Someone told me that every great story starts with the main character thinking he or she is a nobody. Arya Stark, Luke Skywalker, Rey (Skywalker?), Captain America, and Spider-Man are just a few examples. But, sadly, these are fictional people. The writers create their destinies and mold them the way they see fit. Characters can go through more pain and struggle than any real human could possibly bear and still survive.
I, on the other hand, am not a character in someone’s book. If I was, it wouldn’t be much of a story. I’m just a guy from a small town with not much meaning whatsoever. Or, at least, that’s what I’m told to think by my own mind.
The mind is both a beautiful and horrible thing. I can’t trust mine anymore. The voices are getting louder and stronger and the anxiety and panic attacks are getting harder to control. Bear Grylls says that when you have strong anxiety, breathe it down and crack on. So, I’ve been trying that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Yesterday was a particularly hard day. I got home from work, ate some breakfast and watched the new Chelsea episode on Netflix. Afterwards, I laid down and couldn’t get to sleep. My mind just wouldn’t stop. I caught up on all my Snapchats and then tried o sleep again. Suddenly, every regret, worry, wish, hope, want, and desire bombarded my mind at one time. I couldn’t organize my thoughts. It felt like a hurricane inside my head, like I was being prepared for mummification while still alive. Then the nausea started and the room started spinning. I closed my eyes as tightly as possible but the voices and the memories and the sounds just got louder and louder. I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I was trapped in my own head.
After a few minutes of using Bear’s breathing advice, I gathered up enough of my mind to call mom and ask if she needed help with anything. I got dressed and spent half the day with her. She was able to distract me and talk to me until I calmed down. After I helped her with a few chores, she gave me some chamomile tea and honey. That actually helped! I fell right asleep and when I woke up, the voices were pretty much back to a whisper. Thank God for my mom. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I would have done yesterday or even where I would have ended up.
I think part of the anxiety was worrying myself about work because it was Friday the 13th and I work in a sketchy town (Not Sylva, but a few towns over). The other part of it was reliving regrets and bad memories. That seems to be a reoccurring theme for me. I obsess over what I’ve done in the past even though I know I can’t change it. I feel like I have caused so much pain and heartache and I just can’t forgive myself for any of it. I truly hope and pray that God has forgiven me and that the people I hurt can forgive me too.
It’s scary to be alone with your thoughts. You never know just what is going to pop up and haunt you. I don’t want to be on medication because I know that that will just numb the pain and it won’t truly go away. Miss a pill and boom, it’s all back again.
Regrets are hard to escape even without mental instability, but when instability is a way of life for you, how do you regain control? Did I ever even have control? There’s a man that lives near my parents that fought in Vietnam. He’s just a country guy that loves his guns. One of his bumper stickers says, “Give war a chance.” I don’t understand that. You see and hear war vets going crazy after the experience or spiraling into a deep depression because of survivor’s guilt. This guy? Nope. He wants more war. That reminds me of a quote at the end of The Hurt Locker: “War is an addiction.”
That makes me wonder…can mental problems become an addiction? What if I can find someone to help me and I get better but then I find that I still have no one? Would I go crazy all over again? Would I crave to have those voices back? Is there such a thing as having withdrawals from being cured of craziness?
I do want to get better. I do want rid of this guilt and regret. I don’t want any more pain. Sometimes I think being alone would be worth it if it means I wouldn’t have any more anxiety or panic attacks.
The anger is subsiding, which is great. I used to have horrible anger problems, but using Bear’s breathing techniques and reminding myself to let go and let God handle it, I’ve been able to control anger. So, at least that’s a good sign.
I started walking up the trail across from my house. It’s a steep uphill climb and a steep downhill run so it’s a great workout. Focusing on nature seems to help so far. It’s like Rob Lowe says in Parks and Recreation, “If I keep my body moving and my mind occupied at all times, I will avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair.”
There’s only one problem: eventually I have to stop. Eventually, my body will become too tired to keep moving. Eventually, my mind will lose focus. Then, all the bad stuff comes flooding back stronger than before and that worries me. I want to get better. I want to be able to think about the good things in my past without being flooded with guilt for all the bad things in the past.
The only reason I avoid suicide is because I know mom will be the one to find me and she does not deserve that pain. But what if I outlive her? The past and the future worry me. I worry what I’ll become if I can’t fix my mind now. If I can’t trust myself now, I sure won’t be able to then. So I’ll keep searching until I can find an answer. Until then….I just don’t know.
Steven is 25, an amateur film critic, and lives in Sylva, NC.
This is hard for me to answer without giving you my answers for me.
I hear your pain. I don’t know your pain, only you do, but I hear you.
I am going to challenge some thoughts.
All of the characters you listed thought they were somebody, a Stark, a needed son, a genius at science. What they don’t have is free choice. They are controlled by the author.
Challenge the beliefs that you are nobody like the tv characters you listed. Challenge the beliefs that you need someone outside of you to be well. And no, you cannot be addicted to being sick.
You are a nobody? Well, from this blog I can tell you are a writer with the gift to communicate with a broad spectrum of people. You are someone who asks scary questions and faces fears, even when it is terrifying to do so. You are somebody who can learn from shows and use the plots as helpful metaphors for your audience.
You can’t survive if you are alone? You aren’t alive because of what Bear Grylls says. You are alive because YOU take the time to listen. YOU keep listening to the world around you. YOU keep an open mind. YOU choose to try new things, to fight to be healthy. YOU choose to live because you are an unselfish person who cares about the impact on his mother. YOU are a survivor, not because you are alive, but because YOU choose each day to fight to live.
About the things in the past you want to go away: by keeping moving, whether it is by helping your mom or by hiking; by distracting yourself with tv….what you are doing is essentially stuffing those things in a closet out of sight. Since the closet is overfull, occasionally it busts open and everything falls on your head in a panic attack. Or you try to sleep but you know what’s in the closet even if you can’t see it. To truly get well, you are going to have to sort through the closet, look at each item, think about what it has meant to you and what it means now. Some things you can dump. Some things you will want to keep. And some things will be things you have to apologize about and return. You will have to accept that you acted incorrectly by taking that item (which can be someone’s good feeling, a life in a war, or just somebody’s thing you forgot to return). You may have to accept that you won’t be able to fix it, just be vigilant in not repeating it.
You can’t open the closet and let everything out at once. It will all hit your head and hurt a lot. It will be chaos. You are going to have to carefully reach in, take one item, and decide which category it belongs in. Then you are going to have to act on your categorization of that item before you move to the next.
AND, if you try anything I’ve said, YOU heard, and YOU tried.