By Neil Attard
As a victor over the dark (yet hidden) conditions of anxiety and depression, Clive shares his raw experience of battling with his inescapable demons.
Sleep – Why can’t I sleep?
I try, but it’s a literal nightmare. When you don’t sleep a lot, the day becomes longer, but as a result, so do my worst fears. Things could have been much better if I slept through the majority of the day, but here I am, thinking about not waking up for the 5am training session, and not being able to make it in time for the 8am lecture. This isn’t just a thought, it’s a crippling and constant conviction that keeps prickling at my brain throughout the night. My paranoia is haunting me.
Time is only supposed to move in one direction at a constant speed, so why is it that when I’m bored, time seems to move slower? It’s during these times of boredom late at night that my fears seem to creep up on me. I want to go to sleep, yet I can still hear time slowly clocking down on me and my anxiety is amplified. I close my eyes. I want this to end. But I can’t sleep.
Speech – Why do I find it so hard to communicate my thoughts and feelings?
Our world is made up of a number of human beings, all of whom communicate in different ways. But what should I do when I confront these humans? I know how to structure a sentence, I know how to listen to others; but what I lack is the ability to put all of this into practice.
I start thinking about a sentence, I say it three times (or even more) in my head before saying it out loud. The problem is, the more I ponder over the sentence, the more difficult it is to speak. I constantly feel as if someone has attached a ball and chain to my tongue. It’s become so heavy that I can’t utter a single word.
On the other hand, when I start speaking without thinking about what I’m going to say, people stare at me – where are the messages coming from, is it the brain? Maybe. If only I could get out of my head and be able to speak freely, then perhaps I wouldn’t be so anxious to open my mouth.
Hearing – Why am I hearing things that aren’t there?
There are sounds, there’s rhythm, there’s music. However, at other times, there is also over-hearing and this frustrates me. Sound can come from the outside world, but the brain also has the ability to generate it from within. Sometimes I wonder if the sounds I’m hearing are actual sounds generated by my environment, or if all of them are being produced by my own brain.
Can I possibly be hearing sounds that aren’t there? Or am I just over-analysing every little spec of sound around me? Unfortunately, the sounds don’t resemble ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘It’s My Life’, but come closer to a leaking water tap in the middle of a desert, where no one can reach it.
Interaction – Why can’t I get out of my head?
Humans need self-closure and interaction with their brain to try and get in tune with their inner emotions. The problem is that I feel the need to do this every week, every day, every hour, every minute. I am constantly living inside my brain, trying to make sense of my surroundings.
Interaction is supposed to be healthy, isn’t it? For me, this might not be the case. I’m constantly in my head. Constantly overthinking. Yet if all the other people seem to yearn for interaction, then surely there must be something wrong with me, right? However, the more I push myself to interact, the more I get stuck in my own head, the more nervous I get, and the harder the actual interaction becomes.
Breathing – Why do I constantly feel like I’m suffocating?
Breathe in. Hold for two seconds. Breathe out. Hold. Keep this pattern going, even when running. As much as it’s essential for living, breathing is also crucial for not dying. Imagine one thing, one person, one room, one ventilation space, total darkness – this is how I feel on a daily basis. I feel like I’m suffocating.
The faster you breathe, the faster you feel like you’re running out of oxygen. The slower you try to breathe, the more you panic and the more your heart begins to race. Are there any other options left? How am I supposed to continue living as if everything is fine when every time I take a gulp of air, I’m greeted with heavy oxygen pulling down on my lungs?
Eating – Why is something that I’m supposed to enjoy still giving me discomfort?
The brain signals your stomach, and in a very rude manner, your stomach complains out loud. That’s when you should go and grab something healthy to eat. Problem is, if I’m going to go outside to buy something people are going to see me and I have to interact with them. I convince myself that I’m not hungry, even though my stomach is now growling louder than ever.
I can try to skip a snack or a meal and eat later.
Time has passed.
My stomach is mercilessly growling.
Perhaps it’s better if I eat tomorrow.
I go to bed, but I can’t sleep. I try to ignore all my bodily signals and try to shut my eyes. Before long, I’m once again trapped with my fears. I get out of bed and it’s still very early. Time to start a new day. I have ample time to prepare some food and get going. But my mind is thinking otherwise. My brain is thinking I’m going to be late if I cook breakfast.
To hell with it, I’ll eat later.