Sometime in 2002, In Oklahoma, USA, a couple of years before I would return back to Nigeria, I was coming back home from my high school when a few blocks from my house, I became really weak and feverish, by the time I got to my doorstep, I was visibly shivering and extremely hot, my aunt (My mum’s younger sister) became alarmed and took me up to my room. A family doctor would be summoned an hour later and he diagnosed that i had a serious case of Influenza, as he aptly put it – a Cerebral case – which meant the infection had gotten to my brain.
It took about 11 days for me to feel somewhat completely whole again but that would be the beginning of my struggle with Anxiety disorder. The flu got really serious by the third day that I thought I would die, It had tell-tale signs of most tropical illnesses like malaria and Typhoid, signs like Intermittent, recurring fever and confusion. By recurring, i meant, i could feel completely better one moment and the next would be down with a severe bout of it again.
I guess there is a very good reason they called it “cerebral” because by the time i was done with the flu, my life would never be the same again.
Anxiety disorder is a mental illness that affects about 20 million people in the US alone, I do not know of the figure in Nigeria since we do not talk about issues like that here. It is characterized by constant fretting and fear over future problems that may never even happen, a constant, obsessive worry over little things like headache, a small cut, a small panic and even a little ailment, someone with an anxiety disorder constantly fears anything and everything can kill him/her. They fear they have most, if not all the illnesses known to man and you will find them constantly finding explanations to the slightest of discomfort they may experience in their body.
A notable feature of Anxiety disorder is what is known as a PANIC ATTACK. In a panic attack, the victim becomes really convinced that he/she is going to die and goes into a state of hyper-restiveness, palpitation, hyper-ventilation, shortness of breath and in rare cases, they pass out. It is quite interesting to note that a victim knows his/her problem is in only their head (not real) but they really cannot stop their panic and confusion.
This disorder can be a real problem if it starts to interfere with your daily living, this is because a victim fears every encounter or venture may trigger an attack and they actively shy away from it. They avoid love, relationship, trouble, misunderstanding, discomfort, enjoyment, exercise, rest – basically everything. A little normal spike in the heart rate can cause them to plunge into a panic attack.
Anxiety Disorder is a real mental problem and is a leading cause of depression, suicidal thoughts and Bi-polar behavior. It rarely causes death (except suicide ofcourse) but an anxiety patient above 40 puts himself/herself in significant risk of a heart attack.
This is the reality I live with everyday and It hurts more because nobody understands. In the states, they have countless therapists for cases like these and people have managed to live productive lives even with their anxiety but here in Nigeria, you cannot adequately convey your thoughts without being taken for possessed human. There are no doctors with the right qualifications for issues like these, all we have are a few asslyums where they dump lunatics to be tortured and wasted away. Nobody understands that just like any other illness of the organs, the brain has a variety of disorders, some mild, some really severe. To NIgerians, every infirmity of the brain equals insanity.
Anxiety Disorder is not madness. It can be a likened to a demon or a legion that only you can see and hear and fight alone, they usually creep up on you in your quiet moments and torment you till you are exhausted. And in the morning you glow, smile and laugh with everyone and the signs of your internal struggle do not reflect in your demeanor. This is why it is different from every kind of mental illness – Nobody knows you are suffering but you.
Sometimes I feel alone – No, scratch that – Most times, I feel alone. It is not a problem a lot of people have here. In The USA, I could talk to a million people about it and feel alot better simply because we are so many with the same problem, living successful lives and running successful careers but here, our problems are not this delicate, our problems are stupid.
But just in case there are people like me in Nigeria, I hope you read this and realise you are not alone and that someday, we will all make it through, even if it knocks out the last of our breath.
For more Information on Anxiety disorder/ OCD/ AHD, visit google. Who knows? you may be learning more about yourself.