Mental illness presents itself in many different ways for different people. Some become completely isolated, some obsess about various tasks to keep themselves distracted. Some become reckless and unable to make clear decisions. Some turn to self harm as a way of coping. Mental illness is a different experience for everyone who suffers with it.
For me, when my anxiety is bad, I feel in permanent Fight or Flight mode. It feels like every single thing in the world is going to crash down on to me at any moment. It feels like every single person who passes me by is conspiring against me. To put it simply…I feel intensely afraid. I feel afraid to the point that my brain literally thinks it is fighting for my life.
Occasionally, my brain opts for the “Fight” response, and when this happens I find myself urgently defending myself from everyone close to me, putting my emotional guards up and throwing out defensive words all around me. I find myself using phrases like “Stop attacking me!”, or “I am an adult and I can do what I want to!”, or “Do not try to undermine me!”. All fairly reasonable phrases, right? Except when they are being used against people simply showing concern and love towards me… I find myself responding to slightly negative emails with a sometimes aggressive tone, in an urgent need to protect myself from criticism.
However, the more common response I tend to have is the dreaded “Flight” response. This manifests it’s way in to my rather wonky brain in many ways. Sometimes it is a simply case of avoidance. I avoid opening the front door, close the curtains, and ignore my phone for days on end. Other times I find myself literally wanting to run. I get a strong urge to get into the car, drive wherever I end up and start my life again. To tell no one where I am going, and on arrival to tell no one where I have been. To be a new person, with a brand new life. To leave behind everything I have ever experienced, and never to look back.
Of course, I do understand that this could never really cure my anxiety. It just doesn’t work like that sadly. However, this desperate feeling of being suffocated, trapped and bound by a life I never planned for myself often leaves me gasping for fresh air. I so desire the freedom that would come with not being known by anyone. By being somewhere brand new, where every step and encounter is a new experience. By recreating myself and being a totally different version of me. A version of me I wish I could be.
I find myself feeling this way an awful lot of late, possibly because I am feeling like I have no real control in my life right now. Things feel messy, and I feel overwhelmed.
I wonder, how does mental illness feel for you?
Thank you for reading.