A Quiet Chaos- My Battle with Anxiety and Depression / by Jewell Bell

Anxiety and depression have no particular face. There's no prerequisite of race, sex, gender, or socioeconomic status in order to qualify one from suffering from its reeling effects. The more insidious part of it is that in relation to anxiety, no one may know you're actually suffering from it but you. 

It's a Quiet Chaos.

The blissful feeling of revelry at a party or the mundane moment of watching your favorite tv series, suddenly turns into an inescapable feeling of confusion and panic as your heart quickens, body begins to sweat, and your mind convinces your body that something is wrong while your surroundings are no longer familiar, whereby you're almost sure you're going to die. 

At least that's what it feels like for me. For almost 3 years now, I have silently suffered from depression and anxiety, compounded with panic attacks that make me feel like there's a disconnection between my body and mind. Triggered by a traumatic year and loss of my cousin (who was more like a brother due to our closeness) and having a front row seat to his deterioration and losing battle against cancer, it has taken a serious toll on my mental health. The past few years have been a constant battle of fighting for what feels like my sanity, mustering energy to even get out of bed, many sleepless nights, and reminding myself that I am not trapped inside of my own body.

That my body is my refuge, a safe space, my personal Nirvana. 

I live here and this home is good.  

The feeling of entrapment is what's most unnerving. My heart quickens a bit as I even write this. And when my anxiety becomes so intense that it develops into a full blown panic attack, the come down of it all can feel confusing and even embarrassing. The emotional and mental labor of having to piece yourself together again but on constant edge that another one is not far behind. It was that same feeling I had on a subway in Paris, excitingly anticipating the Eiffel Tower in person, which quickly turned into an internal panic, whereby my amazing friend supported me through it and with a calming voice kept reassuring me that I was going to be ok. Or last Tuesday night when I frantically ran to my mother's room to wake her as my heart raced out of control and my pajamas were soaked with sweat, as she supported me through the worst panic attack I have had up to date. I almost always cry after a panic attack, feeling crazy and embarrassed as I try to conceptualize the internal purgatory that has taken place within my mind. But why the embarrassment?

Social media also has a way of distorting reality, whereby we present our best false selves to the world, and in no way can a perfect   "selfie" with a few hundred likes encapsulates the true essence of a person's life. On the outside, I look like a young woman who exudes confidence, creativity, valor and has her life together. While that may be partially true, there's more nuanced factors at play. Because anxiety has no particular "look" or monolithic image. For the most part I don't discuss my anxiety with others because it can be confusing for many. I've gotten all kinds of reactions when I have opened up- anything from not really taking me serious, a silent look of bewilderment, to telling me it's all in my head, or that I should just "pray and strengthen my walk with God." However, mental illness is a serious issue despite its stigma. And that stigma is all too problematic in the black community that tends to conflate the issue of mental illness with a lack of a strong spiritual foundation. I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ, but I also believe God uses and gives us vessels- vessels such as therapy, facilities, medication as well as a myriad of mental health institutions that seek to help those in need. Some situations can't just simply be prayed away.

It has taken me a lot of courage to write this blog post and even admit to the people who read my writing what I'm actually dealing with on a daily basis. I don't want to be someone who shy away from difficult subjects or only chooses to showcase the positive components of my life and when I seemingly have it together. It's okay to admit when you're not okay, and can be quite empowering to be vulnerable. I'm realizing that it's time to go back into therapy because I can't do it on my own anymore. In some way, to whoever may read this, I hope that this post provides you with comfort in knowing you are not alone as it has done me in writing it. I welcome the harmonious moments of serenity when it returns, because it has forced me to appreciate the small moments. 

And the quiet ones...

Especially when they're not chaotic.


-Written by Jewell Bell