I feel like a child got hold of a crayon and is aggressively colouring all over my brain. Does that make sense?

The first time I had an anxiety attack that I remember, I was a young teenager about to start at a new secondary school. It would be my first time in a co-ed school, having failed out of my last school – something that I’m forever glad happened. It was the Sunday before my first day. I had set out my oversized uniform, my clunky school shoes were polished to death-metal black (it’s a thing), I bought new deodorant and had my mixtape all ready for the ride. I was so prepared. Suddenly, I started thinking, what if this goes the same way as the last school? What if I’m just as unhappy? What if I don’t make friends? What if I didn’t fail out of protest, what if I’m just dumb? I got this overwhelming feeling, like my clothes were too tight; it felt like I had instantly forgotten how to breathe, how to swallow, how to blink. I paced my little bedroom, trying not to be overwhelmed by the amount of Pokemon that donned the bed, the walls, the curtain and the beanbag in the corner. Everything became too much. I sat down on the floor and tried to focus on not dying.

It felt like hours of this ordeal but I think it lasted only about 15 minutes or so. I had descended into a puddle of tears on the floor but I knew why- I was nervous. The episodes that followed – until this day – have not always been so clear – where anxiety attacks stem from a core cause – fear, apprehension, panic attacks are unpredicted and unpredictable. I have experienced both. Sometimes, triggered by an inability to make a simple decision like what to have for lunch, sometimes, it’s a voice in my head fighting to convince me that I’m not good enough at the thing I am trying to succeed at. Sometimes it’s a strong belief that I am being laughed at; that I can’t do something because people are mean-spirited and ready to judge me down. Sometimes, I’m asleep and I wake up in a blind panic because of absolutely nothing.

Close-up of little African American girl holding her head in pain.

For a long time, I hid it from people because I felt it made me weak. It seemed like these issues I was facing weren’t real problems. Only rich or Western people go through this. You obviously have enough time and fewer problems to be dwelling on such. It’s not a thing people want to understand. I don’t need sympathy but I don’t need to feel guilty for having episodes of what seem like irrational or dramatic outbursts to impatient people. My feelings, no matter how ridiculous, are valid.

When asked to describe what one of these attacks feels like, I initially joked that it is the embodiment of the term jaga jaga! It’s like handing a child a box of crayons and telling them to just go wild. It feels like you’ve lost control of yourself and everything that surrounds you, and the crisis comes, for me, from trying to take back that control. Where you once breathed fully, deeply, now you’re gasping for air; your heart beats too fast – though sometimes it feels like it’s not beating at all; at times you can neither hear nor see things.

I wanted to share this with you. Not because I want to be looked at as a delicate flower because that I am not, but to attempt to help you understand that issues of the mind are issues worth giving attention to. Sure, this world is rife with ‘horrendousness’, but that doesn’t discount what individuals are going through. From anxiety through to depression and everything in between, people find it difficult to articulate their feelings or fear that they may be dismissed as ‘crazy’, so they go through it alone. We must talk about these things with our friends, children, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers. It may not stop it from happening but t makes a difference. Because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not real, be patient with those who are going through it.

To those who have experienced anything like this, or are going through a hard time because of any issue of the mind, please know that you are not alone. If it’ll help to talk about it please email me and we can talk, laugh and cry together. I do not claim to be an expert in this but I am a darn good listener if that’s what you need.

Ultimately, we’ll be ok.

Culled from the May Issue of  Genevieve Magazine.

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