It all used to begin with racing up of the heartbeat as if my heart would jump out of the chest. Other times it felt like sinking, acquainting me to the sensation of helplessly drowning. Then the severity of fear made the fragile body to shiver and sweat. And once the muscles were drained out of all the energy to fight back, I had to scream to my mother to hug me.
Initially, I remained oblivious of bearing any psychological illness and believed of just been emotionally ravaged as an aftermath of a family trauma that has crashed me into an agonizing emotional suffering at the tender age of 21. I believed, it will be fine with time and soon I will locate the door to emancipation. But, it didn’t happen. Instead, the cycle of attacks multiplied and became repetitive.
While battling, the first thing I did was that I locked up this side of mine, sealed my heart, masked the smile and dissembled myself as a normal person. To surprise, it did work and without passing any hint to anyone, I successfully earned the graduation degree.
More than a year passed after that and I could not detect the problem. Until, one evening when while tuning into a radio show, a renowned celebrity finally introduced me to the term Panic Attacks while sharing how he fought with the same ailment and won over.
It is worth recalling here that I wrote to him a few days later on how his revelation helped me in my healing process. I felt ecstatic after it transpired on me that how having a co-owner to your woes can instantly mitigate the burden of grief. I could feel the change in myself as I had finally discovered the disease and importantly that I was not alone.
Meanwhile, in the process of successfully hiding the affliction, I emotionally became heavily dependent on my mother. It became virtually impossible to endure her absence. The more I was able to talk to her, share with her, the more I felt relieved of pain. The solitude and quietness used to haunt me. Though, she was well-cognizant of the importance and efficacy of medication, it was her reliance on motivational talks adorned with hope and enriched with faith that paved the way for recovery.
The gruesome reality attached to Panic Attacks is that it deprives the patient of all the rationale, courage and self-control breeding embarrassment and helplessness. The continual anticipation of facing fear in any next moment, at any place, further aggravates the suffering. These attacks are like a chain of emotional fractures. One has to frequently stream down the tears of feebleness, wipe them off and get ready for the next spell. While the patient is yet to recover fully from the previous attack, arrives the next and the alleviation stands aloof.
These attacks usually stretch from few minutes to hours with the common symptoms of trembling, dyspnea (shortness of breath), heart palpitations and chest pain (tightness). Before I had subdued the affliction in nearly three and a half years I underwent the vicious blows of almost all of these symptoms. Though these attacks never lasted for more than few minutes, the after effects of melancholy and desolation draped in pessimism had inscribed in me invisible but deep scares.
The weary battle was at last over once I understood that it was just an illusion. Fear is just the creation of mind and it will grow more if allowed so.
The patients at large, consciously or unconsciously, not only refuse to address their psychological issues but also customarily avoid visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist due to fallacious societal perceptions that paint one as mad. As an aftermath of neither been able to vent out the sufferings to any one nor reaching out for any medical help can lead to some miserable ends like that of a suicide.
The deplorable stigmas attached to psychological ordeals compel people to cage in themselves. And sadly, they continue doing so until they (rarely) overcome three major fears: a) of being misunderstood, b) of being taken as abnormal and c) of being shunned by people.
Falling in line, I too had hidden myself even from the nearest of friends, primarily because I didn’t find the need to share. Even, at times, if I try to, I recoil myself instantly as what I would tell them? That I am mad!! That I have fear shocks even after being all grown up?
Fighting psychological ailment is the greatest and toughest of battles. Because, unlike physical pain it can’t be traced, it can’t be felt, can’t be rid by a pill or healed by medication alone. It entails fortitude, endurance, patience and time. But, above all it calls for emotional support.
I gained recovery because I had somebody to talk to, to share the grief with, and to open up the heart to without the fear of being misjudged; without the fear of being considered abnormal. Had my mother not been there, had her belief in God not been that strong, I would have lost the battle.
The panacea to psychological sufferings lies in a simple exercise of rising above our prejudices and believe that under the skin everyone is the same. There is no medication like love, no therapy like care and no balm like empathy. We all need to talk and tell each other that it is pretty normal not to be normal in certain phases of life. That we all have dark sides, weak sides and failed sides. And that is fine. Because, that is what defines us, shapes us and grows us.
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Psychological issues like so many others in Pakistan are ivnored and brushed under the carpet. I have had some experience with Panic attacks and i can tell that our healthcare system does not even considers it a problem and doing so puts so much emotional and physical burden on the people close to the patient. We are a society that disables the able people and those unfortunate enough to succumb to the cynicism that carrodes this sorry piece of land mass, i have to say they have to get out of it on their own and with the support and patience of loved ones.