It’s no secret that I struggle with my mental wellness, and anxiety is a big part of that.
One of the symptoms of my mental illness is when I see everything as a symbol or a sign. Numbers and colours have great significance, car brands represent people, and there was even a time when I got in my car at midnight and drove until 4 AM, and during this driving journey I just followed “signs” until I was out of Montreal and found an open field with a 10 foot crucifix and this began my delusion that I was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Don’t ask me how I got home, I just kept driving until I found a sign for Montreal. It sounds crazy — I know — but these beliefs and convictions go so deep and all evidence in that state seems to support it.
I do still believe in serendipity and coincidences and the significance in these moments but not to the point where my every move seems compulsive to these signs. They say that if you see someone that reminds you of someone you know, then the someone you know has a message for you. These can be symbolic, yes, but can feed your delusions and misinterpretations. During my first month-long psychiatric stay everyone looked familiar and I thought they were all actors sent there to spy on me and change the chemistry of my brain.
One of the other things I believed was that every single encounter had great significance, every sentence you heard in passing could get internalized whether it was “I love her” — talking about a completely unrelated third party and could feed your ego, but it could get as dangerous as “I want to die” and spark suicidal thoughts… It can be very dangerous.
My biggest anxiety comes from being outside, and this sounds like a huge deal but let me break it down for you. On my own I can put my headphones in and find comfort in my own world. Maybe that makes me anti-social and one of the problematic “millenials” of the time, but I do try to have friendly encounters with store clerks, cashiers, baristas… A “hi, how are you?” goes a long way. But if you’re not talking directly to me, I don’t want to hear it.
My biggest struggle in being out is when I’m with other people. There is pressure to make conversation in public spaces, on metro cars, on escalators and elevators, waiting rooms — no thanks. People are listening, and you never know how your conversation might inadvertently have an effect on people, and that is too much responsibility for me to handle.
I’ve written before about how music is therapeutic to me, and I remember bringing my disc-man to and from school and listening to my music much too loud on the bus. I try to keep it at a respectful level now, and never so loud as to not hear cars honking or yelling should I every find myself or someone else in danger. I remember getting my first iPod when I was 13. It was a dream come true. Enough songs to visit the moon and back in my pocket. I’d play the sorely missed brick and ball game on my commute, and be saved from any awkward conversation.
I listen to podcasts before I fall asleep, it helps keep the racing thoughts away as I drift off into slumber and last night a comedian was talking about how he’s not even addicted to cigarettes, he just likes to be able to leave conversations that he doesn’t want to be in at any given moment without much explanation. I thought that was brilliant.
I don’t think we have to make excuses for our peculiarities and coping mechanisms. And if I ever just decide to meet you at a given venue instead of travel together, now you know why. Deep breathing has been a saviour for me, and I have done neuro and bio feedback which has taught me the sensitive link between body and brain.
Find ways that work for you, and you do you! Don’t apologize for it.