I have just about accepted the fact that in all likelihood, I will be living with mental illness for the rest of my life. That doesn’t mean that I won’t stop fighting – it just means that I understand myself and my mind.
However, this knowledge hasn’t prevented me from making progress. A little more than a year ago, I was horribly depressed and anxious, had trouble looking people in the eye, and got regular panic attacks. Now, I’m less depressed, less anxious, and for the most part, I don’t get panic attacks anymore.
But it’s amazing how one little thing can set you back.
For me, all it took was seeing someone’s face in passing. One morning last week, I passed by and briefly made eye contact with a girl I had known at the beginning of the school year. One – it’s worth mentioning – who I had quickly realized would be a toxic friend.
And then that night, as I was going through the events of the day (as I usually do – I honestly can’t shut up long enough to go to sleep) I thought about her again and the next thing I knew I was having a panic attack. It was that easy.
In the morning, I had calmed down enough to think that one panic attack in four months was still a big improvement, even if it didn’t necessarily feel like it. But then that night, I Skyped my parents because I wanted to tell them about it and struggled to stave off another panic attack. And then once they hung up, I had another panic attack. I hadn’t even told my parents about my first one at that point.
And then the next night, as soon as the lights were off, I had another panic attack – this time because I was scared that I would get a panic attack again.
All in all, over the last week, I’ve either almost had or had a panic attack each night of the week and a few times in the day. And all it took to erase a year’s worth of progress was seeing someone’s face.