Moving slowly, but surely
In the somber hours of the morning, I found myself motionless—arms and hands numb, legs tingling, and neck pulsating in pain. My lower back felt so painful and my chest heavy, as if the weight of my being was standing over it. There was pain and numbness all over my body that I became so anxious about whether I was about to die or be paralyzed at some point.
For three weeks last July, I thought I was about to die—I just finished my first year of graduate school, I was at a new job, I had moved to Laguna just a few months before, and lacked sleep for more than two weeks. It felt alien to me, since my brain and body were used to being battered this intensely when I was in college a few (maybe not so few) years ago, running only on angst, frustration, and at least five cups of instant coffee day in and out.
I had gone to countless doctors and visited the university infirmary far too many times because I was so distraught over my symptoms, which just appeared out of nowhere. At night, I couldn’t sleep even if I needed it because my neck felt like it was about to pop off any minute. One time, I woke up without any sensation at all in my arms—there was that funny feeling, the sense of overwhelming dread of possibly having every terminal disease, as Google had shown me, or worse (or better?), death.
Ironically, I wanted to stay alive.
In fact, I wanted to stay alive so bad that I was considering getting an MRI or a CT scan just to convince myself that I wasn’t overreacting and that the annoying voice in my head was right, that I had something terminal. At least by then, I would know what to treat and how to treat it, but all my physical examinations by a neurologist disproved my obnoxious brain. I was told to close my eyes, raise my arms and keep them raised up in front, walk in a straight line—none. All I was told was that my neck and entire back were frozen as ice, so tense and hard to touch.
For two weeks from when I started to feel these symptoms, my brain has gone berserk and restless, but it was nothing new to me. I had always lived this way. Anxiety has been a friend I had grown to love in the years it had bothered and burdened me that I never expected it to betray me this way—what a monster. A fragile, conspicuous monster it was as it constricted my lungs and trachea, and made me tremble and immobile almost every single day.
Weary and defeated, I digressed to his diagnosis, that it was extreme anxiety and stress. What a foreign feeling for my body to give in to it, when I trained it so much to withstand such violence. Tiredness has found a new way of making itself known in my life—muscle spasms, twitching, numbness—I let my mind and body get bruised by forcing it to the limit every time, thinking that it would make me just as strong as everyone else I knew who were already earning enough to loan or buy a car, or travel everywhere and whenever they wanted; things I should be doing as a young adult. I have grown to resent myself and how this stubborn brain works for a while.
This stupid, stubborn brain that never thought it would make it to 25, not even 20, met up with its familiar friend, escitalopram, again. I am no less than frustrated that I move so slowly and begrudgingly in everything I do. I may not be physically paralyzed, but on days when the “big sad” and anxiety are terrible, I just find myself lying awake up until four in the morning, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, and alone, bearing the cold arms of loneliness, cradling me like a child until I feel sleepy enough to doze off without accomplishing anything.
Perhaps it’s all right, life wasn’t supposed to be so fast-paced anyway, right? Maybe. I don’t know. Healing is such a tedious journey that it no longer is a big deal for me. All I know right now is that I am a little happier than I used to be, albeit still full of doubts about everything I hold in my hands today.
I like how quiet my life is, how warm the tap water is in Los Baños, how I still have frustrations and tangles in life that I have to work through, and how all of these come in waves—calm yet thrashing, just enough for you to notice their arrival at a distance and enough for you to feel their touch at the tip of your toes when they kiss the shore. I no longer wish to hit myself in the spleen just to bleed out excellence and to please others. I try a little tenderness toward myself, like Otis Redding’s song, just like how any sane, healthy person would to another—it just has to be toward myself this time.
I take it as a gentle reminder that without pain, I wouldn’t know what life is truly like, and what is life there for but taking in every bit of happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear, and either way, living it?
Patricia Leuterio, 26, tries to take it one day at a time; no matter how slow, it is sure.
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