He must find courage to pay attention to the details of his illness. His illness itself must no longer seem to him contemptible, but must become an enemy worthy of his mettle, a part of his personality, kept up by good motives, out of which things of value for his future life have to be derived.
– Sigmund Freud, “Recollection, Remembering and Working Through” (1914)
This quote from Freud is only one which I’ve found whilst doing in my studies recently, and though it was originally about homosexuality (yes, there is something terribly wrong with calling it an illness)… Freud has a point with letting your illness be ‘worthy of his mettle’. Challenges of this kind, have only in the past made me stronger, and they again will continue to. I don’t enjoy having feelings that are over-the-top compared to other peoples, but in some respect it does make me a better person.
This week has been hard. Harder than so many weeks in such a long time. I haven’t experienced anxiety at this level for years, and I honestly thought that I wouldn’t have found myself back in that place. People with anxiety and depression know just how hard it can be when we’re called crazy, attention-seeking and lazy. And at first, when your discovering this illness it can seem like that, particularly the attention seeking part, but it’s only because of a lack of understanding.
Being in America has taught me a lot about myself and a lot about the credit that I give to others. I have to have people around me who put me in check, because I have a habit of always trying to see the best in people. I’m always open to enjoying time with people, and being there for them when they might not be there for me. It’s hard because what I what I give to others, I don’t always get in return and I struggle to grasp how things can be like that. People are always fighting their own battles but I consistently try to be a better person, and believe in the good of humanity. I guess in that sense I am naive.
With tensions high with family and friends both this side of the Atlantic and the other, I had been trying to keep my cool for a while. One of the only things which managed to keep me sane, was that for a few hours a day, it’d be the right time for me to be able to speak to my Mum and have her opinion on everything from whether I should go out that night or whether I should continue bothering with a boy. She is my best friend.
So when my phone was stolen on Saturday night, I didn’t know what to do. Tipsy, and suddenly feeling more alone than I’d ever been, I had one of the worst panic attacks that I’d had for years. You might say that I shouldn’t have been drinking, but I’d had everything under control for so long. In my phone case was my debit card, my ID and my USC ID which was my key to get back in to my building and get my meals. It suddenly dawned on me that that thief had taken all of my ability to be able to fend for myself in a place where we’re warned to not even walk the 10 minute walk back to campus alone. Within the first few weeks of being here 8 people were shot randomly in one of the bar districts of Columbia, and I’ve always tried to keep that in mine. I’ve always told myself that if my purse was lost or stolen it’d be fine, within seconds I would be able to block everything, but at this point I could do nothing.
My phone was taken from my pocket whilst I was talking to a friend, and when I turned around to look, there was a line of people walking from from both the bathroom and the bar to the door, it could have been anyone. The bouncers weren’t listening to me and even when I tried to go back in to speak to the bartender to see if anything had been handed in, the doormen picked me up by my arms and legs and walked me straight out -presuming that my panic was only drunkenness. Outside, suddenly alone because I had been searching for help… I panicked. I couldn’t comprehend the situation and I couldn’t breathe.
It’s taken me a week to be able to get my head around everything, and get in contact with the insurance company back at my home university. It seemed as though Kent were the only ones who took the situation seriously. They had offered to FedEx me cash, and to do anything they could so that I would be fine. I’ve filed police reports out here, and even though the thief had attempted to use my card in the near-by Petrol Station, I still haven’t heard back a week later.
My illness made coping with something that may seem so small, so hard. If I was home I would’ve coped with it a lot easier; I have easier access to cash, and my phone isn’t even that important to me. But having to bug people so that I can use theirs to get onto the Bank, being 5 days without access to real cash and not understanding the situation with the insurance company was far more complicated than it would’ve been back home. It was a game of Chinese whispers with messages going from me, to my Mum, back to a representative from Kent and then on to the insurance company. It was a situation that took more brain power than I had at a time when my mind felt foggy. I had to cancel exams because I just couldn’t think straight. It’s not because of the phone, but because that when there is such a surge of hormones in a panic situation, a person can be left exhausted for days.
But a thief doesn’t think about those things. They think about the thrill and the high they get from stealing. I doubt they even think about how they’re going to sell on a phone which has been blocked, even the IMEI number will make it hard to sell on to a legitimate second hand dealer. Phones aren’t even worth stealing anymore because they’re so easy to track, the thief knew this because they turned it off straight away. I hope they really needed the $200 or less they’ll get for it.
My stress wasn’t needed, but it just one of those things that will make me stronger. My illness is something that I can forget about, and something which can make stressful situations far worse. Nevertheless, if, like Freud said, my illness is meant to be a part of my personality, it makes me more understanding of others and more capable to do anything.