What it's like to have anxiety and depression
I’m writing this on Sept. 24. It’s my 26th birthday, and after a weekend spent celebrating with family and loved ones you’d think I’d be bursting at the seams.
But I’m not. In fact, I feel pretty much the same way I’ve felt for the last several months. Trust me, that’s not a good thing.
Speaking about anxiety and depression can be taboo; for many it’s a giant elephant in the room.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
These illnesses are not black and white; I’d caution to say they’re even gray.
When these disorders develop, they do so seemingly indiscriminately. They don’t necessarily form due to any one thing. You can suffer because of your physiology, your personality, your experiences.
As a journalist, it is my daily goal to bring information forward for the public knowledge and use. Because everyone’s experiences with depression and anxiety are different, the only way I know how to do my job here is to do so by sharing my own battle.
I’ve only recently started to open up about my struggle with anxiety within the last year or so. While I’ve frequented a psychologist off and on since I was a kid, he never truly got the full story.
For me, as I’m sure it is for many other people who struggle, I didn’t want to admit that there was something so totally wrong going on in my head. I didn’t want to seem weak. For years, I’d brush off anything I was feeling so that I could help someone else with whatever their struggle was.
“I’d rather I worry about you than you worry about me,” I’d say.
The problem with that mentality is none of your feelings resolve. They sit. They marinate. They fester. They boil.
Dealing with these illnesses is more than just feeling sad or nervous. For me, depression and anxiety are this:
It’s walking down a hall, but feeling like you’re walking through water and being held back.
It’s the air feeling heavy. It’s a simultaneous fluttering and heavy feeling in your chest.
It’s sleeping on the couch for a month instead of your own bed. You don’t know why, but you just do.
It’s still being embarrassed about little mistakes, errors, and bloopers that you made days, months, or years ago that others have long forgotten.
It’s feeling like you’re annoying your best friend because they didn’t text you back right away.
It’s feeling like you’re going to walk into losing your job every time you put the key in the door at work.
It’s seeing your name on a byline week after week, but seriously doubting anyone ever reads your articles.
It’s cleaning off your desk little by little of the bits of your personality that make your workspace feel homey because you’re ashamed that your personality includes a love of pro wrestling, Spider-Man and Power Rangers.
It’s not playing your saxophone as much anymore because you’re sure that the neighbors hate it.
It’s staying up until 3 a.m. agonizing because the girl who gave you her number and seemed interested in going out with you didn’t respond.
It’s not going to church for over a month because you don’t feel worthy of being there.
It’s not necessarily thinking about hurting yourself, but feeling like if something catastrophic did happen to you it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
It’s being angry at your brain for the chemicals firing in it that make you feel this way.
For anyone dealing with anxiety and depression who reads this, I pray that you take something from it. Reach out to someone. Get help. Don’t let what you’re feeling consume you.
The hardest thing to do, above all else, is to try and remember that you’re not alone.
For more information on dealing with a mental illness, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
For more serious situations, the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).