I think I had an anxiety attack last week. That wasn’t the first time it happened. Hell! My life is basically one anxious moment after another but I can’t remember any previous ones being as intense as last week’s edition. When I think about what caused it, it makes me wonder why I even worried in the first place. Some may even consider it ridiculous.
I had just been given a task I had requested when I suddenly developed this feeling of intense panic. I felt unworthy. I thought I was biting off more than I could chew. I wondered why I had thought myself good enough. I saw visions of my failure in front of me. My hands began to shake. My chest began to constrict. I wished I could stop time just for a second, just enough for to take a breath that seemed just out of reach. It lasted for a while, maybe an hour; maybe five minutes. I really can’t tell. People came around and went, and nobody had an inkling that I was struggling. How would they, when it wasn’t a bug or an illness that was visible to the naked eye, but my mind waging a war against itself.
I’m no stranger to anxiety. Hell, my whole being is like a black-and-white tape recorder of a collection of how everything can go wrong in my life. My mind is self-destructive and I am always looking for innovative ways for keeping it in check. I have come to accept anxiety as a part of me; I wouldn’t recognize me without it, but last week’s event still scared me.
I would probably have filed this under “Random Weird Shit That Sometimes Happens to Me” if I had not come across the video below by Nikki Webber Allen.
Her description of her anxiety seemed almost a reflection of mine as if she were telling my story. I’m no stranger to depression, but I hadn’t even realized that my anxiety was just another notch on the mental health gamut and that what I have come to accept as a part of me may actually be more serious than I have thought! But that wasn’t even the most enlightening part! Did you know that genetic, biological and even environmental factors can affect one’s mental health?!
As I type this, I am uncomfortably aware of the discomfort everything I put down right now may be causing to someone reading this. After all, aren’t mental illness cases more to do with “mad” people roaming the streets and the inmates at Pantang, and not perfectly, outwardly sane people? The truth is, mental health issues are more common and more varied than you may think. A WHO analysis estimates that at least 10% of Ghana’s population could be suffering from a mental health disorder. That number may even be more when you consider the stigma and misconceptions that are attached to mental health in Ghana and the fact that most people would rather keep quiet than risk being called “crazy”.
I probably should keep quiet too. A lot of people already question my sanity. I wouldn’t want to give them more logs for their fire. But I am throwing this out there anyway because too many people keep quiet about this and as Nikki put it, we’re allowing the need to be strong, to slowly kill us inside. I don’t even know what I hope to achieve with this but I hope someone reads this and maybe takes a vital moment to ponder on this and realize that that panic attack, that eating disorder, those abrupt mood swings….all of these and more, may be a sign of something far more sinister, and that your mental health is just as important as physical health.