I always thought that I was taking care of my mental health. I saw my psychiatrist regularly, exercised 3 times a week and took time to journal. I finished my winter semester with flying colours, enrolled in summer school to get ahead and even moved into a new home with my partner.
After surviving on my own in a new country where I knew no one, I felt that I could finally move on and live.
But I was wrong.
Suddenly I couldn't sleep anymore. I couldn't eat and my body would shake with anxiety all day. I suddenly didn't care about all the things I loved before, I couldn't see my new house or my partner. All I could see was the house I ran away from and the parents that I barely survived. I left my boxes unpacked and untouched and struggled to get through each day.
I didn't know what 'it' was, but it was getting worse.
I was increasingly depressed, I'd sleep in every day and listen to my online classes like they're podcasts to sleep to. Not only did I stop caring about my appearance, I didn't even go outside anymore. I thought I was having a couple of bad days but when I finally had the energy to participate in class my professor said, "I didn't know you were still in this course!"
I was puzzled as to why he was saying that after a couple of days, but when we met on zoom to discuss my academic performance he explained, "Most people don't continue a course after missing seven weeks."
My stomach hurt so much and I realized that my “couple of bad days” had actually evolved into SEVEN FULL WEEKS.
In other words, I wasn't fronting. I wasn't present, I wasn't even there. My D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) had taken over because my body believed I was in a dangerous place just like the one I ran away from. The only way I was able to get away was by running away (again) or suicide. Either way, I didn’t care – I just wanted to be gone.
There was no reasoning with it and I lost all control.
My suicidal thoughts doubled and my mind was always racing. My partner sat me down and said maybe we should go to the hospital and I agreed mostly because I was scared.
After a period of surveillance at the hospital, the psychiatrist assigned to me finally told me what "it" was: Complex PTSD.
CPTSD swooped in at a vulnerable time in my life and completely took over. As someone who prides herself in academic performance, I had completed a semester without completing a single assignment and I didn't care. When I looked at my partner, I didn't see him but people from the past who had hurt me. I didn’t see the house I was excited about but a projected hologram of the house I was abused in.
I lived not in reality but in the past.
It wasn’t until I was brave enough to go to the hospital and ask for help that I could finally confront the thing that stole my happiness. With a dedicated team that consisted of a psychiatrist, physician, dietitian and social worker, I slowly started to feel like myself again. Group sessions on mindfulness, DBT skills, trauma education and emotional regulation gave me tools to get better. And slowly, my vision because less blurry and out of focus.
After spending nearly a month at hospital I realized that without healing old wounds, there's no progress in any other aspect of my life. I was unknowingly trying to prove my dark thoughts wrong but the truth is, without coming to terms with the past, without doing the internal work of healing, you can't truly move on and live the life I always wanted.
When I was leaving the hospital, my psychiatrist reminded me, "Don't think of this as a one-time experience because asking for help is not a card that you are only allowed to play once." I keep those words with me because healing is not linear. It's messy and chaotic but I learned how crucial it is to give myself the time and space to heal. Suddenly the world is not a lonely, scary place anymore.
So if you are struggling or know someone who is struggling, remember that you are not alone. Remember that you don’t have to struggle in silence and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Even though society may make you feel like there are things you need to achieve, the foundation for any success is rooted in the wellness of our minds. It’s nice to know that this aspect of health is finally getting recognized with the importance it deserves.