I can’t believe that it’s been five months since I had a panic attack. For weeks following it I honestly felt shakey, like I couldn’t believe I survived it. Hiking made me feel depressed, because it felt like I was walking away from the support that I needed, wasting the energy I barely had after the ordeal. My level of trust in myself was absolute zero. I didn’t even realize how big of a psychological impact it had on me until I realized it had been five months, and during the two month long break where I basically didn’t hike and definitely didn’t camp, I was afraid of being alone with myself away from familiar things. My depression during my last camping trip at Manning was overwhelming. The decision to not camp was because of my relatives visiting and ensuing anger it would cause if I went away while they were over, but also because I couldn’t face it if that depression deepened to pre-present depths.
Between then and now, I had to write several large writing assignments for class, which seemed insurmountable. Counselling didn’t seem to be working. Sometimes I would go and I would feel worse. And then I began to feel ashamed for going so many times and making no progress. Yet my counsellor didn’t really judge me, except maybe once, for my own good, of course. I hated counselling, or I needed it to stay hopeful. I berated myself for going to only one of a dozen anxiety management workshops, but in the end, that one meant I was able to walk out of the house and into help. What seemed like a failure was actually a success, because I had been failing, someway or the other, partially my fault, partially not, for over a month. I pretended to be angry when sessions were cancelled, but secretly I was relieved and even more hopeless.
Life with mental illness isn’t a life. I suggest that you still live life as far as you can until you can reach a place where you want to change it, but it isn’t a way to continue. I think the reason why people break down after living long enough with it isn’t proof that the illness is terrible, but because people truly want to change. Running down and finding limits is a way of saying how much you hate something and finding a way to justify hating it when it ruins your life. I would say I had little to no control over anxiety itself, but wanting to change is something that I always had some control over. As long as I could sustain a reason to change, I could. Sustaining that reason can be impossible, which is why counselling is necessary.
I haven’t figured out all my problems, obviously. Talking about mental health can make me depressed, and I’m afraid of depression. The only positive of anxiety was that it didn’t make me want to die all the time, until the panic attack, and that’s when I did, because the sense of being a piece of scum physically hurt. “I hate myself” was a physical feeling that I couldn’t control, and it came upon me like tension between your shoulders. For real. I’m afraid of depression because anxiety occupies your mind, but depression happens when there’s nothing in it. I’ve emptied and rerouted my thoughts of negative ones, but without many positive ones, sometimes I’m left with an empty brain. Luckily, being able to go back to school shows that I’ve tackled at the root of some problems, rather than artificially bandaging them. Only through the pursuit of things I loved (volunteering) and friends and family could I really see that I was able to make others happy and therefore make myself happy. As long as I can see that, the root of the problem can be fixed. And any sort of mental illness will be irrelevant. The way I think now is nothing like the way I thought before, in the content and how I think about them. I’m a nicer, smarter person. I absolutely cannot always think properly, like when I went to a pub with my friends last week. I still need to reroute my brain when it comes to certain situations, where it’s hard to rewrite hardwired scripts. I came home depressed at my inability to enjoy my time with friends. But really, my goals were different. Instead of the goal being to act a certain way, I want to just enjoy life, without any expectation or fantasy or idealism. There’s just one way to live life, and that’s by being honest.