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Unmasking the Masked: The Reality of Anxiety

Jeshea is a graduate of honors BA in English and is a freelance writer. She was diagnosed with high-functioning anxiety.

woman peeking through blinds

woman peeking through blinds

Anxiety is a mental illness that is still overlooked these days. An estimated 284 million people worldwide experienced an anxiety disorder in 2017, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder around the globe. (Ritchie, Hannah and Roser, Max. “Anxiety Disorders.” Our World In Data.) People with anxiety often do not even recognize it themselves and tend to mask it as "being okay." But, what really goes on in the mind of a person who wears this mask everyday?

The Stages

Being in your early 20s makes one think that you are invincible. I can say that I have been through a lot, with so many scars to mark my battles, that the concept of mental illness was foreign to me. I've always thought (and shame on me for the ignorance), that it's always about your will of mind when one has to handle the pressure. I was confident that I can get through anything if I just condition my mind to it, so it was quite a shock when I was diagnosed with anxiety. I was at a low point in life and eventually just snapped.

I went through these different stages in battling my anxiety:

  • Denial
  • Acceptance
  • Anger/self-pity
  • Treatment

Denial

You think of other illnesses that may be associated with what is happening to your body.

I started to feel sick and was unable to eat, and my heart was always palpitating, making me out of breath. I went to have myself checked, but the tests usually came back fine with no alarming results, leaving the doctors puzzled because they can see that there was still something wrong with me.

I did not expect that it would also trigger other health issues as well, but that’s just the thing with anxiety—the more you deny it, the more it makes its presence known, like a weed that grows no matter how much you try to make your garden appear perfect. It is frustrating that it gnaws on you when you fight it out.

Anger and Pity

You look for events and people to blame. You backtrack on happenings and ask yourself why you; because no matter how much try to calm down, you just can’t.

It drains you of your dreams, snuffing out the light and leaving you in the dark with your worst thoughts. It drowns you with doubt, and you can’t float even when you know how to swim.

A mixture of feelings, a roller coaster ride. It is exhausting, not only to your soul and mind but to your body. It never lies, but you pretend anyway. Poor you, so alone, in a world where your downfall will not be justified or recognized because there will always be someone who has it worse than you, and you should be thankful.

Thankful, for your threshold breaking, a threshold that should I remind you is different for each one of us, and is therefore immeasurable. If it were that simple, we shouldn’t even be having these problems in the first place.

I ended up pointing the finger back to myself as nobody will ever get what it feels like, and it's probably my fault. I tried to pretend that it was just one of the other sickness I had. I told myself it was nothing; when indeed it was everything.

Acceptance

It is made after long hours at the hospital, going from doctor to doctor and experiments to verify that it is indeed what it is.

Even in our progressive world, we are still so sensitive about giving the final stamp to any mental illness, especially ones that are easily claimed when one is in distress or sad. We label our moments, normal humane moments that showcase our feelings with terms that should deserve attention than just not being okay.

As a working adult, I learned how to deal with the meetings on my own. I don’t know if I love the long hallways at the hospital, or if it feels a little too crowded with everyone having anyone else. It is quite a shame to check yourself in or to practically drag yourself to the hospital in the midst of a panic attack, with your work clothes on looking so important, your coat so crisp, and yet you are like a child again, holding your chest because you just can’t breathe.

I think the hardest has been seeing the way your doctors look at you because they know your condition. They are not puzzled with it like others are, and as professionals, they recognize that you are probably tired. It becomes a little bit easier to accept it after that. They asked me about my job, my lifestyle, trying to pinpoint the cause why I was breaking down at such age—and deep inside, I knew but refuse, of course, to share it with anybody else.

Treatment

The sedatives and the therapy.

The drugs do help. I have been fascinated by how even experts are reluctant to prescribe sedatives, but it’s a name I have lived with. Sedatives to calm you down, sedatives to make you sleep, just the right amount. Not too much, not too little, for the mind is already fragile. It is already broken, held on together with the tapes you put on it every time you overcome the struggle of a breakdown. The lines are visible; they are there, they will never fade.

I cannot say it is healing: maybe my anxiety itself does not recognize it. I have, though, learned that the best way to deal with it is to know that it is an endless battle you face every single day. That’s the thing with mental illness—when your mind is sick, you cannot just target the sickness and expect it to be done.

Dealing with Everyday Life With Anxiety

You continue with life as it is. You go to work daily to sustain your expenses. Some days, you feel free of it- hopeful even, but in truth, it is a chain that you must carry and learn how not to let it suffocate you. It is definitely okay to say you’re not okay- a cliché, perhaps, but the most useful one.

People with anxiety wear masks all the time because we have to show a face that we are still fighting, still living, still breathing; even when sometimes, we find that we are out of it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Jeshea Pineda