my ‘seeking management’ posts such as Headspace, I found myself in the right place. And yet yesterday, I privatised everything I’d previously written on my blog.

Up until now, I wrote because it was my escape away from nosy minds and anyone that wanted to unlock the truth to who I was, how I thought and what I was going through. It was an embarrassment after all right? Because of this blog, I got to have some amazing experiences and even have a chat with an inspiration of mine, Carrie Hope Fletcher in the #useyourand campaign (an event in which I happened to meet one of my closest friends, @Ksenija) But since my year abroad, and ultimately feeling a lot happier and better in myself than I once did with a new found confidence and self-peace (with the occasional glitch still to this day) I’ve decided to start all over again. This time I want to write looking back on who I was two years ago, and not as the girl two years ago. I will recall old posts from time to time, but it’s probably best I write about some of the harder moments in a more positive mind frame.

The best part of all this is that what was something which helped me, slowly became something which helped others. The messages I receive from strangers around the world, and even friends and acquaintances through Facebook every time I write on social media about my experience is both upsetting but warming. To know that there are people out there who are going through this, undiagnosed, unsure and in need of desperate help to regain control of their life is a horrible feeling. That’s why I post about it on social media. That’s why we have to talk about it.

Though I have my sleep back, I’m no expert. But for someone that only yesterday, wound up clenching her chest in tears over worrying and not feeling good enough, when these glitches happen I’m much swifter in re-establishing my happiness and determination.

So instead of hiding away, I’m going to make my blog and posts public. I’m going to stop neglecting the platform that helped me, and made me happy, and I want to become as pro-active as I was before, only with the me today rather than the me two years ago. I’ll risk the 10,000 a year mark for creating something I’m unafraid to hide, and hopefully not lose all those readers in the making! But most of all, it’s because some of the people closest to me, and some of the people I’m not even that close to anymore, are currently going through the exact same thing, or little bursts of things I’ve suggested and said in the past has helped and struck a chord. So why not share it?

I’m imperfect, I make mistakes, I overthink and have random glitches of emotion and can get anxious still at times about whether I’m good enough, whether I’m a burden or if I’ve done or said something wrong. But I just need to remember that the right people will stick around, the right people will understand and the right people will remind me they’re there when these things do happen. *Without making me feel like I’m anything to be ashamed of or an embarrassment. * And I hope I return the favour, or at least if I don’t do so enough I’ll work towards doing it more. I finally feel like I’m at a point in my life where I feel the most me.

Maybe instead if I went back in time, I’d tell myself it would all be worth it in the end, and I’d have to go through pain to understand myself, and understand the world better in return.

 

Stay Smiling,

Nat xoxo