Agoraphobia

There are certain things that make my heart beat fast- the sound of the doorbell, the beep of my phone, the sound of laughter from inside a closed room that I am about to enter, the sound of a car pulling-in my driveway, the approaching of a Tuesday evening, when the bazaar commences in my neighborhood, the…

I could go on. These, by themselves, are harmless…but they carry the potential possibility of leading of a situation that might develop to be highly unpleasant for everyone concerned, I assure you. A situation which can trigger the switch in me…the switch which when pulled, makes my heart beat so loud that I can’t hear you anymore, my knees go week, my gut clots into a knot tight tight tight, makes me turn into something I wish nobody has to witness…all I can do is hide. 

These days, I bide my time in my bedroom…enclosed in a tiny corner with things that are familiar to me and which will keep me from being seen. I hope you will excuse my not partaking in the celebrations tonight. 

Panic Disorder can put the person suffering from it at a greater risk of Agoraphobia, and agoraphobia in-turn can cause panic attacks. If you want to know/read more on this, this is a really interesting article on Agoraphobia, if you’re up for a somewhat long ride. If you want a short-read, you can of course just look at the symptoms listed on Mayo Clinic here.

Anorexia Nervosa

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Darling I do want to pay attention, I want to hear all about your son’s first day in school. I know how important this is for you. But I know they are watching; and I force one spoon after another of this broth, not wanting to give them the pleasure of a gossip. And with each spoon, I wonder if I can maybe sneak out and take a couple of laps around the building? I wonder if I taste nuts in this, that would need more than a couple laps to kill. 

I wish I could share this with you, but I know you won’t understand. You think this is a problem, but I tell you this is my asceticism. There is a strange purity about an empty stomach; I feel cleaner, holier. Maybe this is just my way of being spiritual? 

I want to hear you talk, I do; I want to hear about your days…but I can’t help wondering what sweetener they put in our tea. I can’t accept the cookies, I don’t eat solids on Wednesdays; but I can’t tell them that, so I smile and move away. 

Gosh, I wonder if I am being horribly rude. I feel weak, can we sit a bit? 

There is a whole lot of resources, anecdotes, information and stories available about Anorexia and other eating disorders. I don’t think you need my help to find them. But I found these to be quite comprehensive- this and this. I do want to stress though-  Anorexia has one of the highest death rates out of all mental illnesses, so the tendency to laugh out eating disorders is really scary and potentially life threatening.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The teacher walks in a navy-blue dress, I know that perfume, it’s the same one that Auntie Rita used to wear. I go to tell her about Auntie Rita, but I hear someone say “sloth bear!“. I had just watched an episode on them, so I go and join the discussion. The teacher calls me back to seat and smiles a big sweet smile at me. I beam at her and tell her about Auntie Rita and how I think her new haircut suits her face. I sit on my desk and take out my notebooks, but just then a bird hits the glass of our classroom window! I rush to see if she is okay, but teacher calls me back again. The teacher gives us algebra sums, the same ones that we did last month. I tell her the answers, and she says “show me how you got them”. I open my notebook to write the steps, but then I remember I can probably check on the bird from the bathroom window. I am about to ask permission to go to the bathroom, when I remember that sloths only poop once every week. I am about to go tell the boys this information, when I see that Bina has a bug on her back. I call out and warn her when the whole class starts laughing at me. 

I frown and start writing the steps, when I hear the sound of badminton (!) from the field. I run to the window to see who is playing, the teacher calls me back again. She doesn’t smile anymore, and asks me to show her the steps. “But I already know these questions, why can’t we do something new?” She gives me five new questions, I smile at her, and do them on the board. Now that I am done with the lesson, I ask her if I can go play in the field. She scolds me and tells me there is still 15 mins left of the class. I am indignant now. The other children are still doing old sums; I finished five new ones! I am about to call her out on the injustice, when I see Karan has a band-aid on his knee. I go and ask him how he got hurt and he tells me his exciting adventures in the woods last evening. I sit down with him and do his sums for him, when I hear the airplane pass over the school. That’s when I remember about the missing airplane from last week, and I tell the class all about it. The teacher asks me to stand at the back. Good, now I can see all I want through the windows. 

ADHD, as the name suggests, is characterised by inattention and impulsive behaviour. “Inattention” or “impulsive behaviour” by themselves are perfectly normal attributes that every person experience sometime or the other. It becomes a “disorder” or requires help only when these behaviours are extremely frequent and are beyond the control of the person. Many ADHD children grow up to become super-achievers (like the famous Michael Phelps) and are able to use their excess energy in positive ways. But in order to do that, it is important that the disorder is diagnosed, recognised and treated. Treatment does not mean letting go of their innate gifts and personality; but treatment gives you the tools to have control over them- to dictate when and how you want to spend your energy and attention.

ADHD is one of the most common neuro-developmental disorders and is generally diagnosed during childhood. If you want to know more about it, CDC is a storehouse of information, click here. And if you’re a parent reading this, you can read these mothers of ADHD super-achievers talk about how they managed to channel their children’s energies here.

 

 

Bipolar Disorder

Hello darling, let me buy you a drink! I feel like I have known you all my life, I have a sudden urge to kiss you and feel your body in my hands. I know you find me attractive, I see it in your eyes; and if you don’t you will once you hear me pour out my heart to you. How can you not! I come like a gust of overpowering energy and charm that you have never seen before . You will not be the first woman to fall in love with me tonight, and you are the not the first girl I have bought a drink for today. I love them all. Every girl in this room has my attention, I want to buy them drinks and flowers and make them laugh all night long. Where do I have all the money, you ask? Well, that’s what they made credit cards for. 

I could fall in love with myself tonight. Look at these perfectly articulated sentences I create out of thin air. I conjure up stories and jokes without a pause. My stories sound so plausible that I almost believe them myself. I could be born in Mexico, or maybe New York City, or maybe I was born to the daughter of a concubine in Lucknow. It doesn’t matter, as long as the story is interesting and I have your attention. I want to call every single friend I have not been in touch with the last month and tell them how much I love and miss them. I have already called my mom and reminded her that she will always be my favorite woman in this world; I think I made her cry with emotion. I wish everyone could see me right now; how wonderfully charming I am. I  have the perfect comeback for everything today, and the answer to every question you have. I have so much poetry coming out of my brain, that I keep jotting down lines on tissue papers and on the backsides of drink bills. 

Three hours later I find myself on the terrace of this bar; I am with a girl, I can’t remember her name. When did we come here? How long have we been talking? Her face reminds me of my ex-wife, and my daughter that she (my ex-wife) won’t let me see. I feel the air leave my lungs, how dark this night has become; I look down the railing and see the ground stare back at me, waiting. I am suddenly aware that there is nothing holding me back, nothing holding me back from making the jump. I look at the girl that is (not) my daughter and my ex-wife and I plead “please don’t let me jump”.  Her eyes go wide and I am conscious of every single eye in this room looking and judging me. I want to get out of here, but what a long way till home and how tired I am. I look down again and realize how much closer that ground is to me right now, and how easy and quick it will be. I close my eye and try to think of my mother’s face and count till 20 and wait for this nausea to stop. 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with Bipolar Disorder, the NIMH site is of course a good place to get a basic understanding on it. But if you really want to know what it means to live with the disorder, consider reading this book by Kay Redfield Jamison, the wonderful writer and psychologist who has herself lived and thrived with (and despite) being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder since an early age. It’s beautifully written and I think will be an interesting read even if you’re not interested in mental health. 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I want to enjoy this evening, I really do; I want to look deep into your eyes, watch the laugh lines around your face, and brush my legs against yours as we lose ourselves in this music.

But…but every time you look at me, I catch your eyes stop at my nose, making my heart sink into my knees every time they linger a little too long on the middle of my face.

I fix my hat to make sure its shadow covers most of my face, I excuse myself again and again, to apply another layer of foundation on my nose. I catch my face on glass doors and behind steel spoons, I catch the waiters turning ’round to look at it (my nose) again and again, I put my phone on front camera and check and recheck my disguise under the the table…I send a selfie to my best-friend and my mother asking them the fifth time this evening if my nose is well covered, I catch my reflection on your cigarette case…I…oh darling….I…please excuse me, I don’t feel too well, I must retire early, I think I’ll drive myself home now. 

{I cry on the drive back home. But I could not…could not bear to watch your eyes drop at my nose one more time this evening. }

You can read more about Body Dysmorphic Disorder here.

Burn Out

I am a journalist, or maybe a writer, or maybe even the Managing Director of the manufacturing company you would have liked to work in. It doesn’t matter what my visiting card says. All I am right now is an overwhelming mass of exhaustion. I might have a story to send in tonight, maybe an article to finish, tax forms to complete, budget plans to prepare, Skype calls or  overseas deals…but every toss and turn of my mind tires me. 

How did I get here?

Remind me why I got here?

I might be a sprinter, running on the field…and suddenly I can’t see the end-line any more. I am not even sure there is an end line? You know what I mean?

I can finish this article, the budget plan, the calls, the deals and the tax forms…I can drag my hands, my head, my expensive education through these slow moving steps….but what difference will it make? What is the goal, the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel (if you will) of all this. Remind me, please remind me, the point of all this. How will it get me away from the quick-silver sunsets, the rush of darkness, this overpowering tiredness. 

If I sit in this chair, unmoving, for the next whole week (or month or year) with unattained deadlines, unfinished tasks and unanswered calls, the world will still move on in its exact same devastating way. Nothing I do changes the course of this life!

Tell me, tell me I am wrong.

Before I link to other articles, I want to assert here that Burn-Out is NOT the same as Stress; and while Stress is physically damaging, burn-out is psychologically damaging (though of course, our psychological well-being impacts our physical well-being and vice versa). You can read more about occupational burn-out here. BBC did an interesting feature with Anna Schaffner, the author of “Exhaustion: A History”, which you can read here. And for a quick guide on how stress is different from burn-out, go here.