This blog is one of a series of blogs prepared for World Mental Health Day written by young Jews about their experiences dealing with poor mental health.
Some people wake up and get up with a smile on their face, ready for the challenges that the day ahead of them will bring. Then there are the ones who wake up like me. This is an example of my day full och struggling and fighting.
”The alarm goes off at least 2 hours before I really need to get going. I feel tired and anxious, I’m on the edge of a panic attack. I didn’t sleep that much, something between 2-5 hours. Then starts the first fight of the day. ”I don’t want to get up”, my mind says. I take a look outside and there is always traffic – adults and children going to places, busses driving by and cycklists avoiding the cars and trams trying to pass everyone on the street and be the fastest ones on the streets. If I even try to move from the bed, my body just stops me. My anxiety grows bigger, my breathing is heavier and there it is – the panic attack is on. Tears falling from my eyes as I try to catch my breath and concentrate on just a small detail in my apartment. I pull my blanket back over me and even over my head concentrate on my breathing. On every breath I become more and more calm and soon only the anxiety is left in my head. I find my phone and start to scroll down Facebook so that I get a distraction from the reality. Once in a while I try to get up and every time the anxiety gets stronger. So I look at the time and continue scrolling until the very last possible minute I have before I really need to get moving.
The next struggle is clothes. I feel like wearing an oversized hoodie and comfortable jeans. I look at my calendar and see that there are some really important meetings and I just can’t dress like I would be having a lazy day off. So I choose a more proper outfit that makes me feel uncomfortable, but at least I’m trying to dress to impress. While I’m putting my clothes on, I keep my eyes on what’s happening outside. Even the thought of going outside makes me feel anxious.
Then I’m ready. I pull myself together, check at least twice that I have everything I need with me and get out of my door. My legs grow heavier on every step as I walk down the stairs to the main door. I look outside, take a deep breath, open the door and step on the street. As soon as I’m outside I press play and start listening to mysic on my headphones. I feel that everyone can see right through me, see the struggling I’ve been going through the whole morning. See that there’s something wrong with me.
I’m lucky to have time to pull myself together on the way to the campus. The thought of just turning back home hits my mind at least a few times during the way. I just keep struggling the thoughts and just concentrate on the music I’m listening to.
It’s funny that even on the street right outside my campus I still have an urge to turn around and go back home, but as soon as I walk through the doors, I’m a different person. It’s like I’d pull on a mask at the same time as I’m walking into the hallway. I also hit the ”Off” button on my ”feeling switch” that suddenly appears to my brain. So with a smile on my face I greet my friends and colleagues and start doing the stuff I came to the campus for. And then I notice it: all the tiredness is gone and the anxiety is hidden in a dark corner of my mind from where I can control it – or at least keep it away until I’m done with all my tasks and meetings. Because on the meetings and overall on the campus I need to represent, I can’t look bad or even tired, I would never allow myself to do so.
I can’t be alone. It’s scary to be home alone with just my own thoughts.
When I’m alone in the evening, I feel unsafe. The anxiety always takes over my mind and I just lay on the bed analyzing my life and everything I’ve ever done wrong. I feel that I’m a dissapointment and that I never succeed or get anything done. My self-respect is gone and the self-hatered grows inside of me.
I look at the time and I should sleep to get a good night sleep, more than in the night before. But since all the thoughts I have, it’s impossible, the thoughts just wont shut up. I keep over-analyzing everything until it feels like my head would explode. At the same time I’m exhausted and have too much energy. I keep rolling around in my bed, playing games on my phone trying to distract my thoughts, I start doing more stuff that needs to be done and suddenly I count the hours I still have time to sleep. Usually it’s way less than 5 hours. So my last struggle for this day is how to calm myself down and relax so that I could fall asleep. And then the day is over.”
As you may notice, I struggle with a lot of anxiety during the day, all the way from waking up until falling back to sleep. Some of it can be caused by the fact that I don’t let myself show my feelings to anyone else than my closest friends. I’ve built a huge wall between the real me (what I am inside) and the outer world me (which people can see). People who I encounter couldn’t actually tell that I have a lot of anxiety. I appear as quite normal or even a little hyper-active from time to time. No one knows the whole truth on what I’m struggling with every single day.
It is important for me to keep it cool and to keep on going as I have an important role in my university of applied sciences’ student union. That is also why I struggle every morning and never just give up and stay in bed. I don’t want my anxiety to stop me from what I want to do, what I think is important, what I think that matters in life.
But from time to time it is hard to find the strength to continue struggling all alone. I’m lucky to have loving and caring friends around me, who have helped me to get up and continue at difficult times. So no matter how a bad day I’ve had, I still always have the time and interest to be with my friends and also try to help them and listen to their worries, if it’s needed.
What I want you to get out of this is that if you’re having a bad day or difficult times, try to fight and get up and keep on going. And try to smile. For example even though how bad I feel on the inside, I always try to remember to smile for two reasons: 1) hiding my real feelings seems smarter when I need to concentrate or for example represent in meetings and even more importantly 2) I’ve heard that smiling actually makes you feel more happy (it doesn’t matter if it’s real or fake). So you should smile too!
Doing stuff you enjoy and like actually gives you hope and strength to continue. It gives you motivation to keep on fighting. Find things that matters for you. It also gives a balance to your days, so that you do not have to live with your own thoughts 24/7, because you also need breaks in between going through things and thoughts in your mind.
Unlike me I also encourage you to try to be as open as possible, because there are people who maybe go through the same kind of issues you have and it helps people to understand. Also try to understand that almost every person on this planet has something their hiding so be there for the ones you love and care about and don’t judge any person – you never know what their going through.
I’ll end this with a quote my friend once gave me when I was having difficulties in life. She wrote on one side of a napkin: ”G-d gives the worst fights to his best fighters…” On the other side she had written: ”…This one’s a fighter!”
Sarah Takolander, a 24-year old multi-tasker with duracell energy, studies social services at a university of applied sciences in Helsinki, Finland. She is also the Vice President of her university’s student union and on top of that she plays American football. She’s been involved in organizing events also for Jewish young adults. Despite all the energy and tasks she has, there is still a lot of days that she really needs to motivate herself to get going.
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