I wake with a start and jerk upright. Eyes wide, searching around my room frantically. I crane my head around the edges of my bed. Searching. But for what? A sigh of relief and shame as I realize I only woke up due to my anxiety disorder. A ray of sunlight pokes through the window and spreads across my chest. It desperately tries to reach me. My depression, however, refuses to let the light in. Refuses to let the light shine through. I’m essentially a deep, dark pit.
It gets very discouraging and grim on my worst days. You could tell me world hunger was solved and I would smile, nod curtly and return to the hurricane swirling and raging in my head.
It doesn’t matter. Everyone will die eventually. You and everyone you love. And after exhausting those thoughts, my brain will totally switch gears on me. Did you really lock the door this morning when you left your house? I don’t think so, my dark passenger says to me with the crooked smile I can imagine is on its face. So, how can I destroy your happiness today? Oh, I know! I will torment you by making you think everyone you care about is suffering because of you.
I am at work and it hits me. I can feel the storm begin to surge in my head. I do not think you fixed that problem correctly. I mean come on. Do you really think that is how it is done? Why did you even choose this profession? How did you even drive to work today on your own? Why the hell did you even get out of bed this morning?
I get out of my chair at this point. My head is pounding. My heart is racing. I feel myself losing all control of my emotions, my thoughts, my self… I walk into the bathroom, wave and smile at a coworker and ask them how they are. Then I dart into the bathroom and shut the door and lock it behind me. I look at myself in the mirror in disgust.
Is it nausea? I feel sick. All the while this storm rages in my mind, holding me hostage. It pokes me in my locked cage with thoughts of doubt, self-loathing, shame, guilt, despair and the feeling of being completely and utterly terrified.
On my better days, it goes a little something like this: Alright. Let’s see what’s on my list of things to use against you. Guilt and shame were used yesterday, I’ll put a pin by those two since they are so effective. How about a panic attack?
It starts almost instantly. I can feel it coming.
“Wait!” I tell myself. “You will be absolutely fine! You have a wife, family, and friends who love you and care about you so very much! You are not defined by your illness, silly! You and only you can define who you are! I guarantee whatever happened today will pass like every other storm and you’ll rise above this. You. Can. Beat. This.”
Bam. I can feel my heartbeats slow. I can feel the hurricane begin to cease inside my head. My neck and shoulders are killing because of the stress, but I did it. I survived.
If there is anything I have learned from depression and anxiety, it’s that you have to celebrate the battles won. If you don’t you will never begin making progress on dealing with the illness you have.
At the end of the day, my illness does not define me. My anxiety, my panic attacks and my depression consuming my mind like a vast black hole do not define me.
No. No. I define myself.
I get to decide what choices I make. Even when I can’t realize it on my bad days, I always have a choice. I am choosing hope. I am choosing faith. I am choosing love. I am choosing to never give up and let this illness win. I am choosing not to be completely consumed and destroyed by my deep, dark pit.
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