I cashed in my approval seeking
And paid you so I could free me
Watch me escape this mental prison, like Houdini
I’ll debunk you
And you’ll disappear into the ether, like illusions are wont to do
This morning it finally hit me. As the electric toothbrush was buzzing inside my mouth, I looked my tired face in the mirror. It wasn’t really morning. It was past noon. My debilitating anxiety and depression has confined me to years of not being able to function properly because any attempt at tying myself down to a deadline incapacitates me with severe anxiety. It could be something as inconsequential as sleeping at a certain time and waking up at a certain time, or it could be vital things like doing a 9-5 job or going to university. After causing myself more harm for years by trying fight this handicap, I finally got the hang of it some 4 years ago. I accepted that I had a handicap, albeit invisible, and that I had to find a way to manage it. Acceptance, after years of denial.
So I’ve been making small strides, over the past couple of years, that saw me getting significantly better.
Once I faced my ugly truth, my inner beauty came out; I started writing, in earnest, I became brave, bold, adventurous, and stopped at nothing in trying to make the world a bit better by tackling uncomfortable subject matters in my writing.
But even so, there was so much that I wanted to do but couldn’t. Mental illness isn’t something you can get around by good ol’ willpower and positive thinking anymore than you can get around physical illness with good ol’ dieting and exercise. Just this past month, I went to Denmark over a short weekend and when I returned home, I paid for that by spending the next 3-4 weeks bedridden with a complete mental shutdown and anxiety so severe that it was difficult to even move my body. That’s why I had been writing so much – I had to find a way to channel my energy, or else, if left intact, it could quickly turn into suicidal urges. It’s the horrible truth that very few of us – those riddled with these illnesses – speak of because people usually add insult to an already deep wound.
I’ve been taking tiny steps in trying to explore what it is that I *can* do, whilst trying to stabilize my mood by doing more of what makes me happy in the moment – even if it’s Coke drinking and staying up all night binge-watching shows lol. And I’ve been trying to understand the mechanism of the particular fear that blocked my attempts at going out in the world and do things like study, travel (more than I have), run my own business, etc. Which leads me back to the aha-moment in front of the mirror earlier:
I wanted complete freedom. That was the gnawing feeling of frustration that I’ve been chipping away at for years. I wanted complete inner freedom to go wherever my creative energy took me. That’s all I wanted. And to do that, I had to find a way to manage the scary feelings, the ones that punished my weekend getaways with flooding my system with insane amount of fight-or-flight responses. Because that’s what I was afraid of, that was what was holding me back.
And I remembered that had achieved something similar before – my daring vulnerability. I used to be afraid of what people would say, because I needed their approval so bad. The flipside of that meant that I would avoid anything that would piss them off. Once I let go of that, I had nothing left to fear. Yes, it was still unpleasant to get backlash and disapproval, because I’m a sensitive person and I don’t like confrontations. But it didn’t deter me anymore. I was free in that regard. I had full freedom of expression.
Every action can’t be undertaken unless the associated fear is faced and accepted – subconsciously or consciously;
You can’t swim if you fear drowning
You can’t love if you fear being hurt
You can’t seek if you fear not finding
You can’t ask if you fear rejection
You can’t be yourself if you fear disapproval
You can’t be resilient if you fear failure
You can’t be creative if you fear the unknown.
I spit out into the sink, and rinsed my mouth. My head felt cleaner, my heart felt lighter at this discovery. Hope is a currency I live on, and I recycle difficulties and road blocks to make it through another day. As I rinsed my toothbrush under the running tap water, I looked back at my reflection and though I was still tired, my lips curved in a faint smile. On any other person, it’d be undetectable. But on this face, it made all the difference in the world.
I was born into a cold world in which I didn’t belong, nor would I ever do so. I was destroyed for my innate anomaly . Every attempt I made at fitting in was thwarted and the world demanded I hand over my soul if I wished to belong.And when I was unable to do so, I was sent away to the precipice of life; doomed to live out my days in uncertainty and fear.
It was there that I discovered a group of wanderers who, just like me, had been exiled for not fitting in and they taught me to not fear this new world.
“But what if I fall?” I asked, horrified. The abyss below was dark and bottomless. My legs tingled at the thought of slipping.
“You’ll soon discover your wings, and when you do, you’ll throw yourself off the edge to soar, to explore.” they nonchalantly replied, in unison. I could tell that they had explored the abyss many times, and I knew that I was in the right company.
The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality- the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and grief. But this freedom cannot be achieved if its childhood roots are cut off. Our access to the true self is possible only when we no longer have to be afraid of the intense emotional world of early childhood. Once we have experienced and become familiar with this world, it is no longer strange and threatening. We no longer need to keep it hidden behind the prison walls of illusion. We know now who and what caused our pain, and it is exactly this knowledge that gives us freedom at last from the old pain.
Miller, Alice. “The Inner Prison.” The Drama of the Gifted Child the Search for the True Self. Trans. Ruth Ward. New York, NY: Basic, 2007. 67. Print.
“The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it’s not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of another person–without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.”