ANXIETY: Breaking the Silence
Words & Images © Binita Mandalia. Team Boston.
I have suffered from anxiety silently for about fifteen years. I distinctly remember feeling anxious in my eighth grade algebra class and tugging at my eyelashes. Before I knew it, I was missing an entire section of lashes in the middle of my eyelid. I moved onto my eyebrows, using my fingernails. On my scalp, plucking out scraggly, rough textured individual hairs that “didn’t belong there” made me feel satisfied. The act of picking out my hair was simultaneously painful and pleasurable. I learned years later that this habit had a name: Trichotillomania, or TTM, an impulse control disorder.
This year my anxiety reached its peak when in addition to the tightness gripping my chest, I experienced my first panic attacks. Despite my brain knowing I was not in any immediate danger, my body acutely and intensely felt like it was going to die. There have also been moments of depersonalization where I’ve felt disconnected from my body and my brain. This feeling of separation has been especially unnerving, making reality not feel real. The uncertainty of why I unexpectedly feel on edge with no end in sight has been an even greater cause of fear.
Mental health issues are suffered silently by many, while the internal experience is deafening. The more I share my experience, the more I realize how many people around me are also navigating their own internal struggle. This has made me feel less alone and ashamed, less judged and fearful of what others might think. Breaking the silence has allowed me to explore this intense and isolating experience, but also connect with others, making the anxiety less all-consuming.