I used to have the worst of panic attacks, they still occur, but I have learned to control them.
I have always been open about my past, how I have never met my father before, even though he is present in my life. We have an electronic relationship, phone calls, text messages, but have never physically met the man. Nowadays, I no longer complain, gotten to be content with the fact that he is present, without putting much regard on other things. But that wasn’t the case a while back.
I always used to wonder why my dad never came back to Malawi to visit, always used to think that maybe he never loved me at all. Most times, I hated having his last name, I felt that he wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t worth it. I hated him, although I never said it to him, but I did.
When I was 14 years, I was introduced to a cigarette that was when I started smoking. They helped me calm my mind, they made feel sane most times. I smoked in hidden places, not wanting my mum to find out cause I knew it would hurt her. I would smoke, put lotion in my hands to hide the cigarette’s smell, wash my mouth then go home. It took a lot of energy, but it helped.
That same year, I started to drink. My first drink was brandy, didn’t quite like it at first but the drink grew on me. This habit, I never hid.
I found that, I drowned and smoked because I was trying to hide my sorrows in something else, I never wanted to confront my dad about how I felt, I never wanted what I felt to be true, so I would escape.
And then, I had my first wave of sleep paralysis and my first panic attack.
Sleep paralysis: the feeling of being conscious but unable to move.
It was the 8th of June 2014, I remember being awake, with my eyes open, but none of my other limbs would move an inch. I tried so hard commanding my brain to do something, trying so hard just to move a tiny finger, but I laid there like a breathing corpse. I tried screaming out for my mum, but my lips would not bulge. Then I started to panic, I saw this darkness inside of me, darker than most times. Till now, I do not remember how long it took until I could move.
After that, I kept experiencing this. I didn’t know what it was, whether to link it to demonic spirits or not. All I knew was, I had stopped loving sleep. I had anxiety every time I went to bed, my mind would kick and scream, telling me not to sleep. I was so afraid that I started drinking more, smoking more. It was at this point that I developed Insomnia.
I would stay up the whole night, or two. It felt better than sleeping; it was like escaping a nightmare. But I started looking like a walking zombie, always had bags under my eyes, my performance in everything was dwindling. I finally went to the doctors and was prescribed sleeping pills, which I got addicted to. They never stopped the sleeping paralysis though, I literally went back to panicking.
It was only until 2017 that I went on the internet and read about sleep paralysis, I was like a maniac looking for anything that could heal me. I just needed a break from it all. Then I stumbled on a blog that talked about meditating. So each night before sleeping, I would meditate. And each night that I would get the sleep paralysis, I learnt to put my mind in a happy and peaceful mood and just wait it out.
I don’t get sleep paralysis as much as I did back then, it comes and goes. My fear is having it while I’m at a partner’s house, I wouldn’t be able to deal. It also made me dislike sleeping over at friends’ houses, because new environments trigger it, and when it happens, I get the panic attacks as well.
This year, I decided to fully quit smoking, because it was just a bad habit I did not want to carry around. Plus, I am at a good place now.
It was a dark moment in my life, the anxiety, panic attacks. I am glad I can handle it, most times.
This is part of my contribution to the Mental Health Awareness Month. What is your story? Share it in the comments section or send them on the contact page.