The Anxiety-Depression Boat
I’m a fully functioning, fairly average girl in my mid twenties. I have a decent job, nice flat, great boyfriend, supportive family and amazing friends. I have hobbies and I enjoy having fun with my nearest and dearest. I take pleasure in the small victories of life, in new nail varnish colours or an unfamiliar recipe I’ve managed to cook.
Oh yeah, and I suffer from anxiety and depression.
Mental health is discussed at a much wider level than when I first suffered from anxiety as a scared 10 year old. Celebrities are speaking out about their mental health battles. Companies are encouraged to treat psychological problems as they would physical ones. Doctors (in my experience at least) are taking more care over and interest in diagnoses. I don’t feel like the stigma surrounding mental health is 100% gone though.
I used to be told ‘get over it’, ‘just go outside and get some fresh air and you’ll be fine’ or ‘face your fear’ in response to my anxiety. People thought I was just being daft, overly dramatic, even attention seeking. The worst part is that part of me agreed, and the weakness I felt for ‘allowing’ myself to be anxious and depressed exacerbated my symptoms. I still can’t shake the idea that I’ve somehow failed by giving into my worries all these years later. Whether I’m putting this on myself internally or whether it’s a message I’ve felt from the outside, I don’t know. But I do know that I need to give myself a break about my anxiety.
Sure, I am much more comfortable with my mental health than I used to be. I can recognise triggers (mostly) and take steps to overcome it (again, mostly). I beat myself up less about feeling anxiety on a day to day basis, and am on the way to accepting that it is a part of who I am. Most of my close friends know about my anxiety, where once upon a time I was so embarrassed I kept it a secret (to what extent this worked I don’t know. I remember coming up with a lot of very flimsy excuses when my anxiety got in the way of plans). I have more confidence now, and I feel happy knowing my limits, what I do and don’t like to do, without feeling I need to change myself.
As with everything, I have my good days and bad days. Currently I’m in the middle of a bad month. Anxiety has been my constant companion for more than 10 years, with depression occasionally joining the party. Anxiety I’m used to. Full scale depression I am not. The combo of the make for an interesting dynamic, neatly described by the picture below. That’s what I was faced with recently. For reasons I’m still not sure of, I — not to sound over dramatic — bombed out of my daily routine a little while ago, brought down by extreme exhaustion, palpations, despondency, insomnia; the works. I thought I was managing my familiarly over active mind, so it all came as a bit of a shock. And I was right back to square one when it came to accepting my issues.
I dealt with it though. I’m on the road back to my own special semblance of normality once more. Talking helps. Admitting how I feel to others helps. Finding random articles online that nail exactly how I’m feeling, sometimes in an amusing way, helps (my addiction to scrolling aimless through news sites is potentially unhealthy, but occasionally I find gems like this, this and this which I really relate to). Anxiety and depression is more common than I realised as a kid, and that’s a good thing. Sharing and finding common ground is great as it makes you feel accepted as you are.
That’s why I’m writing this. I want to celebrate my small victories and talk about my health in a way I haven’t before, not shying away from it or feeling sorry for myself but owning it. And maybe it’ll help someone else realise they aren’t alone in how they’re feeling. There are other people in the anxiety-depression boat.