This is my very first post, not just on the topic at hand, but ever. Did I leave a big enough clue with the name of the blog, or will people assume that marriage and living abroad causes a bit of anxiety in everyone?
Fact is that 3 million of people in the UK are estimated to have an anxiety disorder, and one in every 4 Indians suffer from the same. On top of it, women in general tend to be affected more than others. All in all, I check all the boxes – I am a woman, an Indian, living in London, and the biggest box of all – I am fighting an anxiety disorder.
NO – not fighting. Accepting it and dealing with it is the right way to say it. You don’t fight a headache or a cold, you identify it and you treat it. Anxiety is a silent illness, but it is an illness nonetheless.
What Do I have?
Anxiety can come in all shapes and forms, and you will surprised that it can happen to the best, strongest and most confident of people. My anxiety came in the form of panic attacks in situations I felt alone and trapped. It started out as an after effect of a long term illness caused by unchecked stress at work (more details in following blogs). But it ended as uncontrollable heart palpitations, shortness of breath, legs feeling like jelly and an absolutely debilitating fear that I am going to die right here with no one to help me.
Panic would creep up on me from no where, without any warning, without any mercy. It could be while I waited for a flight at an airport, or in the middle of the night lying in my own bed. Eventually it got so bad that if I was even having dinner with a group of friends, and got up to use the washroom – alone – I would walk all the way there with my heart pounding and an inexpiable tightness in my chest. Those 3 minutes, until I came back in the company of my friends, were excruciatingly frightening where I felt I would pass out at any minute. I lived like that for 2 years. Still went to work, still lived alone away from my family and still continued to hide it. I started making excuses when my friends would ask me to meet at unknown places. I wouldn’t go unless the place was familiar or if I had someone to go with me.
The only support I had was my then boyfriend (now husband – if you think why he married me despite this, trust me I don’t know either). He knew what was going on, and it helped me that he was always a phone call away and would come get me if I ever needed him.
But then the day came where he left for further studies. It’s funny that I waited for my support system to move away before realizing that I have a problem! I stayed on for 3 months, with my disorder now worse than ever.
I was not suicidal, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t think of flinging myself out the window to just end it all together. That’s when I knew! I have to fix this, this is NOT normal.
I moved back home and got the therapy I needed for one year. Changed my job, started working less hours and of course was back with my family after 6 years.
Before I knew it, I was travelling from Mumbai to Hong Kong alone to meet my boyfriend. I got my confidence back, my life back. And soon after we were married.
Happily ever after?
Ah, if life was that easy. 60% of people who have suffered with anxiety or depression once in their life, would suffer it again. Yes, I checked that box as well!
After a traumatic experience, you are never completely cured. It will always leave back traces of how you felt, a tiny fear of getting it back and it will change you forever.
Whoever said, whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, clearly never suffered from an anxiety disorder.
I had my good days and my bad days (though good outnumbered the bad significantly). But my husband supported me through each and everyday. We were a team and we dealt with the bad days together.
Then came a move to London. I was confident that now I can take on anything. Oh well, now I know better. I know the anxiety is back, I can feel it when I go to work, I can feel it when I go to the corner shop to get groceries. My husband and I are gearing up to fix it again.
So why this blog?
This is Step 1. Empowerment. You see, anxiety is a bully. It wants you to feel weak and helpless. I want my confidence back. I decided to take the power back. I am not going to be intimidated by anxiety any longer. Hiding it is as good as running from it. I am at fault all these years to give it the power to be the taboo that society has made it. If I could go back 5 years ago, I would scream from rooftops – I NEED HELP! I would tell my younger foolish self – IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK.
Am I afraid to be judged? Hell yes! That’s what our so called modern society has conditioned me to feel.
Do I care? No.
The person who matters the most to me has been nothing but supportive and my pillar through this journey. And the friends and family who love me and truly know me will see my battle as my strength and not my weakness.
Step 2 – I want people to reach out. Not just to me, but to their loved ones. Please know you are not alone. I am hoping the reception to this candid blog will prove that the world is full of compassionate and empathetic people.
If you are suffering, please talk about it. If you know somebody who is suffering, please help them talk about it!
We can all play a role. And through this blog I want to say that I am here for anyone who needs me.
And if you have a partner who is suffering, I have a wonderful partner who has held my hand and suffered with me. And we have learnt how to make it a part of our lives and make it grow our love and respect for each other even more. We would love to help you too.