I never anticipated being young and afraid. From an early age I had envisioned my youth to be full of frivolity and beauty. The world would be my oyster. I’d follow my dreams, I’d make memories. Instead, I find myself at nineteen-and-a-half contemplating my last months of “teen”, and, as such, what the fuck I’ve been doing since the day I turned thirteen. When you’re young – younger, I should say – you’re awash with the firm foundations of hope and happiness. Then you get older, and reality kicks in, and you realise the world is shit, and then those firm foundations begin to crumble and before you know it you’re laying in a pile of cement and rubble. That’s how I feel. Everything I thought my life would be like at fourteen and fifteen is disintegrated. My first world existential crises makes me feel a) pathetically gen Y, and b) a lost cause swarming among a bunch of other lost causes. I am not the only one who feels lost and trapped and confused and angry. Yet, I can’t relate to others in my predisposition. The conundrum of youth is complex and my selfish childlike nature is yet to wear off entirely. Just as I think I’ve shed my self-absorbed skin, I’m encased in a new set of scales more prickly and ugly than the last. Such is life, I suppose.
Tonight I found myself again thinking about my future. My health anxiety has become so intense I find it difficult to function. Every waking thought is consumed by this immense fear of death. I am convinced I am gravely ill – and it forces me to think of my own future – or, lack of. As my symptoms progress I am battling with my own head. Part of me sees these changes in my body, actions, and thoughts as a warning of something sinister. The other part of me truly wonders whether my body is creating physical manifestations of my anxiety.
I was driving home from my Mum’s place listening to Natalie Imbruglia when the tears started. Her debut album ‘Left of the Middle’ is something I picked up at my local Salvos a few weeks ago. I’d always sung ‘Torn’ on Singstar growing up – but to finally listen to her original content (and yes – I still buy CDs), I must say, she’s brilliant. Usually, the title track soothes me and makes me feel a sense of calm – yet tonight it did the opposite. First the tears came slowly; trickling down my cheeks and quickening my breathing. And then the chorus came, and I found myself having to pull over my little bomb as I sobbed in the backstreets of my shitty suburb. I have this ‘why me?’ complex whenever I’m upset or something goes wrong. I think everyone does, really. Why do horrible things happen? And why do they happen to me?
It’s occurrences like tonight that get me thinking about our place in the world. Humans like to think they’re special. They think they’re invincible and untouchable. When the doctors can’t save you, or the freak accident happens to you, or the worst possible outcome is the result – you don’t comprehend it. Until it happens, you don’t think it will ever happen. We’re not immortal. We’re not free of pain and burden and suffering. When tragedy strikes we look to our Gods to heal us, to help us, to make things as they once were. If God were real, then why do we live in hell? Why do we wake up each morning with regret and sadness and fear? If God were real then why are children starving? And women getting raped? And men getting murdered?
In my most anxious state I look to God. The first time I prayed I was in the midst of a panic attack. I asked for mercy and I asked to be healthy – both in mind and body. When I was done I realised the scale of my clasping hands in prayer. You see, God is a concept I don’t subscribe to when I’m sober or sane. Logical me sees religion as this man-made concept set to control masses to believe in a singular ideology. God to me is inconceivable. I mean, how can we believe in something that doesn’t prove itself to be true? Is there any physical evidence of Jesus Christ?
I wish there was. I wish I wasn’t so critical. I wish I believed I could be saved.
That’s what mental illness does to you – it fucks you up. It makes you critical and afraid and crazy. It makes you paranoid and obsessive and agitated. It makes you a liability to your parents; it makes you a bad friend, a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad student, a bad person. I want to be a good person so bad. I want to live my life. I want to be nineteen and have fun with my friends and travel and dance and laugh and sing. But I’m not any of those things. I don’t do any of those things. Instead, I’m curled up in this tiny ball of self-hatred and doubt and panic. The older I get the further I fall into this pit, and the tighter the chain gets around my neck – tighter and tighter til I’m gasping for air and flinching at the thought of illness or pain of any sort. I just want to be free.
The worst part about anxiety and depression is that it gives you a temporary glimpse at a life free of mental anguish. Sometimes you’ll have bouts of happiness and contentment. Sometimes they last for months. But just when you think you’ve finally crawled out of the pit and freed yourself from the chain – something pulls you back in again. And this time you fall deeper and the chain gets that little bit tighter. It’s an ongoing cycle.
I always think about what I’ll be like when I get better – if I get better. I’ll lose the weight, I’ll make more friends, I’ll be happier, healthier, lighter. I won’t worry about who I am and my immense insignificance in the large scale of things (i.e. the universe). I’ll break the chain and climb out of the hole and never go back in. Perhaps I’ll convert to Christianity or Islam or Buddhism. Who knows?
The reality is that I’ll never break the chain or get out of the hole. I’ll continue going on being a cynical agnostic bitch. Maybe I won’t lose the weight, or make more friends, or be happier or healthier or lighter. I will never escape the wrath of mental illness – it’s here and it will never go away how much I learn to manage it. So, for the meantime I’ll annoy my doctor and google symptoms and cry over Natalie Imbruglia. I’ll work something out.
Also here’s another Nat Imbruglia song from ’97. Everyone already knows ‘Torn’ and the only ones I could find on YouTube were pitch-shifted. So, here’s ‘Big Mistake’. Outfit goals, right???