Anxiety and depression have been a part of my life since my mother became ill. It was exacerbated by her death and the countless other things that surface when you’re thrust into adulthood. The older I get, the more I tussle with insurmountable tasks like combing my hair and getting out of bed.
Depression and anxiety lie to me. They tell me that tragedy lurks around the corner of my happiness. That I can’t accomplish my goals because I just don’t have what it takes to see things through. “You’re going to do well, then have one bad day and fall into a spiral that will destroy all of your hard work,” is what they whisper to me. And when I face obstacles that I feel I should have left behind, I believe them. It takes a long time to remember that they are, as I said before, liars — and thieves.
Anxiety and depression steal time, if for no other reason than because they can. The part of my brain that knows all the good I hold in me temporarily shuts down and I feel almost paralyzed by my rumored incompetence. Then they take more time when I curse myself for forgetting that I had the tools all along. My depression is not unbearable but as I get older, it gets more tiresome. I have to navigate myself out of my spirals, while remembering not to self-flagellate for being depressed in the first place.
This year I had to navigate my depression and anxiety without the benefit of health insurance. I’m certain I don’t have to tell you how difficult that is; particularly in light of the fact that I have had an especially difficult year.
We are approaching the time of year where a lot of us will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When you know what you are in for, this can be discouraging when you are already in a bit of a depressive cycle. That doesn’t mean that all is lost. There are tried-and-true treatments for SAD. For those of us who do not have the ability to visit doctors and receive medication, I would recommend researching the benefits of vitamin D and light therapy.
But also know that you’re not alone. Seek out groups, friends, family, and/or medical resources that are available. Do not automatically assume that you are a burden. That is likely your anxiety and depression lying to you. I have personally found help through using guided meditations.
Figuring out how to properly treat your anxiety and depression is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It takes time and sometimes trial and error. However, your health and well-being are more than worth the effort. My friend and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi said it best when she said, “we need you here and we need you whole,” as part of her No Shame initiative, as an encouragement for us to care for our mental health.
Do your best to remember the person you are when you’re not depressed and anxious. That person still there, under all the layers. Do you best to remember that as long as you still have life, you are not beyond repair. Attempt to surround yourself with people who know that part of you — the people who will notice that something has gone left and will pay attention to you with care and concern.
There’s no magic bullet for fixing depression. As we change and grow, it’s entirely possible that coping mechanisms that once worked no longer serve us. Life’s experiences can change our triggers and can also change the things that heal and comfort us. Remind yourself that you believe in your ability to adjust. Remember the first time you were diagnosed with depression and how you were able to work through that. If you can do it once, you can do it twice. If you can do it twice, you can do it three times. Tell yourself this as many times as you must.
I believe in me and I believe in you. We got this.