Beyond the Punchline

By Isaac Edward

Kanye West called his Bipolar disorder his ‘superpower’ and whilst that sounds empowering, I wouldn’t call my anxiety disorder a superpower. I mean, even if I was going to dress it up in a frock and smear make-up on, it’d be something grotesque barely contained in a stretched dress with unravelling threads and blotched make-up. It just wouldn’t seem right. There’s a creepiness behind dressing it up. I prefer to put it in the spotlight naked. Wasn’t that what teachers would say… ‘pretend everyone in the audience is naked, it’ll make you feel better.’ Well I guess it’s like that. So yeah, I’d take the clothes of it off, I’d cut the crap and honestly just tell you how it is, but it’s bloody difficult to tell you plainly. In my mind there is no one singular experience, and most of the shit I read about it when I was starting to realise I was a bit buggered… well it didn’t feel alive, I couldn’t feel it, it didn’t slap me or shake me with the truth. I think I can only really show you flashes of the truth like an old-fashioned slideshow, there are gaps, but the images are stained with my reality.

I felt different. I couldn’t work out if I didn’t feel like I was fully present within myself, or if I was just experiencing my home differently after getting used to the linoleum lined rooms and sickly fluorescent lights of the hospital. The sun outside didn’t bathe me, it struck down with white light that pierced my eyes as if I may lose my vision. I felt weak as my body mistrusted my own safety. 

The tension in my heart seeped into my brain and clasped around my throat as ghostlike tendrils waiting to strangle me with anaphylaxis. May Contain Nuts, a phrase that was no longer cautionary but a paralysing lottery of danger that felt like a revolver with a few bullets loaded. My mind wavered as I questioned what I read, had I properly read the ingredients list? Was it safe? I munched on dry cereal from a packet I also had at breakfast. I didn’t have an allergic reaction before, it was fine. It was made in a factory without pretentious cooks throwing mystery ingredients into it. I shovelled another handful in my mouth and walked to my bed and suddenly I felt the cold touch of the tendrils against my throat again. I started to question the stickiness of the cereal drily scraping down my throat and my chest tightened. Panic didn’t attack me, but my body became taken over by it. I lost control and yet it seeped through me as I struggled to breathe.

I walked over to the class lectern and clenched my body as my mind imagined piss streaming down my leg and shrieking laughter. My heart felt like a hammer thrower was controlling it, building up speed to hurl it out of my ribs. I started speaking. I was terrified, so my voice leapt over itself, instantly masking the fear by projecting an animated voice. My speech was incredible. The class applauded and two girls in the back whispered at each other looking at me with frustration at my brilliance. I walked back to my chair. I was exhausted as my whole body had been taken over by irrational fear and thoughts that darted away like a hunted school of fish.

High Functioning? What a fucking cruel joke. 

My first panic attack stopped when my sister rushed over. She told me to lie down and as I looked up at her I saw pure care and concern. She gently helped me lie back and told me my stomach was tightened. She told me to relax, really relax and only then did I feel this profound bodily and psychological release as I breathed out deeply and slowly. It was then that I realised I hadn’t felt a moment of relaxation since I woke up on that day.

She made my home feel like home again. It was angelic. It was angelic because it broke the relentless dark thoughts and feelings that engulfed me demonically. I decided to have faith in the world that gave me that moment when the crippling feeling vanished like clouds parting after a storm. That faith saved me. There was more to the long and difficult journey, but really it all started with a belief that there was hope.

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