Forge on; the fog fades

“I’m scared a bit

A lot

I don’t know what I want

Who I am

Where I’m going

I know no one really does

But still

I want to do so many things

Be so many things

A good person

A kind person

An established scientist

Cultured

Accomplished

Have an impact

But I get so distracted

By the world

I’m addicted to my phone right now because it’s the only way I feel connected

But when I’m with people I can’t concentrate

I used to remember all the small details

But now there are too many details

My brain is fog

And I’m fighting with myself

Because it’s not fair

There are people all over the world suffering

And then there’s me

With a wonderful family

On an incredible adventure

But I just don’t feel right

I can’t believe in myself

I have so much anxiety

I’m so aware of myself

I feel selfish

I feel guilty

What if this fog never lifts

How do I get out of this

Help

Help

Help”

That was an excerpt of something I wrote a few months ago when I was feeling really low.

Writing it all down was incredibly cathartic. It is interesting to reflect on what I wrote now with some perspective, now that the fog has lifted. I began my masters last year in Amsterdam on an incredible high. A new city. Incredible interesting people from all over the world. All of these opportunities within my reach. But after some time, zoom fatigue set in and the lock-down left me feeling incredibly isolated.

But wasn’t everyone feeling this way? What made my situation any different? A lot of people have it so much worse. This is what I kept telling myself every time I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed. When I sat down for a lecture and could hear my heart thumping in my chest, I surely couldn’t be having a ‘panic attack’. That only happens to people that are really struggling. What struggles do I have?

I was forcing my thoughts away, instead of just acknowledging them. I now understand that my conversations with myself are like trees, branches of thoughts that extend in all different directions. I might topple over from time to time, because my roots don’t have the strength to accommodate the outgrowth.

To put it more concisely; my problem was not realizing that it’s okay not to feel okay. There doesn’t have to be a reason. And it was that simple. You hear that all the time from people, but there is this mismatch sometimes between what you tell your friends and what you tell yourself.  I often don’t take my own advice.

I didn’t choose to feel this way, but I was acting as if I did and feeling incredibly guilty for it. So when the doctor suggested I take medication, I immediately recoiled. Me? Medication? No way. Never. While I never actively judged anyone for taking medication for their mental health, I was still critical because I felt that if I was ever In that situation I could somehow pull myself out of it, without needing additional measures. I myself was perpetuating the stigma so many of the people close to me have to deal with everyday.

My mom is a nurse, so I hated taking any sort of medication. Seriously, I’d have to be writhing on the floor to get a tablet for my headache. So when she said to me, maybe you should think about this; I was stunned. If someone comes in with cholesterol problems, you prescribe statins and there is no real discussion. It’s a prescription, not a life sentence. So what is the difference? Both are health problems, both deserve the right attention. In my case, I felt like I was facing a moral dilemma, because this was ‘mental’ and not ‘physical’. But I study the brain and I know very well that those terms are synonymous.

I feel so lucky to have had the support I did, not everyone does. So we need to try as best we can to support each other. But remember, you need to fill your cup first before you can pour into anyone else’s. This journey has taught me that.

“Sometimes you can’t see the road ahead but as you keep going, it gets clearer. Stay the course as the fog of life dissipates.”
― Sanjo Jendayi

by Jenna Pfeifer

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