Fear is debilitating. It’s like quicksand. Once you are afraid, you plunge further and further and if you are lucky, you can see your head bobbing above. The strength to keep that head up and above the sand drains you. But you have to do it… because you just can’t not stop living.
I cannot remember when I started feeling the ‘fear’. Was it on the way back home from school when I received word that Amma had died? Perhaps the fear of losing her one day (which seemed inevitable at the time) was what was most overpowering. Slowly I began to fear everything – crackers, sound, the dark… Waking up one morning and realising that I had lost both my parents and I was only 32? But I clothed it all under a façade – a false show of strength. That I was in control of myself! I don’t know when it went beyond slipping into what was uncontrollable.
Slowly, as years passed by, the false bravado only gave rise to more fears within. I suffered from many panic attacks and nightmares – often getting up in the middle of the night sweating, sometimes screaming and at other times crying. Then in the morning, I would get up to go face a normal day because it was the ‘done’ thing. And because, people wanted me to snap out of it.
My thoughts raced faster as my fears took deep root within. I was not paranoid, but I was filled with tension and anxiety all the time. But I coped – spending time at work and home – doing all the things I was expected to do because as people put it, ‘it was all in my mind’. I dreamt of big mistakes that were to be committed, weighed every word I spoke and wrote – generally believing that ‘perfection’ was how it was meant to be. In short, I did everything that would make me an ‘infallible’ human being, for to admit to a mistake or doing one would mean the end of the world.
I weighed every pro and con till they ate into both my waking and sleeping hours. Even a positive remark seemed like a jab… and negative ones sent me deep into the abyss from which I thought there was no return… My heart thumped wildly all the time, I was irritable, impatient, always tired and ready to scream at the slightest pretext.
A breakdown was inevitable which led me to a psychiatrist and a slew of ‘happy medicines’ or anti-depressants. Counselling helped and slowly I began getting back on the rails of life… once again. This was in 2009 and after a year, I weaned myself away from the medicines, because a spiritual path brought about a new awakening.
Or so I thought… But knowing me, I tried to take on too much. Even the spiritual bit… I coupled the stress at work with volunteering, domesticity… taking on more than I could chew. A couple of health fears turned my life upside down but in the end… they were only fears. Again, I was trying too hard and didn’t know what I was plunging into… Was it the quicksand again?
I spent a whole day crying in office in late June startling my colleagues and superiors. What was wrong? I didn’t know. But I just wanted to cry… the flood of tears seemed to have no end. I had slipped into depression again.
Why? I don’t know. For a person who knows me, I’ve always come across as super-efficient, even super-woman-like! I have a lovely family, great friends and a good job with some great friends at work. Then why is it that this keeps happening to me again and again?
The doctor put it very well. He said, “Feelings of depression are caused by a chemical change that affects how the brain functions. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons. These neurons send and receive messages from the rest of your body, using brain chemicals called neuro transmitters. You get depressed when these chemical messages aren’t delivered correctly between brain cells thus disrupting communication.”
To make it simpler, the doctor compared the functioning of the brain to that of a telephone. If your phone has a weak signal, you cannot hear the other person properly. Communication thus becomes unclear.
I got onto the anti-depressant bandwagon again though with a lower dosage. I went on long leave to India and learnt to relax as if I were learning to walk for the first time. It was difficult but I did try. I went on a course of Ayurvedic treatments and basically, learnt to do nothing.
I am back… and sometimes the fear rears its head from time to time. I know I have miles to go to get rid of the thought process that I have got used to since childhood. But I am trying.
Yes, this is my story and I wanted to say it because I know there are so many out there who are not willing to accept theirs. Who think that seeking help is akin to being labelled ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’. Who live their lives without understanding that fear can turn lives upside down.
Live in the moment. Listen to your inner self. Revel in the joy of doing ‘nothing’. I know it’s not easy to break out of an long-time ‘addiction’ to fear and do all these things. But I know, I am getting there… and so will you.