The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

In the summer of 2017, I started having some strange symptoms. I had lost 5 kilograms without trying and would feel dizzy, nauseous, have hot flushes every time I ate, headaches and intense fatigue on a daily basis; I would literally feel my body sink into furniture and my eyes closing all while being in conversation with someone. Hoping it would subside by itself, I let it go on for about two months, until it started seriously affecting my everyday life and my performance at work. Google suggested that it might have something to do with my blood sugar, so I prepared myself mentally for a life of insulin and restricted dieting, when I went and saw my doctor. She ran a blood test that was able to reveal almost everything about my health in the three previous months and called me in to get the results – I was petrified!

We sat down, and I got my verdict: I was as healthy as any young person should be. No irregularities were found regarding the levels of chemicals, enzymes, cells, protein or whatever, which really baffled me. My doctor then started asking about my mental health and whether I’d been stressed lately. And yes, I had. It’s probably important to note that I’ve always been a very melancholic and sensitive person, and I’ve been treated for depression before, but especially the last few years had been stressful for me.

In the four years I’d attended university, I hadn’t taken any time off over the summer holidays; I’d worked three jobs, two during the semesters. That particular summer, I was working as a sales assistant at the leading department store in Denmark, held two positions as student helper at my university and had my usual summer job at a family owned campsite. On top of that, I’d just accepted an internship for the forthcoming fall semester at a prominent Danish-American business in Copenhagen, a summer counselor/manager job at a language camp in the US, while feeling an immense pressure to do well in the then-current exams. As if all that wasn’t enough, I was moving from one apartment to another, during the week of two overlapping exams. That week, I had my first panic attack.

You see, I’d never really understood the concept of panic or anxiety attacks. I couldn’t fathom how people were unable to control their feelings or how they were restricted by something that was only in their minds. But I learned the hard way: I felt dizzy; I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t move; I cried for two hours straight; my entire body was in pain; the outside world felt so distant and everything was out of reach. Eventually, I got myself together, but only by being promised that someone would take care of the move for me and being convinced that I could postpone one of my exams.

Life continued, I finished my jobs, took 10 days off, got the remaining exam out of the way and started my internship and a course at the university. Things were decent, until I learned that the person I saw myself spending the rest of my life with had been lying to me about all sorts of things for the past year and a half, which made me crash again. I’d been so stressed and on/off depressed for years at that point, and I’d just had enough. Years of betrayal, loneliness, heartache and feeling lost overwhelmed me, so I did something I’d never thought of before: I counted all the pain killers in my apartment to see if there was enough to kill me – in case that’s what I decided. There wasn’t. Either way, I knew I couldn’t do that to my family, and I probably would’ve been too scared to do it anyway.

Subsequently, I called up my doctor, who prescribed me some antidepressants and enrolled me in a life-support therapy course, and I’ve gradually been put on one of the highest doses of Sertraline. Both my doctor and psychiatrist recommended I go on sick leave from my studies, as I had been unable to finish my last semester’s courses and under no circumstances could write my thesis under this condition. So, I did, and I’ve been on sick-leave from January until mid-April.

Since then, I’ve started practicing yoga and meditation, and I’m listening to spiritual podcasts, trying to make sense of it all. I’ve made some lifestyle changes that give me peace: I’m now a vegetarian, I avoid products that are harmful to animals as well as single use plastic. I’ve started cooking and writing more, taking more photos, taking more time to myself. It’s made me a better daughter, a better sister, a better aunt and a better friend. I’m still working on myself and my mind, but I’m getting better, and that’s what matters the most right now.

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