“I just finished half a jar of jam, and along with a kiwi, those are the only things I’ve eaten today.
And then I wonder why people think I’m off.”
This is one of many excerpts I wrote during my two months spent at home over summer, to recover from the mental bruises that anxiety had cast on my brain. After that, I spent a long time contemplating whether I wanted to share the story behind these many fractured words that inspired the tattoo I got at the end of December. Because in short: it is not a pretty story. I got the idea for this tattoo about two years ago, but wanted to wait for the right time to have it painted on my body. I wanted something to look at every day to remind myself how far I’ve come, and how much shit I’ve actually been through. To remind myself that I’m still alive, that I’m still breathing and that I am grateful to be able to tell the tale. That is why I decided to write down the full story, or at least some bits & pieces of it. Uncensored. Even if it uncovers the parts of me that I wish to keep buried in the darker abscesses of the human mind. Even if it’s hard to write down reality and come to terms with the actuality of it, because putting all of this in words makes its existence no longer undeniable.
So this is kind of a funny story, this one. Of losing oneself in the mere mess of one’s own mind. Of wounds without bloodshed. Of giving up on the crumbling debris that is your own body. Of surviving. Of freedom. Breathing. Living. The ugly truth.
Confession. I’m not very good at putting my feelings into words. And yet I’m a writer.
Over the course of this two-month-joyride (which mostly found me sitting on floors and staring at walls), I’ve had people asking me, “what does it feel like?” And I simply could not provide them with a fitting answer what exactly an anxiety disorder feels like; what trauma feels like; what depression feels like. Because how do you find quick words for something
that has been living inside your head for years. Building up. When suddenly, it was like something broke deep within me; a crack that had been there some time, held together by the glue of ignorance. You see, I had experienced heartbreak before. The one where you lose someone else and a piece of you feels missing, taken abruptly like your ribcage being shredded to bits. But this was a different kind of heartbreak. The one where you lose yourself and your whole person goes missing from the inside out. Just like one runs out of milk, I ran out of myself.
Like the whole inside of your body is on fire, yet you’re swimming through ice. Living and dying. All at once.
There’s something alienating about waking up in the morning, and not recognizing the person staring back at you in the bathroom mirror (and I don’t mean the times you wake up too hungover to remember what the bloody hell happened the night before and how the fuck a guy named Jordan —or was it John— ended up in your house and how you’re gonna get rid of him asap because you’re about 87% sure he’s the type of guy that would steal your underwear. And you swear to never drink red wine again. Or something along those lines). I couldn’t put on my mascara because my eyes were too thick from crying the whole day before, which resulted in more tears and the odd panic attack or two, staring at the anxious mess I’d become. And the funy thing is: It’s not that I lost solid ground, it’s that I never had any to begin with.
I found myself dragging my alien ass to the doctor’s office at the end of June, who then sent me to the hospital. There, in a white consultation room, I bloomed like a tired flower who had missed the call of spring as I nervously answered the long list of questions the young nurse fired at me. For the first time, I put my entire story into the hands of a complete stranger and was shocked by how far I had let myself slip away (in hindsight, eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day should’ve given me a major clue. I inherently hate ice cream). She left the room
to present my case to a board of psychiatrists, and by the look on her face when she walked through the door again, they’d all collectively decided that yours truly qualified as the kind of crazy that they’d want to keep in hospital for a couple of weeks —preferably months.
I can assure you that, being the sassy soul that I am and proclaiming, “I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no mental hospital” in the middle of the pysychiatric ward of such hospital doesn’t win you points.
It does win you an entire psychiatric team who do housecalls, oddly enough. It’s like the DIY-at-home-kit-version of said mental hospital, but in the comfort of your own bed. Like pizza delivery, but instead of throwing a pizza party I got to spend weeks throwing amazing house parties for the team of doctors that flooded my house every day. We drank tea. We salsa-danced and made guac to go with our taco’s and margarita’s. We talked about the misfunctioning of my brain, and why eating ice cream all day, every day is bad for you (it’s the sugar, guys). We got to the exciting point where drugs were introduced to the party (if I say that I have taken Xanax, am I one of you coolio kids now?). And the point where I had to admit that mixing meds and alcohol is not a good combo; do not DIY-try this at home, kids. In fact, don’t do drugs at all, kids. And definitely don’t do Xanax because I can assure you it will mess up your brain like a motherfucker, and you will fucking curse like I bloody did when I had to get off those pills again a few months later. In short, and this is a fair warning for my fellow-anxiety-peeps: you can die from taking these meds, and in hindsight, I wish I had never started taking them in the first place (but I guess the latter has been uttered at one point or another by anyone who has ever started taking any drugs.)
The party did eventually end, as much as I liked my nurses becoming my instant-besties. After two months of staring at walls, staring at ceilings,
and admittedly, staring at floors (because that eventually happens when you undergo a panic attack and your body decides to give in to gravity. You get to experience the precise craftmanship of hardwood flooring from up close. Quite fascinating, as this interior expert might add), shifting between eating buckets of ice cream and eating nothing at all, taking myself on long walks along the river looking like the grandest mess I’ve ever looked like (damn proud of it). And one hot July night talking my lungs out for hours to a complete stranger along that same river that surprisingly broke something in me again, but in a good way (still eternally grateful for this; this tale is too long to tell, but shoutout to you know who you are). And this proves yet again what rom-com movies have been telling us since the existance of man (or, you know, maybe not that long, but you get the point): it’s always the little things in life that create happiness in the strangest of places, in the strangest of moments. Allowing yourself these tiny moments of bliss is the greatest lesson and the grandest gift you can give yourself.
I reached the beginning of September feeling like my sassy princess self again, choosing to accept my anxiety as part of me, choosing boundaries, choosing to no longer neglect my self care like I tended to do before. In a way, I’m grateful for this experience because it has made me grow into an entirely new human being. One I wouldn’t have had the pleasure to meet if I hadn’t hit rock bottom completely. Or as Julia Roberts exclaims in one of my favorite films Eat, Pray, Love (it is also the reason I want to visit Bali so damn badly), “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the way to transformation.”
It is a soft violence, to choose to be happy. And it doesn’t matter how you choose to be happy, or how long it takes you to get there. There’s no timeline, no pressure. Fuck that. You’re alive. You’ve made it. That’s enough for now.
So does that mean I’m ‘healed’ when I tell people I’m better?
Fuck no. It does not. My anxiety disorder is something I’ll carry with me my whole life. The only thing that has changed is my perception, my strength and my balance to be able to sit with my anxiety every damn day and stare it right in the face.
Then, what does it look and feel like today, you’re wondering?
The ugly truth —I promised to be completely honest— finds me spending over five hours to get ready and mentally preparing myself for an event while feeling completely anxious. To then spend only half an hour at said event in painful agony, nausea and a spinning head to then give up and go home again. And truthfully, what hurts the most is that this is how expensive foundation & lipstick gets wasted (YSL, my precious). The ugly truth finds me staring at my screen for hours on end because a simple text remains unanswered, going through 534 death scenarios in my head. It finds me throwing up, daily sometimes, because my body can’t handle the stress and my stomach feels like a rock. It finds me crying to myself in front of the mirror at night more often
than not, asking myself why I make myself feel the way I do and feeling stupid for even having to ask that question. It finds me not being able to workout sometimes because getting my heart rate up reminds me too much of a panic attack which sends my body into a —you guessed it— panic attack. It finds me biking on the street and not remembering how I got to my destination, because I experience depersonalization: the feeling like you are observing yourself from outside your body —and yes, this is quite dangerous in traffic, but what can I say, I like living on the edge.
It finds me being clumsy, although my clumsiness is not so much clumsiness as it is my hands shaking from anxiety; I cut in fingers during cooking, I fall down on floors whether it be concrete or bathroom ones, I drop my phone and ruin phone cases (if anyone can give me a life time subscription for these, I’d be forever grateful). The ugly truth finds me lying in bed more often than I’d like to admit, while telling people my life is ‘so busy’ because that is what everyone tells anyone and that is what your life is supposed to look like in order for it to appear somewhat interesting. It finds me biting my hands, a bad habit to steer my brain in the direction of physical pain rather than the mental one. The ugly truth finds me completely terrified of the whole dating process, obsessing and overthinking it and sometimes eschewing it completely. Perhaps I am not clumsy enough for love, tripping over the same men and falling for none. I’m absolutely no good at it and I need more reassurance than an insecure 13y old needs from their mother (I also need more ice cream than your average 13y old). What can I say, even sassy bitches cry sometimes.
And that’s okay.
Because for all the beauty of fucking up and hating my body for what it does to me, I also completely fall in love with every inch of it for what it is capable of doing and thriving despite sometimes completely refusing to function —little bitch, this one. I find it a completely wonderous process, how one minute I feel trapped in a flesh shell and the next I feel freedom coursing through my veins. It’s beautiful isn’t it? How it all hurts, but we never give up.
Now it mostly feels like the silence after the rain. How the sky pulls itself together along with my thoughts. A sense of starting over, fresh but without a sense of direction. I still feel completely lost, but in a good kind of way. Like I found my voice, but it’s still learning how to scream. Like I found my legs, but they’re still learning how to dance. Like I found myself, but I’m still learning how to do me. The only thing I know, is that I found a home in myself and that home is writing. It’s like tiny breaths on paper that take me wherever I want to go; freedom in words. Every time I give up, every time I get up again, I get a little closer to that piece of freedom.
That is what this tattoo means; this story on my body. A semicolon for my writing and my healing. To not give up. To continue my sentence and my life, even though I want to sometimes make it into a full stop. To accept, and therefore to feel free. Freedom is in accepting. Freedom is flying.
“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.” – Harun Yahya
Thank you for reading my long, heartfelt post as it was not easy to make the decision to share this, let alone write this all down. I hope it helped you reflect on your own life, and that I’ve shed a tiny piece of light into whatever struggle you are facing.
Please let me know if you like these open & honest posts, and if you’d like me to share more of them.
Just remember: you are not alone.