Anxiety & Depression. They’re common. They’re nothing to be ashamed of. They’re fucking pains in my ass.
Anxiety is something I deal with on a daily basis. Every single day. Even if it doesn’t look like I’m experiencing anxiety; even if I’m acting completely at ease & relaxed, it’s there. In the back of my mind, just trying to convince me that I’ve done something wrong or will do something wrong or at the very least will make a fool of myself. Every day. Sometimes it’s even over things that are 100% out of my control – anxiety over being attacked or in a car accident or even contracting some ridiculous illness. Logically, I know the odds of these events occurring are minimal. But that doesn’t stop the anxiety. It doesn’t stop my heart from racing and my chest from tightening at the slightest flicker of something gone wrong. Then the panic sets in & the tears start flowing, and even though I still KNOW deep down that whatever has triggered this attack is complete & utter bullshit – I am helpless to stop it. Helpless to control it. So I just have to wait for it to pass. Every. Single. Day.
You get used to it, I suppose. The anxiety. You learn the personal effectiveness of basically every home remedy for a panic attack – for me the effective ones are: hot baths, great music, fluffy kittens, cheesy rom-coms, getting lost in a good book, connecting with another person, and sometimes even cleaning. Feeling in control is a great way to ease an anxiety attack. And I feel surprisingly in control of my surroundings – and life – when I clean or organize something. Like I said, you kind of get used to it. And of course medication is a completely viable method of controlling one’s anxieties – I personally don’t feel comfortable with mood stabilizers/antidepressants/etc…, so I’ll avoid that at any cost, but I know they really do help a lot of people.
Depression, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. It’s debilitating and physically painful and just plain devastating. And that, my friends, is the boat I’m in today. Even as I’m writing this, the physical pain caused by this depression – the worst it’s been in over 10 years – is practically suffocating me. The disassociation & derealization I’m experiencing is so surreal that I’m losing entire parts of my day without realizing it until much later. I’m walking through a fog somewhere between feeling like everything is falling apart & also kind of not caring. Except I do. I know I care, somewhere deep inside of me, I care. Obviously. I wouldn’t be writing all of this if I didn’t fucking care.
The problem with depression is that it is much, much more difficult to manage on your own than anxiety. Sure, those same remedies I listed above can help slightly if my mood drops too far, but depression is far more than just feeling sad. You can’t cheer someone up from depression. Usually, it requires medication to balance your hormones or some shit. Or at the very least, professional therapy – but still usually a little medication. And that scares the ever-living shit out of me. The human brain is still such an incredible mystery. Medicating mental illnesses is usually just a “let’s try this & see what happens” kind of thing. It’s 2016 and with all the medical advancements we’ve seen, treating mental illness is so fucking unscientific it’s astonishing. And one time in high school, we tried something that didn’t work. It backfired. I had the scariest week of my life because for the first time ever, I actually wanted to kill myself.
I was lucky that somehow through the haze I understood that I didn’t ACTUALLY want to kill myself and I told my mom, who got me the additional help I needed; but I do know that I never want to take the risk of feeling that way again. I can’t even tell my mom what I’m going through right now because every time my depression resurfaces she gets terrified & thinks I’m going to hurt myself. I’m not. I most definitely am not going to hurt myself, physically. But it’d be very easy for me to screw up pretty much every other part my life right now. Again, I’m not. I’m fighting like hell to get myself out of this on my own. But how?
Well, this random-ass blog post, for one. Writing this is a means of expressing my experience coherently, seeing as every time I try to talk about it aloud I turn into a blubbering mess, unable to form complete sentences with real words. We are over 750 words into this ramble-fest, and the weight on my shoulders is noticeably lighter. My body feels more alert. I guess it’s working?
I think it’s really important to understand what your personal triggers are when it comes to depression. Not every depression is caused by a trigger, but it is common to have one or two specific things that really jump-start a depression & fuel the fire. For me? Chaos. And under-appreciation. The instant I feel like I don’t have a solid grip on my life, I can feel the spark of depression just ready to burst into flames. It’s like clockwork. Every time. And, ok. NOBODY has a solid grip on their life 100% of the time. It just doesn’t happen. Life is full of bullshit & curveballs and nobody, nobody, NOBODY can escape that fact. My anxiety & OCD-riddled brain, though, refuses to accept that life can be anything other than what I want it to be. It refuses to accept that anything can be outside of my own control, and when something goes wrong it essentially throws a tantrum and blows every possible fuse (those of you who have seen The Force Awakens, may have a nice visual to go along with this metaphor) and shuts down.
The under-appreciation trigger is actually something I very recently realized. I just finished reading Patrick Ness’s “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” over the weekend, and the protagonist, Mikey, is perhaps the most personally identifiable character I’ve ever read. Mikey suffers from Anxiety & OCD, although his primary concern is the OCD, whereas my OCD is pretty mild & has never really affected my life in any measurable way. But regardless of what the illness is, it’s easy to see myself in Mikey’s character. I’m probably going to write a full review of this book, because it was very important to me – one of those books that finds you at just the right point in your life & makes a genuine impact. But anyway, one theme throughout the book is that Mikey feels like a burden to his friends and constantly feels like the least-wanted person in the room. And holy shit if fireworks didn’t go off in my brain when I read that – like the epiphany of the century. I, too, feel this way. In damn near every social circle I belong to. And I always have.
This really has nothing to do with the way people treat me, or whether or not I’m ACTUALLY unwanted in any of my social circles (I’m sure I’m wanted more in some than others, and that’s fine – just the way things go), it’s all about my perception. I’m perceiving that people don’t want me around or don’t find my contributions valuable or just plain & simple don’t need me. And to me, that is devastating. My social needs/ habits are actually highly complex. Annoyingly so. I am 100% an ambivert (smack in the middle on the introvert/extrovert spectrum), and that makes everything complicated as hell. My willingness/desire to socialize fluctuates by the day. Some days I’ll want to be around every human I know, and I’ll be the ultimate social butterfly – and some days I won’t even be able to tolerate being in the same room as my own child. Does that sound terrible? Probably, but I’m trying to be honest here. Now, obviously both of those extremes are highly rare. Usually I’m somewhere in the middle of those things & willing to socialize, but not really interested in putting forth any effort to make it happen. And then weeks go by with me like that & nobody is reaching out to me to make plans, and boom. All of the sudden I feel like the weak link, the one standing in the way, the one who needs her friends more than they need her. And that is certainly a recipe for emotional disaster.
So, this is about as far as I’ve been able to analyze my own mental health so far. From here I really need to figure out how to address my two primary triggers. I’m pretty confident that if I can get my life under more control and recognize that my friends are my friends because they WANT to be & not because they feel obligated to be, maybe I can beat this thing without medication? I certainly hope so. And if not, then I suppose I will bite the bullet and seek professional help. It’s not fair to my family or friends for me to be this constant weight just because I refuse to seek the treatment I need out of fear.
If you have read this whole blabbering mess, thank you. You clearly care what I’m dealing with & that alone shows me that I’m not unwanted. I want everyone to understand that even though I’m feeling hopeless, helpless, miserable, and a thousand other things right now, I’m in no way giving up. I have zero desire to remain this way for long. But even though my words are tough right now, I still might slip farther into this abyss before I’m able to climb back out. Maybe not, but it is a possibility. I might be cranky, and I might cry for no reason, and I might be a complete & total downer. I might have days where I’m physically unable to get out of bed, and I might have days where everything is just awful, including my ability to behave like a functioning member of society. So I’m going to apologize right now for all of that & pray that it doesn’t push you away. Because I need you. And I’m grateful for you. And I’m going to make myself better. For you. But also for me.