During my mid-teens, the drum of an accelerating heartrate was basically my life’s soundtrack. It was usually accompanied by an uneasy fluttering sensation, like moths desperately seeking an escape, spiralling from the hollow of my chest down to the pit of my stomach and up again, repeatedly. This, coupled with an onslaught of negative thoughts and images of all the things that were and could go wrong in life, created a hindrance for clear thinking and socialization. When the attempt of putting on a brave face in and out of school crumbled, leaving me a shell of myself, home was not just a refuge, it was an oasis. All thoughts of leaving the house would result in a silently suffered panic and a condition I would not dare openly address for fear of being ostracized by others who may not understand the suffocating grip of anxiety.
The image and memory of the above resurfaces every time the topic of Mental Health is being discussed on public and media platforms – a much-needed change for a once taboo subject. Yet, with information and treatment opportunities more available than ever before, the number of sufferers and of suicide victims locally and abroad seems to not lessen but grow. The observation leads me to wonder what exactly can be said to others to convince them of life and light on the other side of what may feel like perpetual darkness.
If you suffer with mental illness – and the fact that I am still here and able to speak of anxiety as a past condition does not already dispel concerns that mental conditions cannot be beaten – I urge, before allowing yourself to be overcome by despair, please take seriously the presence of trained professionals willing to help and to listen. About anxiety in particular, Trinidadian Consultant Clinical Psychologist Ginelle Nelson, in a brief interview with The STAR, addressed how treatment works and when it should be sought out. She said, “Anxiety as a condition is somewhat complex, and requires a triadic treatment approach. Intervention is recommended when the anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it affects the individual’s relationships with others as well as their ability to cope with the daily demands of life.”
Professionals are not only there to issue medical drugs to cure pervasive thoughts and feelings but also to provide coaching on other available options. As mentioned by Ms. Nelson, “Relaxation techniques, meditation and deep breathing exercises, as well as mindfulness training exercises, are just a few non-medicinal approaches.”
And, on the question “Is self-healing a realistic option?” she stated, “If your definition of healing means to live meaningfully, with fulfilling experiences and the ability to embrace and enjoy life, then the answer is yes, it is possible,” – an indication that in some instances time really can heal all.
Truthfully, most if not everyone will come under mentally threatening circumstances at some point in their lives, some more severe than others. It is important for those who lack support and internal resources to keep in mind that counsellors, psychologists and other mental health specialists and institutions dot the island. If needed, with your health and safety at the top of their priotity lists, some practitioners also do house calls – bringing the help you need to you.
Facilities providing free services include the Saint Lucia Mental Wellness Centre, the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre and the departments of Gender Relations, Human Services, and Social Transformation, all which provide various forms of assistance to persons in need.
The National Suicide Hotline can be reached any time of day by dialling 202.