I would like to share the story of my life regarding mental health that affected my physical condition. I was working as a Technical and Administration Staff for an institution. At the time, I had a task as a Liaison Officer. I guided some people from African countries to do business matching in my home country Indonesia. The task had been finished for the day, so arriving at the hotel, I immersed myself in a bathtub for a moment. Afterwards, I had dinner. Then, as I tried to take rest for 15 minutes and laid on my bed, I felt something different with my heartbeat. It was not normal.
Actually this thing had been happening for the past 12 years, but I had never told anyone about it. Usually, it would go after some time, but that night it was different, I could feel my heart beating irregularly for about an hour. I was scared, panicked and jittery. I could not breathe properly. I felt my gastric acid come up to upper part of my organs. I decided to go to the cardiac centre directly. I saw the general practitioner and some nurses fastidiously assisting to check my vital signs. They meticulously put the cold gel and medical equipment on my chest. Ultimately, the doctor gave me intravenous injection to reduce gastric acid that was blazing inside. After medical intervention, we could still see from the monitor that my heartbeat was not beating regularly, but I felt much better. I was not hospitalized. The doctor allowed me to go home and suggested me to do some heart tests.
Worries and bullying from childhood
Having done blood test, thyroid test, echocardiography and treadmill, the doctor did not find anything wrong with my heart; it was in a good condition. So he referred me to a psychiatrist from a different hospital. That’s where I went. We talked about various things, starting from my childhood life till adulthood. He asked about my biggest fear, things that make me feel stressed, my worries and bullying. We also discussed the history of my health and the results of tests that I had done at the cardiac centre. All seemed open and peaceful. At the end of our conversation, he elaborated my circumstances and connected the dots. He told me that there are chemicals and autonomic nerves in our brain and body. The chemicals are related to the hormones that are produced in our body. The nerves connect to the heart, the digestive system and the skin. So, if there is a chemical imbalance, it will affect the autonomic nerves and lead to disruption of the heart rate and digestion and cause psoriasis on the skin.
A study from Oxford University notes that serious mental illnesses can reduce one’s lifespan by as much as 10-20 years. The reasons behind this value are complex, but they have a lot to do with the links between mental illness and physical illness. Here are a few of the most common connections:
- Chronic anxiety/anger disorders and heart disease
- Depression and chronic fatigue
- Depression and a weakened immune system
- Substance abuse disorders and overdose
- Schizophrenia and respiratory diseases
Prolonged stress created bitterness in my soul
What was the trigger of my physical problems? In my case, it was the prolonged stress that had not been handled properly, causing stress hormones or Cortisol in the brain to be produced in big quantity leading to an imbalance in the brain.
Prolonged stress is the accumulation of stress that I had had since long time. The incident of bullying that I experienced when I was a kid until being an adult. I’ve been bullied a lot; verbally, emotionally, sometimes physically. There were a lot of times that I did not want to go to school. Every morning going to school was such a heavy burden; I always felt nauseous and wanted to vomit, my heart was beating fast and the palms of my hands were sweating and cold. I remember when I was at school, they labelled me as a weak person. They called me mama’s or sissy boy. They never picked me as a member of their team when we wanted to play something. They alienated me and made a disdain with several words which I thought were inappropriate to be accepted by me as a little child at the time, and there were many other painful experiences. Sometimes I contemplated, these things could have occurred due to my timid behaviour and I also looked “different” from them.
In adulthood, I too felt very depressed, pressured and unable to express myself. I once questioned: why is it wrong to be myself in the eyes of people? At work, the experience of bullying has started to subside, not too intense as from my childhood to adolescence, but many activities and demands from the superior have made me feel overwhelmed.
Hence, the experience of bullying had created pain, resentment, scars, hatred, and bitterness in my soul. I was wrong that I had not tried to mend it in a proper way. I did not try to talk about the problems that I had experienced with my family or friends. I also did not seek for professional help. I had buried all of these negativities with the expectations that they would disappear. Therefore, I didn’t heal. Moreover, I felt that I was bringing all the wounds from the past to everywhere.
Speaking openly about our mental health battles
On the other hand, all of my questions got answered after listening to the doctor’s explanation. Especially the question regarding irregular heartbeat, heartburn and sleep patterns. The doctor gave me a prescription for treatment. He informed me about the right stress coping methods and asked me to rest whenever my body needed it. I was in the treatment period for a while and felt much better after taking the medicine for about three weeks. I also became more aware of my body and started to listen to it more.
Mental health awareness is a major factor for creating an open, positive and healthy environment that can save many lives. Imagine if talking about mental health was as common as talking about our physical health or diet, or even shopping: people would speak openly about their personal battles. Whether it’s about the latest treatment or how mental health affects your life or the life of someone you love, sharing our experiences can only empower us. Let’s love one another and have empathy for everyone!