This Year I Learned To Accept Panic & My Pain
2020 is my year, I can just feel it.
Hands up who proclaimed the same thing?
There was a certain feel 2020 gave off, that something was going to happen… something big. In ways, we were right, just not in the way we expected.
Like most people, I look at 2020 through certain filters: how shit is this? When can life get back to normal? How can I move forward with everything in my life put on hold? Where is all the opportunity 2020 promised me? Everything seemed hopeless, and my proclamation tasted sour in my mouth. Little did I know I was right, 2020 is my year.
My year to accept certain elements in my life.
Growing up, I felt wrong.
Let me try to explain to you what I mean by feeling wrong. The only way I feel I can do that is with the help of some fictional creatures.
Sometimes it felt as if the Dementors from Harry Potter were following me around, sucking all the happiness from me. During these bouts, I was in a constant state of tiredness and hopelessness. Joy didn’t exist in my world anymore. I lost motivation to the abyss. Even when I was among friends, I felt disconnected to them. It’s like we were on separate plains of existence; they were in the Good Place and I was in Limbo. I wasn’t even important enough for the Bad Place. I had no purpose other than to float—craving the Good Place.
This might sound overdramatic to you, but allow yourself a minute to truly believe every word I have just written. It’s overwhelming and you always feel alone.
At other times I didn’t feel alive. I would be physically there but emotionally and mentally I was not. It was like I was possessed by one of the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. A soulless creature addicted to suffering. In this state, it feels like a person could run you through with a sword, and you wouldn’t feel it. In ways, it felt as if I was immortal (in the most horrible sense you could think of).
I was numb, stripped of everything that made me human.
There’s a story I’d like to tell you about one of these possessions. And it goes like this.
I was meant to be going on tour to South America. I had given up my job, the place I lived and what felt like my life. The company I was working for learnt that I was on anti-depressants through my medical check. They then informed me I couldn’t go on tour for them while on this medication.
It devastated me. I remember sitting with my mum in a restaurant in South Bank possessed with this creature. Not being able to hide it. Wanting to cry out how sorry I am, she had to see me this way.
I was dead inside. All I could feel was this overwhelming sense of numbness.
I wish I could say they were the only creatures in my shadows. But there are plenty more of them, like Panic, the minion of Hades in Disney’s Hercules. Filling my head with constant waves of fear, anxiety, and shame. Telling me everyone hates me; I should always be fearful, and I should hold on to guilt. I’ve had to live through so many moments of people thinking I’m crazy because they don’t understand mental illness.
My body holds onto these memories. It never forgets.
Finding my label (i.e. depression and anxiety) helped me. Making these creatures visible to my eyes was helpful. It has allowed me to understand them better, but not made them any less difficult. They didn’t disappear at the flick of the doctor’s wand. We still constantly play follow the leader. My life feels like I’m on a constant road to recovery with many trips and falls.
Like most long-haul journeys, I grew tired. The wounds these creatures inflict upon me wouldn’t heal.
No matter how much soul-searching I did. I became hopeless. I pushed the creature’s back, built up the wall around me and started faking it. Telling everyone I was looking after myself, preaching the importance of mental health.
Secretly, I was miserable and had been for over a decade. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t. I saw no path to freedom.
This year, something inside of me cracked. I tried to hold it back. But Panic wouldn’t let me. He clawed me apart. I didn’t realise at the time I wasn’t acknowledging an important creature trailing in my shadows. Panic’s partner in crime… pain.
Luckily, the universe was listening and sent me therapy sessions via the NHS. I’d waited for these sessions for nearly a year, and they came when I really needed them. These came in a new form for me, focusing on self-compassion. A concept completely alien to me.
Did you know you are allowed to be kind to yourself?
Exploring self-compassion, I have found myself acknowledging parts of me I never had before; my lack of self-worth, my self-hate and my pain. I’m slowly planting the seeds of mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness into my routine.
Six months ago, I used my pain as a weapon against myself. I punished myself with questions such as how dare I feel this pain? You have no right.
I denied myself the pain I deserved to feel.
Belittled me into thinking my experiences were smaller.
Creatures walk in my shadow, and I am learning to treat them with the respect they deserve.
2020 was going to be my year, and it has been.
It allowed me the space to reflect on myself and finally enter a new stage in my recovery.
I give myself the time to practice self-therapy, set myself challenges, journal, and add small moments of silliness into the mix. I know there will be rough roads ahead, but I know the road I am on is a healing one.
And for the first time, I believe I can finally get to my destination.