Closeup of a face

When Depression Says 'You Can't,' and Anxiety Says, 'You Shouldn't'


Depression is relentless. It seeks to steal your identity and your sense of self. It says you can’t achieve anything and you will never be good enough, and once it has a hold of you, it refuses to let go. The voice on your shoulder, the feeling in the pit of your stomach, the vacant stare when your brain gives in and the total infinite emptiness when it takes everything you have to give. It is horrible, it is both intensely painful and numb, and it is something that is incredibly difficult to handle.

And then you have anxiety. Where the depression says you can’t do it, anxiety says you shouldn’t. It tells you there’s nothing to gain from trying to help yourself because the risk is higher than the potential reward. Things will get worse if you try so it’s better not to try. It’s better to sit with your depression and let it fester. It’s better to let depression slowly take over your entire being while you sit staring at the walls or lying awake at 4 in the morning trying to still your mind.

For me, anxiety manifests itself in avoidant personality disorder as well, where I am so conflict-averse and so sensitive to any kind of criticism that I will actively avoid any situation where there is any risk of having my inadequacies and weaknesses highlighted. And in turn, this makes me very sensitive to praise and can lead to unhealthy idealism of others or create attachments to others which are inappropriate.

Anxiety is not necessarily an unhealthy thing when the mind interprets threats correctly and responds appropriately to them. But the hypersensitivity to the world around me means I can’t interact properly and I can’t get out of my head. And when I can’t engage with the world, I can’t combat the numbness because there’s no stimulation for my brain to give me what I need to deal with the depression.

Yoga and mindfulness have been brilliant at combating my anxiety when my depression has allowed me to muster enough energy to practice them, but I can’t help feeling that I won’t be able to deal with my depression without dealing with my anxiety first because if I can deal with my anxiety, I can be more in the world and do things that will improve my mood like eating right, exercising more and, most importantly, engaging with others and feeling part of a society or community where I belong which would, by far, be the most important element of improving my mental health.

I don’t know whether I have the right mentality or I’m tackling things the right way round. I don’t know whether I’ll succeed or if I’ll see the light at the end of what seems like a very dark tunnel. But I do know that my depression and anxiety are not me despite what they tell me every day. And at some point, like every child who eventually stands up to the playground bully, I will have the confidence to do the same and tell my depression and anxiety their words and actions are not acceptable and I am better than that.

I am not my illness. I am in recovery. I will be well.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by BananaStock

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Avoidant Personality Disorder

Girl Looking Up

What It Was Like to Grow Up With OCD

Editor’s note: This piece goes into detail of the thoughts of a person with OCD and may be uncomfortable if you struggle with the condition. It is based on one person’s experience with OCD. I was always really quiet. When I began writing about my earlier experiences, my parents were shocked. They’d had no idea of the [...]
a teenage girl with long hair sits pensively

When You Hear Someone's Eating Disorder Recovery Story and Think 'That's BS'

December 14 marked six years in eating disorder recovery for me. I’ll say that again… six freaking years. It seems so hard to believe because it feels like yesterday I walked stumbled through the Carolina House treatment center doors. I walked through hopeless, broken and tired. I no longer had the energy to fight the monster in my head, [...]
happy woman celebrating her birthday

Celebrating My Birthday When Depression Tells Me Life Isn't Worth Celebrating

My 24th birthday is coming up. I’m not big on birthdays. In the past I’ve brushed the day off as unimportant and continued on with life as normal; nothing about life really seemed worth celebrating. Yet this month, I’ve thought a lot about my birthday. Turning 24 marks seven years since my journey with depression began. I [...]
Close-up profile photo of woman looking down

The 3 Stages of My Panic Attacks

Imagine sitting at dinner with your family at a favorite restaurant, celebrating a family member’s birthday. Balloons, gifts and laughter all around and all you can think to yourself is, “Please don’t have a panic attack right now.” This is how my husband’s family found out I have panic disorder. I suffered sexual abuse from [...]