[5.19] When Depression and Anxiety tag-team : Struggling to Appear Normal
I think I’ve always been an anxious person.
But I know for a fact I haven’t always been a depressed person.
If you talk to my husband, you will discover a man who is opposite from me. He has always been a mildly depressed. Dysthymia, it’s called. It’s the fancy word for persistent depression. A little depression, all the time.
If you talk to me, however, you will discover that most of the time, I am perfectly fine. Once or twice a year, though, it hits me hard. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is what it’s called. The first time I sunk deep, it was like the first time getting the flu. It hits harder than any one could have ever explained to you. The darkest, deepest time consisted of me nearly driving my car off the road in an effort to injure myself severely enough to not to go to work that day. I corrected my driving, went to my job, and quit.
I was thankful enough to have the next three months to recover, in which I lay in bed and ate Stouffers frozen lasagnas and watched more of the YouTube show Good Mythical Morning than I had ever watched a channel before. The only reason I went outside was to take my anxiety-ridden dog for walks.
Those walks were the hardest part of my day. It wasn’t the lying in bed or the energy I had to use to take a shower. It wasn’t the guilt of doing nothing all day while my newly-acquired fiancee still went to work and busted his butt daily.
It was leaving the apartment knowing that some soul also walking their pup might stop me and try to hold a conversation.
Of course, there were those people who wanted to meet my dog and then ask me a million questions. I had to pretend that I hadn’t been eating crap food and watching Family Guy for the previous six hours. I smiled and talked about how my fiancee lived in the complex. Oh, how long have you been engaged? When’s the wedding? How did the two of you meet?
People love to talk about themselves, and when I’m not in the throes of major depression, I love talking about my husband and our story. But when those questions were asked, the last thing I wanted to do was be pleasant. It’s not that I even wanted to be unpleasant. I just didn’t want to be.
As I recovered and then experienced another bout nearly six months later, I knew what was happening. I knew that my brain was just bullying me.
The second time was different, though. This time, I still had to function. I still had my full-time job, which was the source of the episode itself, to attend and operate on a day-to-day basis. Instead of a mere depression, my anxiety blew up. My daily schedule consisted of the following:
- Waking up and feeling ill knowing what I had to get up and face
- Taking that damn dog out and risking conversation.
- Debating whether or not to call out.
- Eventually going in.
It was a constant anxiety vs. depression war. These two forces were trying to win with no regards for my actual feelings.
I would want to call out because of depression. I would convince myself that all of these bad things would happen if I did; I would get fired. If I got fired, my husband and I would suffer. If we suffered, it would even more strain on our marriage. If there was strain, we would divorce. If we divorced and I didn’t have a job, what would I do then?
That right there, ladies and gentlemen, was the anxiety talking. The depression said take some time to sort through me. The anxiety said here are all the bad things that will happen if you do what the depression says.
It was hell.
Going to the grocery store. Entering a restaurant or drug store. Doing anything… it’s all a nightmare when you have to act your ass off to get through your daily tasks. I have sat for nearly thirty minutes in a Starbucks drive-thru and seen ten or so people enter and leave with their beverages while I loiter in line, all to avoid having to be ‘face-to-face’ with a barista. I have sat in my car at a rest stop during a trip and let my dog walk around outside while I remain inside to avoid conversing with other dog owners.
When I do finally emerge and have to face the music while feeling like nothing is going right in my life, well, I can’t think of anything harder. I have worked very hard to get where I am, and I have experienced physical, mental, and emotional pain, and yet greeting the world with a smile when I barely have the wherewithal to exist is worse.
To appear normal to the average passerby, I have to work harder than I work at anything else.
As I rise out of the depressive episode, things gradually seem lighter, and as soon as a week after the lowest point, I am back to being my usual, perky, hardworking self.
And just like that, my sense of normalcy shifts, and I am me once again