These past few months have been extremely exhausting for me. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. I would definitely agree that this has been the most draining time of my life.Photo by James Lee on Unsplash
Every day I wake up with the hope that I’ll have a better day, but right off the bat my body already feels like I was run over by a truck. A shot of pain travels up my spine as I roll out of bed. My whole upper body is sore. My neck and hips are tight. My head and shoulders feel heavy. My eyes burn. My legs feel weak and ready to give out with my first step. I give myself a moment of gratitude for another day of life.
Within an hour I start my morning workout, allowing myself to sweat out the panic and anxiety I felt the night before. The heat of my body and the heaving of my chest allows me to feel alive and present. Lately, I’ve been taking cold showers to force myself to focus on my breathing as the cool water seduces my skin into the pleasure of livelihood.
It’s breakfast time as I walk out of the bathroom. My parents are awake. My dad, because of his condition, comes to the kitchen table in pain and exhausted. He slowly shuffles towards the kitchen, sometimes requiring me to walk him over to his seat. But we’re still grateful for the days when he accomplishes this small milestone because there are times where he doesn’t get up at all from bed. My mom arrives with an anxious vibe and worried thoughts already showing upon her face. In the lighting, you can see how much they’ve aged within the past year. Within half an hour, I’m in the restroom because the food can’t settle in my stomach. The uncertainty of everything has already become toxic to my body.
The rest of the morning becomes a combination of me trying to work and study with small moments here and there, where I check up on my parents. Sometimes my dad has morning blood work or appointments where I take him to the clinic. Things are manageable until my dad starts to talk about how he doesn’t want to do his treatment anymore. Of how tired he feels. Of how much pain he is in.
I automatically begin to have empathy for him, and usually rub his hand to provide him with some comfort. But a load of my mom taking a frustrated exhale and the reddening of her face triggers the anxiety inside me. She goes off like a broken record complaining of how she doesn’t know what to do. I try to understand her frustration, but the combination of their emotions only ends up creating debilitating noise inside my head.
By lunch I find myself searching desperately for my breath. My heart already feels like it’s beating in my throat. As we serve our food, I can already feel my stomach feeling queasy. We used to have satisfying conversations about the birds chirping outside and the seasonal fruit growing on the trees. Now lunchtime has become a stressful family meeting trying to figure out if we should give my dad a pill for pain, restlessness, nausea, heartburn, stomach acid or dizziness.
My mom and I have become his personal nurses that try to comfort my dad as much as possible, but always ending up in disappointment due to failure in being able to do so. My mom eats her food with the speed of uneasiness that only makes my stomach queasy more. They rush away and leave me at the table in cold silence as I try to force that last bit of food on my plate into my mouth. I can hear them arguing and complaining again from their bedroom.
I wish I could say that our backyard would allow me to find a moment of stillness and peace of mind to focus. But my mind already feels like it’s filled with cobwebs of emotions dumped upon me. My mind feels like turmoil — with my parent’s complaints and worries playing on replay. I can’t find the off button. The stress in my body passed its threshold long ago, and what I feel is the overflow of stress intoxicating the bit of calmness and equanimity I had cultivated that morning. I spend the next few hours trying to work or study as I try to store my anxiety away, so my mom can’t see me crying or shaking when she comes to check up on me.
During dinnertime, my dad usually doesn’t finish all of his food. He becomes angry when we give him his next batch of tiny pills that he loathes so much. My mom always starts dinner with bad news. No matter what I do she doesn’t budge away from the topic. She stress eats again. I just sit there cross-legged silently trying to eat my food, watching my breath with each spoonful. By this point, my body is already numb and distant. At least within a few hours, they’ll be asleep and I’ll have silence.
Sometimes I try to go for walks to escape for an hour or two. But returning home always feels dreadful. My parents blow up my phone with messages. I tend to have a missed call from my mom. My mind races with ideas on how to feel free, and how to find some peace. The anxiety comes back again in full swing.
At home I try to write about what’s going on in my head, allowing the overwhelming thoughts and feelings stored inside to fill the page with words. Everything starts to flow with ease. I finally think that I’ve found a way to get rid of everything pestering inside until I get a text;
Ya estamos listos.
In the evenings I lead my parents’ meditation. It’s usually some kind of breathwork followed by the reading of a religious excerpt. Unfortunately, my parents have found meditation to be anxiety-provoking now, because they just “want to get it over with” to watch their television show. I used to look forward to this time of day where we could bond and be vulnerable together. Now they just peek every few minutes waiting for the “Namaste.”
I lock myself in my room afterwards to do my own meditation. I cherish these moments so much, because for once during my day I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to say, about storing anything inside or of holding back what I feel. I can breathe and feel like myself. I can imagine my future without feeling the baggage I carry within my heart. I can imagine myself travelling to beautiful waters and mountains that call me by my actual name.
I can cry and shake without anyone judging me as weak or debilitated. The urges to starve me, to over-exercise, to submit myself to work or of running away slowly vaporize away through the pores of my skin. The flashbacks that haunt me throughout the day, usually triggered by stored emotions, start to flee, only leaving behind breadcrumbs of anxiety that eventually get swept away by the sound of my slowing heartbeat.
My mind no longer feels cluttered and heavy. The pain in my chest is slowly mitigated away by every deep breath that I take.
No expectations, no disappointments, no judgement, no guilt or shame.
I can feel the cold air seeping through the window, its chillness tickles my skin.
The tightness of my body releases.
My thoughts, one by one, pack their bags and move away.
Despite the background noise, everything feels silent. It’s just me and my breath.
When I finally feel at ease, I roll out of bed and write three things that I’m grateful for. My rule is that it has to be something completely new. I scavenge through the stored memories of my day.
Everything starts to feel okay again.
My life doesn’t feel as overwhelming as it did an hour before. I’m less anxious. Less worried. The problem becomes when I finally close my eyes to fall asleep but the flashbacks, emotions, and negative thoughts all come back again like a bad overdose.
It never really ends…but maybe one day.