Mental Health

a shadow

I feel like I need to explain the piece below because when I initially wrote it, it was about the anxiety I was suffering from at the time.  It was truly horrendous and impacted every aspect of my life, it was there from the minute I woke and stayed with me right until I fell asleep – if I managed to sleep at all. I lost almost two stone and the people around me worried about my mental, emotional and physical health. In the ten months that I was experiencing it I felt like I was literally disappearing and it got to a point where I could no longer handle it.

 Today approximately a year and a half later, I can admit to myself and to anyone reading this that the anxiety I was feeling then was a side effect of the presence of a toxic person that had become a part of my life. My instinct told me from the very start that they were going to hurt me somehow, but despite my better judgement I tried very hard to build a friendship with them. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, do yourself a massive favour and listen. Whilst I do still suffer from anxiety it is no where near as distressing as it was then and is unrelated to anything or anyone is particular. If i’ve learned anything from that experience it is to never give someone the power to make you feel like you have no control over your life. The situation taught me a lot about myself and other people, and whilst it was excruciatingly painful, my only regret is letting it go on for as long as it did.

Some days I can feel it coming before I’ve even opened my eyes in the morning. I can feel the heaviness that has arrived and is weighing down on me before I have even had a chance to welcome the day or give a good morning kiss. Its presence seeps into my consciousness like smoke through cracks in a doorway. Slowly but purposefully. It is a familiar presence; one I have come to recognise well over the years. But it is an uninvited guest, a constant companion I cannot shake; a shadow.

Like it always does my body begins to react to this unwelcome intrusion in a predictable and uncomfortable way. My heart begins to beat faster almost immediately. It’s not a flutter or a steady beating but a fearful thudding that resonates through my chest. My heart knows what the day will hold if the shadow decides to stay and tries desperately to scare it away with its drumming . My stomach writhes and struggles with a nausea unlike any other I have ever experienced. My only comparison is the way your stomach drops when you dream you are falling, but this isn’t a dream, I am awake and I fall over and over again. My teeth find my lips and rip and tear at them as do my fingernails and I know by the end of the day they will be raw and bruised. I don’t cry, at least not yet, but I can feel the heat of the tears behind my eyes, ready to give me away at a moment’s notice.

Whilst painful, I would take these physical assaults over and over again if it would stop the mental battery that usually follows. The shadow finds my every insecurity and weakness and manipulates them beyond my ability to reason. Nothing is off limits.

Then come the imaginary situations. The scenes I fabricate for every possible outcome of every possible worry I have. I spend hours in a parallel world that does not exist, tormenting myself continuously with feelings I may never feel or heartache I may never experience. The shadow tells me this is for the best; I am learning to protect myself from the potential of these disasters. All this is in preparation for the bad things to come and that it will not hurt as much if I know what my future holds.

This is all untrue of course, but for me, this is how anxiety presents itself. On a day when i’m not anxious, I know that logically these thoughts are ridiculous. I can take a step back and scold myself for being so silly, even laugh at myself for being so worried. Anxiety finds your weaknesses and taunts you with them, and my weakness is the people I love. It steals my present life away from me and paints a false picture of what my future will look like without the people I care for. The shadow tells me it is better to be by myself anyway, because people can’t hurt you if they’re not in your life in the first place. You are just a burden it tells me; a burden people don’t want or need. It reminds me of all the times I’ve been hurt before, as far as it’s concerned I let myself get hurt and that is not a mistake it will let me make again.

On particularly bad days, I don’t always have the fight in me to beat the thoughts inside my head. I try hard to remind myself every day that I have had the strength to face many challenges throughout my life and I am strong enough to face this one too. It is not a simple process, there is no quick fix. Knowing yourself inside out and confronting your deepest darkest thoughts is not easy or comfortable and I wriggle and squirm away from my own inward gaze. There is a terrifying vulnerability that comes with baring your soul, even to yourself. Learning how to banish my anxieties is unfortunately a journey that has to largely be undertaken on my own. Only I can truly know what lies at the root of my thoughts but that doesn’t mean I don’t need outside help. Whether it’s a place I can go to and just breathe, or the safety I feel in the strong embrace of the person I love; these are the things that make the bad days seem less troublesome and make the good days transform into the best days.



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