Lips are moving. Mouths: opening and closing. Food being broken into digestible pieces.
Smack. Smack. Smack.
The noise gets louder. It can’t just be in my head. Someone is turning up the volume—someone is out to get me.
My steady heartbeat begins pounding; harder and faster as the noise becomes louder and louder. Sweat drips down my face and soaks my shirt. My breathing feels blocked. Are my lungs giving out? I try to fight it. It will be over soon.
This is the breaking point.
I have persisted beyond the abuse—the neglect. Somehow I have moved through those times without cracking, and now a subtle and repetitive noise is breaking me.
The straw that broke the camel’s back? Or the child with depleting anxiety, unable to persist any further?
Composed on the outside, I stand up and walk to my room. My bowl of cereal remains on the table untouched; soggy.
When I push open the door to my bedroom I collapse to the ground again. This is the only place I can lose myself. No one will ever know. The door is shut and the world left outside.
My skin breaks open easily, but there have become too many marks. I pull on my hair—entire handfuls, grasping with all of my might. My muscles are flexed as I force the pain.
Tears fall onto the floor below me.
I can still hear the sound. Smack. Smack Smack.
It’s not possible, I think. The sound is stuck in my ears, rattling inside my head. It won’t go away.
My head drops forward and I release my hair—it’s not working this time.
As hard as I can, I whip my head backwards. Smack: against the wall.
I see stars, but the sound remains.
I’m still there. I can’t escape myself.
My first debilitating panic attack happened when I was twelve years old.
Anxiety came to me disguised in self-hatred, so I fought it with self-destruction.
Anxiety came to me disguised in body dysmorphia, so I fought it with an eating disorder.
Anxiety came to me wearing many masks, so I fought it with many weapons.
The only problem was that the anxiety was inside of me and the weapons I was using were against me.
I fought myself most of my life, trying desperately to separate myself from the twelve-year-old girl stunted by her inner turmoil. There had to be a way to get rid of the pain. There had to be a way to drown out the memories.
There were entire years I wished that a bus would take me out—quick and painless.
At twenty-eight years old, I have found myself to be relatively stable: relative to the girl nestled inside abusive relationships; relative to the girl seeking revenge on herself; relative to the girl who woke up every morning crying, simply because she woke up another day.
I’ve been in and out of psychiatric care for almost half of my life now. I have been professionally diagnosed with Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Major Depression. Personally, from my studies of Psychology and experience living with myself for my entire life, I think all of these diagnoses blend together and the symptoms manifest similarly with each. I also believe that each diagnoses fuels the others—they feed off of each other like a pool of unwelcome parasites.
My mental health is not great today. I’m not sure it ever will be. I still cry more days than I don’t. I still suffer from insomnia, which is managed in part by medication. I still look down at my stomach and wish I could shave off a couple of inches. I still have nightmares almost every night, and flashbacks of the abuse. I still have panic attacks, regularly; but I’ve stopped harming myself entirely, and I’ll take that for now.
Shauna Dinsart is a twenty-something Corporate Manager turned Freelance Artist, currently living in Paris, France. She is a proud feminist and lover of all animals. When she isn’t writing or working on other creative projects, you can find her nose buried in a good novel or out enjoying an eclectic restaurant with her husband.
Shauna Dinsart can be found on Twitter.