Depression, Anxiety, and Me: we’re like this.
Life as of late has been really challenging. I’ve been struggling with a lot of things and have had to make a number of changes. While I’m sure they’re what I need (for the most part anyway) it’s not been easy. While I had every intention of “blog-masing” (posting every day leading up to christmas), that hasn't been possible for me. And let me tell you why.
I said when I returned to blogging last year that I wanted this to be a place where I posted both the good and the bad in my life. I feel like I kind of went back on that decision and have only been posting good things. The good DIYs, the good baking experiences, the few outfits I’ve liked, the good music I’ve been enjoying. While I don’t want the focus of this blog to be negative, I don’t want it to be sugar coated either. The truth is, it's hard to share the bad stuff! It's hard to talk about the things that make me feel small or sad or upset. And everyone has their own opinions of what's too much to share and when the right time to share is. Some think that you should share after you've gone through something so you can share what worked for you or what you learned. Others think that sharing the real nitty gritty of life is unnecessary and not anyone's business. But I grew up in a house where we talked about things that were going on in our lives and, while it may be scary, putting things out there can be a really good thing.
For the past few years depression, anxiety and I have gotten to know each other really well. Over the past couple of months especially, our relationship has gotten a bit too cozy. It’s sort of been like that nasty romantic relationship that takes over peoples lives and makes it impossible for them to maintain relationships with other people or even function properly in their daily life. In fact it’s exactly like that except without all the lovey dovey feelings that come with romance. It's gotten to the point that I am taking a time out from my current situation and sort of pressing pause. “Pause” isn’t really the right word… It’s more like I’m taking a turn off a really bumpy road in hopes that the other way, perhaps the longer way, might be a bit more smooth with some nicer scenery. If you know what I'm sayin...
Anxiety and I have known each other since around grade three. That’s the first memory I have of being really afraid, to the point that it really impacted how eight year old me functioned in the world. I can sort of pinpoint the trigger as being an incident that occurred when someone was supposed to pick me up from school one day. They called the night before to confirm what time they should be there and I said three o’clock. I figured two thirty (the time we actually got out of school) was close enough to three that it would totally be fine. Wrong. Three o’clock is actually thirty minutes after two thirty and when you’re eight, it might as well be a year. From that day onward, I refused to be left anywhere. Even places that I had previously been dropped off at became places that I refused to be left alone in.
Roughly two years later, I had my first taste of depression. We moved at the end of grade four and in grade five I started a new school. During that year, I was about as far from a nice kid as you could be. I hated everything, I got in trouble way too frequently, I was snarky and rude and I was just overall not a very lovely person to be around. At the time, I think we just blamed it on the fact that I was a moody preteen, adapting to a new environment. And I’m sure that was definitely part of the problem. But I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t the only thing at work. Since then, my mood and I have been in a somewhat constant battle with some times being better than others.
Where I'm at Right Now
This is the hardest part for me to write. The being honest about what's going on right now. Because it isn't "good".
I'm in a dark place. My mood has been rotten for weeks. I hate pretty much everything. I've been alternating between getting way too much sleep and not sleeping at all. I have zero motivation to do anything and often see little point in doing things at all. I get exhausted even when I'm just doing small things that should be fun, like hanging out with friends. I'm afraid. I feel like I've let people down, that I'm disappointing people, that I'm not living up to the expectations that people (and I) have about me. I feel like I have no right to feel the way I do. There are so many people going through really terrible things in their lives. Death, divorce, illnesses, major life struggles. What right do I have to be so upset for no reason?
Currently, I'm in the process of working on all of this. I'm learning how to adapt to and counter all the negativity that is constantly trying to bring me down. I'm learning to be in the moment. If you are exactly present in the moment there is no fear about what is going to happen and no judgement about what has already happened. I'm learning to pay attention to how I feel, acknowledge it, and deal with it properly. I'm learning how to tell people what I need when I need it. I'm coming to terms with the fact that it is ok for me to feel the way I do and that I don't need an external cause. I have depression. That's reason enough.
What is depression?
Ok, so I’ve got it. Depression and me, we’re like this (fingers crossed). But what does that even mean? I think everyone knows that people can feel sad and have down days but I don’t feel like people really understand what depression is like. I don’t really think that everyone “gets” what depression is. So here we go:
Depression is a medical condition that affects millions of people. There are many types of depression all with different causes (seasonal, postpartum, bereavement…) with the most common diagnosis being major depressive disorder. This is a form of depression characterized by a long time (usually meaning at least two weeks) of feeling sad, hopeless, or unfocussed. Depression can be caused by a huge number of things ranging from family history, difficult life events, trauma, gender, major illness, life situations, substance abuse, or an imbalance of brain chemicals. Symptoms associated with depression can be cognitive (affect your thoughts), physical, as well as emotional and/or behavioural.
One way to tell if you've got depression is to assess whether or not you still get enjoyment out of the things you used to love. This isn't to say that if you used to like playing with dolls and now you don't, you're depressed. People change all the time and interests change, but if you're sitting here trying to think of things that you would normally do to make yourself feel better and can't think of anything that would make you happy, you might want to take a look at that. Sleeping an obscene amount can also be a sign. Last year I was taking three hour naps and sleeping 10 hours at night. Again, this doesn't necessarily equate to depression. Thyroid issues or a lack of certain vitamins could be the cause of this, but if you're getting way to much sleep, you might want to tell someone. On the opposite side of that is not sleeping. For some reason you just can't do it. Your mind is over functioning and makes it really difficult to get a good night's sleep. Everything seems worse when you're exhausted, so if you're not sleeping, you should definitely let someone know so you can find the root of the problem. Like pretty much every other diagnosis, the symptoms associated with depression can also be attributed to a slew of other things. Lack of vitamins, excess amounts of stress during a particular life event, being human... these can all contribute to bad moods, lack of energy, stress, and all sorts of changes inside you. The important thing is just to get everything checked out if you think something is off. A lot of people dismiss depression as being a minor thing they can deal with on their own without interventions. But depression is as real of a medical condition as diabetes is. It isn’t something that you can just deal with and get over without help.
That being said...
There are a lot of things you can do to deal with the effects or symptoms of being depressed. I'm still in the process of figuring all of them out, but according to my research, things like therapy, medication, exercise, eating properly, taking time to do things you know make you happy, and building your repertoire of anti-depression mind tools (like positive self talk, being mindful, looking at things from different perspectives, learning to ignore the depressive voices in your head...) all have the potential to relieve the nasty feelings. And right now, I'm kind of down to try whatever.
I know there aren’t many people who read this, but in case there is someone out there reading this and going through the same things I am, I want you to know you’re not alone. Life might be hard right now, but as someone said to me a little while ago, the alternative isn't exactly healthy either...
I've been afraid of writing and sharing all of this for a bunch of reasons. Like I said before, I know some people won't agree that I should be posting this at all. I'm also afraid of how this might change how people see me. But I also know that there are a lot of people who struggle with stuff like this - which is partly also why I want to write about it. Because I know that so many people feel this way. They feel like what they're going through isn't as real as cancer or diabetes or broken bones. But it is. Just because people can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there and it doesn't mean that it isn't serious. People want to help and they want you to be as healthy as possible. Not just physically. In every meaning of the word, people who care about you want you to be healthy. So, if you're still with me, thank you for reading. I hope that this has been somewhat helpful to someone and that you were able to take something away from reading all of this.
If you feel like sharing any thoughts or experiences, please feel free to do so in the comments.
PS I've included some links for you to look at if you'd like more information or need some resources