Sometimes I can’t help but feel as though the world is crumbling beneath my feet.
During times like that, life can feel like a concatenation of thunderstorms and lightning showers, and sunshine seems so far and out of reach.
I do the best that I can to get up, but there is an elephant sitting on top of me, pushing down on my chest, crushing me more and more as each day passes.
People have asked how I am, but I know better than to tell them the truth. Truth is, as much as those people love and care for me, I can’t help but assume that them asking how I am is a polite gesture. Most of us ask that on a regular basis, but more often than not, we don’t expect a real answer. We don’t give a real answer, either. We’re programmed to give an automated response, telling people that we’re fine when we aren’t because we don’t want to burden them with our problems.
Yesterday, a friend asked how I was, and I said that I was fine.
News flash: I was not fine. In fact, I was in such a state of chaos, I was the furthest thing that a human being could ever be from fine. Hiding in the back corner of a crowded coffee shop, I attempted to work but instead proceeded to have a full-on meltdown. Thousands of thoughts and worries ran their course, and I dove deep into panic mode as I felt my brain whirring at a million miles an hour. It got to the point where I never thought it was going to stop. It felt electric. There were signals going off and signs were malfunctioning and it felt as though I was being electrocuted from the inside out. Tears streamed down my face, puddling onto the marble tabletop and I decided that I needed to leave and take a breath.
We have become so accustomed to being around machines, we have almost become like them. We’ve forgotten what separates a machine and a human being. Once in a while, a computer might need a reboot and a software installation. Human beings need a breath of fresh air, and perhaps a stroll around the block, musing on other grandeur aspects of this confusing life, in an attempt to distract us from our real problems at hand. Other times, we need to pour all of our raw, undeveloped emotions into another person. Often times, though, we need both.
There is no describing the anxious thoughts and feelings that flooded the backspaces of my mind that afternoon. Someone decided to take all aspects of life that I had grown comfortable with, even fond of, and flipped them upside-down until life reached a point of utter destruction. Rather than being piled on top of me one at a time, all of these problems came crashing down all at once. Ceiling above me coming down board by board, ground beneath me crumbling at my feet, and no where to run or go to that wasn’t falling apart. I was overwhelmed, I was anxious, and a poignant wash of hopelessness came over me. For the first time in a long, long time, I had no idea where to move. Trapped, in that moment it was as though I fell into a vat of quicksand and I had no leverage to get a grip on the land around me and escape. In that moment, I was drowning, and there was no one else at sea to come and rescue me.
But, then this amazing thing happened. I walked into the apartment, and one of my roommates took one look at me and grabbed me. She listened to me vent about each last detail of the state of despair I was in. She did not interrupt, nor did she offer unsolicited advice to dealing with mental health that doesn’t actually work as other people have. She understood. Something about being so transparent with someone, holding nothing back and unraveling all of the demons that were taking control of me was both validating and comforting. Often times, we hold back on talking about feelings because we lead ourselves to believe that other people either don’t understand or don’t care. We choose to not disclose our mental health, because there is this terrible, powerful stigma around it that leads us to believe we’re weak and alone. More often than not, I have found that isn’t the case. Talking about mental health and career moves and feeling behind as I watch other people accomplish great things and appear to have their lives together- as she gave me a gentle reminder that no one actually does- made me feel a lot better.
Sometimes we need to talk things out in order to move on from them.
Truth is we’re all going through something right now. Some of us might be facing a setback in our career, while others are struggling with mental health problems, or a quarrel or bridge in a relationship or close friendship, or severe financial stressors. Some of us might be dealing with more than one of these forces at the moment. When those hit, it comes as a devastating blow. Out of the blue. No matter what, as a general whole we have all learned to bottle all of these things up, holding our feelings deep within ourselves, adding on more and more pressure until we explode- but we shouldn’t have to wait until we burst into flames to talk about things.
Talking about what we’re going through is part of what makes us human. Sharing our stories and experiences with other people is sacred and special. We’re all striving to move forward in our own lives, succeed in all aspects and work as hard as we can to get to the point, but that doesn’t mean life isn’t going throw us a curveball once in a while. In that moment, we can either look around us and decide to drown, or we can do as much as we can to save ourselves. Sometimes, that includes telling people what we’re going through- and guess what? Talking about emotions and our mental state is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. There is no need to drown when someone else is more than willing to throw us a life preserver.
In a matter of a few hours, I went from drowning in the middle of an open ocean to finding a safe space of shore to swim towards. Does talking to someone solve all of our problems? No. Sometimes, it does serve as a great start though. Besides that, I promise that even if anxiety tries to suggest otherwise, this too shall pass and the world isn’t going to come to an end. You are strong, and will get through this as you have everything else in life thus far.