9 Jul 2018

What an Existential Crisis REALLY Feels Like (And the Importance of Psychiatry)


In the last couple of years, there has been an abundance of ‘existential crisis’ memes across the internet. And whilst I like the fact that this mental health condition is being talked about more openly, I can’t help but feel that the true horror of existential anxiety/depression is being diminished in the casual representations of it. And that many brands are disingenuously using the trope to appear hashtag relatable. To counteract this, I thought I would provide an in-depth description of a dreadful existential crisis that I experienced, which lasted the best part of six months. So if you would like a window into what an existential crisis is really like, then keep reading. Warning; it gets dark. 

At the age of 20, I was going through a lot of changes. My first (toxic) 'relationship' had ended, I had just travelled through another country by myself for a month, and I was about to relocate to a new city and start university. Only in hindsight was I able to link the subsequent downfall of my mental health to the extreme changes that were happening alongside it. 

It started with the odd panic here and there regarding my mortality, where sudden realisations that one day I would no longer be here would incite palpitations and mental panic. Soon these thoughts diluted themselves and seeped their way into my day-to-day life. The best way I find to describe my daily experience during this period is this; it was as if I was watching my life play out on videotape. Rather than feeling connected to my surroundings, I felt like I was viewing the reality around me from behind an unclear screen - this conception informed by a solemn awareness that the videotape (my life) was continuously coming closer towards an inevitable end.

"I may as well have been on my death bed for how final and out of reach present experience felt." 


Even though I experienced this 'videotape' version of reality in every moment, my days began to act as a welcome reprieve from the horrors that came each night. During the day, existential depression blanketed around me, morphing how I felt about the world and reality. But at night existential anxiety screamed at me, pulling me into its swirling oblivion kicking and screaming.

On the lead up to my 21st birthday I remember finding myself paralyzed in front of a friend in a restaurant, as they asked me if they should call my mum to pick me up. I remember those words being spoken as if behind a veil, whilst I was falling through the oblivion of my brain, against a backdrop of terror relating to the constant over-awareness of death. But the terror was coloured even more by the knowledge that the only way out of the horrifying reality I found myself in was the thing itself; that of which I was most afraid of. I remember later that same night collapsing in a doorway on the street, feeling defeated and plagued with the burden of inhabiting a hostile, inescapable reality. I remember observing the atmosphere of the night around me, feeling as if I may as well have been on another planet for how alien the world was to me. And that I may as well have been on my death bed for how final and out of reach present experience felt. 

"I remember looking at select people around me . . . and then automatically picturing their graves"


Then I went to uni. And even though I managed to have a great time during Freshers Week, it was as if I was watching myself having a great time, rather than really engaging with the experience. Watching from the standpoint of someone who was too aware of mortality and the futility of life to truly enjoy what I perceived as inevitably fleeting moments of happiness. On one particular night out I remember looking at select people around me who were having a lot of fun, and then automatically picturing their graves. This was an intense manifestation of my brain's belief of the pointlessness of happiness, and in turn, life.

Luckily, as I eased into my new life changes - and with some external help - I started to become progressively better. If you feel similarly to how I felt at this time, it is important to speak to a professional about it. When you experience existential depression or anxiety you often believe that you've uncovered the truth to life, and that there's no going back to the 'brainwashed' feelings of carefreeness that came before. But that's not the case. There's so much joy to be found in life and it can be experienced once again, whilst your previous existential crisis becomes a mere memory you can no longer relate to. 


To find out about the importance of psychiatry click here






If you enjoyed this post you may also like:   7 Surprising Anxiety Symptoms   -   This Is My Body On Anxiety   -   Having Mental Illness Means You're Strong   -   Tips For Severe Anxiety That Work For Me



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