Reflections of a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl
Inner ParalysisIt was my third year of high school. A sort of large, dark shadow had begun growing around me, engulfing me in a slow, deadly, suffocation. Even showering every day was becoming too difficult for me. To plainly state that I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety for more than a year now would be too simple. Yes, the physical symptoms were all there: lack of motivation, tiredness, low self-worth, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, irritability, restlessness, etc. Yet for anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, you know that the medical definition for what you are experiencing is only the surface of the deep, violent waters you face.
This state of inner pain and sadness was by no means sudden or unexpected, yet through all the “lows” I have experienced, each one has been different. To say that I was in internal paralysis would be a much more telling description of my previous mental state. Plainly put, I was stuck. I was stuck in past memories, stuck in my thoughts, stuck in both my own perfectionism and my high expectations for those around me. I could not let go of anything – I was like a sponge, absorbing everything until I became drenched in heaviness, and I could not wring the water out of myself.
I had become hypersensitive to those around me. To give you a small snapshot, one of my close friends ignored me in the hallway one morning. You’d feel a little uncomfortable, but shrug it off as she just didn’t see you, right? Unfortunately my thought process decided to take a different route. “Is she mad at me? Did I do something wrong?” would soon turn into remembering every little “wrongdoing” that she had ever done to me, from ignoring my texts a week ago to choosing to tell a secret to others before me three months ago to not inviting me to various sleepovers two years ago. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was filled with anger and hurt from this friend, even though I had no direct interactions with her that day. Even worse, I subconsciously expected my friends to know and somehow make up for these “mistakes”. And because I was so incredibly sensitive, a simple affectionate gesture such as a pat on the head would make me forgive her again, resulting in a turbulent cycle of unstable relationships in my own mind.
But more commonly, I would become stuck in various memories – both good and bad. I felt as if I was frozen in an ice cube, while everybody else moved past me, carrying on with their daily lives, oblivious to the fact that I was immobilized in between the past and the present.
Although I am critical of those around me, I am even more critical of myself. I try to refrain from calling myself a perfectionist because I have never believed that I could be perfect, but I do expect myself to put in my best effort, and perhaps I believed that my best effort should result in near-perfection. It became very difficult for me to complete schoolwork, as I constantly corrected each sentence I typed out, believing that I could write something better. My mindset became: I would rather get points off for lateness than getting points off for mistakes, which also turned into: It’s better to not try at all than to try and fail at something. My thought process completely blocked my productivity. Getting out of bed to go to school became harder and harder. I did not want to see my friends because I felt lonely and dejected. I did not want to see my teachers because I felt ashamed and inadequate. I did not want to stay at home because I knew my own thoughts were swallowing me whole. I wanted out. I wanted to disappear, to melt into a puddle onto the ground, but I could not move. I tried asking for help – I spoke to my therapist and psychiatrist, and even opened up to my school’s guidance counselor. But I suppose I was too late, because I only felt worse. At this point I had given up and experienced what Milan Kundera calls “vertigo”.
“Vertigo…A heady, insuperable longing to fall. We might also call vertigo the intoxication
of the weak. Aware of his weakness, a man decides to give in rather than stand up to it. He is drunk with weakness, wishes to grow even weaker, wishes to fall down in the middle of the main square in front of everybody, wishes to be down, lower than down.”