Learning to Live With Anxiety and Depression Without Losing Myself

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Mind wanders. Worry swirls. Doubt grows. Her head swims, flooded with unwanted reminders of internal unrest.

Heart pounds. Eye waters. Hand trembles. Her body reacts, plagued with the physical reminders of internal unrest. She reaches for a pen to click, a hairband to snap. Something — anything — to distract, to cure, to occupy. Nothing satisfies the need for internal peace, emotional release, a mind at ease.

This is my friend Anxiety. She has stuck with me since my first cry and will remain until my final breath. She inhabits my mind, controlling my thoughts and my fears.

When I was young, she reminded me to stay by mommy’s side. What if someone wants to hurt you or take you away? she whispered in my ear. I quickly latched onto my mother’s hand, now fearful of every strange passerby.

In school, she taught me to avoid rejection. What if they don’t like you? she taunted my young mind. I drifted to the swing set, entertaining myself alone on the playground.

She taught me to only raise my hand if I was positive I had the right answer. If you’re wrong, they’ll laugh at you, she often reminded me. I kept to myself, only opening up when outwardly encouraged. Anxiety held onto every thought passing through my mind, sometimes creating her own doubts and questions.

In high school, Anxiety began to mislead me.

Don’t even try. So I stopped trying.

You’re only going to make a fool of yourself. So I stuck to what I knew.

You’ll never be perfect and you’ll never be happy. So I gave up the things I loved most.

You’ll never succeed. You’re worthless, she tormented.

Anxiety gave birth to Depression and then I had two friends controlling my thoughts and fears. Depression told me life wasn’t worth living anymore. Anxiety told me the world would destroy me if I kept living.

Anxiety and Depression began to spread to the rest of my body, revealing themselves physically. Sometimes, Anxiety prevented my lungs from breathing normally. She made my heart beat quickly, my eyes water and my hands tremble. Depression made my my eyes glaze, my weight shrink and my arms bleed. Anxiety and Depression began sucking the life out of me.

Somewhere deep down, beneath the worry, stress, fear and doubt, the real Taylor hid. Taylor’s love, smile, joy and kindness were all trapped beneath Anxiety and Depression, who had grown so large they almost blocked out Taylor. Eventually she began to fight back. As Taylor focused on regaining strength, she grew. Whenever Anxiety told me to fear, Taylor taught me to be brave. When Depression told me I was worthless, Taylor taught me how to prove my worth. When Anxiety told me to doubt, Taylor taught me to hope. When Depression told me to give up, Taylor taught me to keep fighting.

I have a battle in my head. Anxiety, Depression and Taylor argue every day. I have learned how to please all of them. Writing allows Anxiety to release, Depression to feel heard and Taylor to express. Painting gives Anxiety peace, gives Depression accomplishment and gives Taylor joy. Performing gives Anxiety excitement, gives Depression distraction and gives Taylor confidence. Each day, the three pieces get closer and closer to combining and completing me. Until that day, I will struggle. However, the struggle is worth becoming completely whole one day. One day. taylor photo

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Applying to College When You Have Anxiety and Depression

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For years you have been trying to have the perfect grades, perfect appearance, perfect friendships and perfect relationships. For someone with anxiety and depression, perfection never seems attainable. You have a fear of rejection and not ever being good enough.

Now I am 18 years old applying to college…

I have to submit an application of all my accomplishments while thinking…

Do I have the right scores?

Do I have enough community service hours?

Did I do anything wrong?

Is someone else’s application better than mine?

Thinking…

I should’ve tried harder.

My grades aren’t high enough.

Why didn’t I study more?

Am I good enough to go to this school?

Then you have to write essays on who you are and sadly, you don’t know who you are.

They ask what made you who you are today and what identifies you. You don’t know who you are and your opinion of yourself is based on what you think others think of you. You know your identity is not your anxiety or depression, but in this moment, it consumes you.

You finish writing and now you hit submit.

Now you wait for people to look over you holistically and decide if they want you. Your biggest fear is rejection and not being good enough for a school.

The wait is the hardest part. You sit there and think of everything you may have done wrong or could have done better. The longer it takes to hear a reply, the more you feel rejected and less than everyone else.

Then a letter comes and you are either accepted or denied.

Accepted: You are happy and feel a weight has been lifted but now fear being around new people.

Denied: You feel a wave of never being good enough.

From this process I learned everything happens for a reason and no matter what the letter says, you are not a failure.

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11 Honest Signs I Know I Have Anxiety, and Not Just ‘Stress’

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This piece was written by Lauren Jarvis-Gibson, a Thought Catalog contributor.

1. I frequently find myself thinking and fretting about things that happened weeks or months ago.

I can’t seem to let go of things from the past no matter how hard I try to clear my mind. Whether it’s about an argument with a friend, or a confrontation I had with my boyfriend, it still runs through my head constantly no matter how long it’s been.

2. When I make a mistake at work, or even in my personal life, I have a hard time letting it go and beat myself up over it.

I despise letting others down, and when I do something wrong, I am my own worst enemy. I beat myself up over every little thing that a lot of other people would be able to let go of. No matter how many times people tell me that “it’s fine,” I don’t believe it.

3. I have trouble sleeping because I’m playing over the day I just had in my head relentlessly.

Whether it’s waking up in the middle night with worry, or if it takes me a few hours to go to sleep because I’m playing over every single thing I did the day before, that’s not just stress talking, that’s anxiety.

4. Out of nowhere, my throat feels incredibly tight and it becomes hard to catch my breath.

Sometimes, I feel like it’s hard to get air into my lungs. While some may think it’s something else, anxiety can truly have scary effects on your body that you may not even be aware of.

5. I’m constantly apologizing for the smallest of things that other people wouldn’t even think twice about.

I am the queen of overthinking every little detail and every little thing that could go wrong during my day. Even if something isn’t my fault, I find myself apologizing for situations that weren’t even mine to apologize for.

6. I have thoughts about your future at least once a day, and can’t seem to calm down about what’s next for me.

My future is a scary, scary thing to think about for me. I hate when people ask me what my plans are for the next few years and it makes me feel like I’m drowning. I feel like my life is this one giant race where I have to finish everything in time, and I put so much pressure on myself to hit all the right marks.

7. I am known to be a nail biter, and do it without noticing.

Sometimes I bite my nails, and I don’t even realize I’m doing it. These little nervous ticks may seem like it’s no big deal, but it’s a sign that my mind is on overboard and is running out of energy.

8. I avoid confrontation at all costs.

Even the thought of confronting someone or being confronted by someone else makes me feel queasy. When it comes to confrontation, I would rather go quiet and hide from everyone else to not have to deal with it.

9. Every once in a while, I feel a terrible sense of dread that I am in danger.

It could be on a plane, on my walk to work or even in my own home. Feeling a sense of panic or dread is a definite sign I’m struggling with something more powerful than stress. Panic attacks are not just a sign I’m overworking myself, it’s a true symptom of an anxiety disorder.

10. I have noticed I’ve been having digestion problems that seem to happen after stressful situations or encounters.

Another physical symptom that anxiety can plague me with is digestion troubles and stomach pains.

 11 Honest Signs I Know I Have Anxiety, and Not Just ‘Stress’

11. I wake up with racing thoughts and questions in my mind about the day ahead of me.

Anxiety is a never ending cycle of thoughts, worry and overall panic about what my life is turning out to be. If I’ve been having constant thoughts about the future, or even just tiny things that other people wouldn’t ever think twice about, that’s my anxiety talking.

Anxiety is an extremely powerful disorder, and it can have a major impact on your well-being and overall health. Don’t ignore your body, and the thoughts that you tell yourself in your head.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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23 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing at Work Because of Your Anxiety

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While many people are stressed at their jobs, working with an anxiety disorder adds a whole different level of worry. For people who experience anxiety daily, it doesn’t matter if things are going well, if work is “slow” or even if you’re good at your job — anxiety can still find a way to creep in.

To find out some things people don’t realize you’re doing at work because of your anxiety, we asked our mental health community to share one way anxiety affects them at work.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I take jobs below my skill level. I hadn’t even noticed it until someone pointed it out. My anxiety prevents me from willingly challenging myself and pursuing a future in a field that better suits my talents and skills.” — Jenna G.

2. “I do my best to only correspond by email. The phone ringing causes major anxiety even if it’s a fellow co-worker. I typically let it go to voicemail and respond to them by email.” — Lisa C.

3. “Some days I have to call off… because I can’t leave the house since my anxiety is so bad. Then going into work the next day is the biggest struggle because I feel like my boss knows and wants to fire me.” — Jessica G.

4. “I avoid making phone calls — there are days when I would rather do anything else in the world but make phone calls. My anxiety goes mad with what if they say/ask/do and I don’t know the answer!” — Charlotte O.

5. “I put earbuds in even if I’m not listening to anything to block out everyone else’s conversations. Sometimes I absorb their stress and anxiety with their task even if it does not apply to my job at all.” — Shannon K.

6. “I make sure I have everything done before my boss can ask me to do it so I don’t feel like I look like a lazy, horrible employee. Triple checking locks, cash box, alarms, my float count, the list of opening and closing duties to make sure I did everything right. Hiding behind the counter so customers don’t see me shake when they come in. Taking pictures of the way product was stored so I can make sure nothing was stolen. So much rechecking and planning ahead goes into my work day to make sure I don’t mess up.” — Erin W.

7. “I don’t eat in the break room with everyone else, and although it may seem like ‘I think I’m too good’ to sit with everyone else, it’s really because my anxiety is so bad in a crowd of people I break out in a rash on my face and neck.” — Catherine D.

8. “Anxiety at work often comes out as misplaced anger. I don’t do well when caught off guard or having one thing told to me and another to happen. When someone comes to my desk to show me something that’s wrong, my immediate reaction is intense anger and muttering of curse words. I know it’s not an appropriate reaction but my head is screaming, ‘OMG may day mayday mayday!’” — Megan R.

9. “I talk and laugh too much and too loudly. I fidget all the time, or tap on the table, or click my pen or bounce my leg. Sometimes I get panic attacks and just run out of the office to get outside because the few times people have noticed it it scared the heck out of them. I take a lot of smoke breaks, so much that I don’t take a lunch break, too. I hate it if I’m not at work at least 20 minutes early because I need that time to mentally prepare myself for what I need to do that day.” — Mikal D.

10. “If my anxiety is bad, I scratch or pick my skin open. Especially in spring or summer I will scratch my ankles right open, so I often wear long skirts so no one can see.” — Helena B.

11. “I constantly asking people if I’m correct even when I know the answer, or apologize just to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes and that they don’t judge me or change their perception of me.” — Noor Z.

12. “I used to rewrite and retype things constantly. Directions for the different equipment, notes for co-workers, etc. I’d constantly obsess and cross out, reword, rewrite until it was perfect and clear.” — Anna V.

13. “Doing anything as small as blowing my nose that calls attention to myself, is maddening. Small talk is out of the question. I’ll constantly be questioning what I’m going to say before I say it, and then it’s no longer relevant to the conversation. If I do work up the courage to say something, I’ll question what I said the rest of the day, wondering how silly I sounded.” — Sasha H.

14. “I try to do everything, even if it’s not my job. I have a wonderful boss and amazing co-workers but am always paranoid that something will slip, and it will somehow come back on me even if it wasn’t my job to begin with. More often than not, I try to do as much as possible and never look like I’m slowing down while working. My boss is the best one you could ask for, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m constantly worried I’ll get fired for something arbitrary. He would never fire someone without a very good reason (stealing or something of the like), but that fear never fades.” — Stormi V.

15. “I’m overly friendly. Like I talk to everyone as if they’re family. People think this is ‘how I do my job’ when actually it’s the only way I get through a second without losing myself. I feel so sick all the time too, so I always rub my tummy (I’m a big girl so people think that’s just what I do).” — Toni C.

16. “My ability to focus is at its lowest. When other people talk to me, I zone out completely. I have to rehearse everything I’m going to say to respond with. It’s just all too much pressure, so I try to avoid conversations as much as I possibly can.” — Defensa C.

17. “I put on a plastic smile and say yes just so they go away. A dire combination. I’m now self-employed — it’s the only way I found to stop the cycle.” — Nellie F.

18. “I constantly add to my to-do list, even when they’re unnecessary tasks. Then, I stress about what people will say when it isn’t all complete before I leave work.” — Elizabeth T.

19. “If I mess up something at work I will obsess over it the entire day. It distracts me from doing as good of a job as I know I can.” — Ariel S.

20. “I constantly ask whether things are OK or seek reassurance that I’m doing things right. I don’t need praise, I just need acknowledgement that I’m not messing things up.” — Daisy A.

21. “I sometimes tap quite loudly on the table during my lunch hour when sitting with company. I normally don’t realize until it’s pointed out and I’m told to stop.” — Isabelle V.

22. “I constantly play with my necklace or earrings and also bite my lip.” — Samantha S.

23. “When I ‘take a walk’ outside, it’s not for the exercise. It’s so I can get out of the building, attempt to breathe and calm myself down.” — Shauna D.



23 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing at Work Because of Your Anxiety
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Why I Can't 'Just Stop' Bouncing My Leg

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“Hey, can you stop bouncing your leg?”

“No, I can’t.”

“But I’m trying to focus.”

“Me too.”

For those of us with anxiety, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these “annoying” behaviors can be kind of uncontrollable. They can comfort us when we’re feeling stressed out, but sometimes, they annoy us, too.

Yeah, I wish I didn’t ruin my $50 manicure every time I got a little nervous, and yeah, I think it’s gross when my cuticles bleed, too. I hate ruining pens because I can’t stop clicking them, and I hate kicking the desk in front of me when I bounce my leg. However, these are things my brain tells me I need to do. Forcing myself to sit still keeps me from focusing and increases my anxiety.

These behaviors are sometimes called “stims.” If you’re on the autism spectrum, you know exactly what I mean when I use this word. “Stimming” or self-stimulatory behavior is repetitive actions that help neurodivergents calm themselves down or relieve anxiety. Hand-flapping, rocking back and forth and scratching are common examples of these behaviors.

Neurotypicals stim, too. Touching a really soft shirt, watching slime videos, sucking on a piece of hard candy, these actions can all be considered stimming behaviors. The difference between this stimming and the stimming done by neurodivergents, however, is that I can’t just stop.

These behaviors aren’t always pleasant. Most of my stims would be considered self-harm. Biting my nails down to the cuticles, picking at my skin, pulling out my eyebrows, all of these attempts to relax hurt me more than they help me.

Even as I’m typing this, I have to take breaks to pick at my skin. It’s impossible to ignore how raggedy my fingers get during exam week. In high school, when my mental health was at its worst, I’d often have to leave class to wash blood off my hands in the bathroom. My fingers have started bleeding on stage while I’m performing. I even had to wear gloves for a week just to keep from scarring my face.

The behaviors I use to eliminate my anxiety often leave me feeling worse than before. Because of the other ways I stim, I’m grateful when my anxious behaviors manifest as foot-tapping or pen-clicking.

So, no, I won’t quit bouncing my leg, tapping my feet or clicking my pen. To you, this may be annoying, but to me, this is progress.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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When a Doctor Laughed After Noticing I Take 'Happy Medication’

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I posted this status on my Facebook page at 4:18 a.m. on October 25, 2016:

“I’m going to be open and honest here, so bear with me. I usually don’t share things like this but I feel compelled to, at 4:18 a.m. thanks to my insomnia. My dad has been pushing me to get LASIK surgery for my eyes. To ease his voice in my head, I went for a second consultation yesterday. Upon entering the exam room with the assistant, I felt a little discriminated against and stereotyped. He first automatically assumed I go to one of those ‘smart schools’ and I was ‘too smart for us (whoever those people are).’ He then made a comment about how I only got a 35 and not a 36 on my ACT.

A little upset at this, I let it slide. However, he then proceeded to talk about my eye history and such. This is when he started throwing out terms like “myopia,” which I honestly don’t really know what that means. However, what frustrated me the most is when he said it was my ‘small, Asian eyes’ that caused vision problems.

I’ve had people make fun of my eye shape all my life. I squint. I have almond shaped eyes. It just frustrated me to hear this from a health care professional, especially as he joked about my eye shape. I don’t know why it bothered me, but I woke up thinking about this encounter.

I think what hurt the most though is the fact that as he went through my medical history and reached my medications list, with one look he laughed and said, ‘You take happy medications.’ This hurt the most. I already struggle deeply with taking my medication regimen each evening, but to hear this statement from a health care professional? It’s the 21st century. Can we not minimize the struggle that one in five of us have with mental illness? It’s not a ‘happy medication.’ It’s to help my brain so that on my worst days I can manage to get out of bed and walk the dog.

Example: You may or may not know from just meeting me, but I struggle with severe anxiety. I went to a Bottle and Bottega paint event last night to try and be in a social environment, to talk with strangers and to overcome my desire to be perfectionistic when it comes to all aspects of my life. Instead, I had anxiety leading up to the event, and as the event progressed, my anxiety worsened.

How do I know it’s not just the nerves? I became short of breath. My legs went numb. I almost passed out and became light-headed and dizzy. I threw up.

Getting myself into social situations is hard for me. I put myself out there last night only to have one of my worst fears come true, having such severe anxiety that I end up sick and unable to enjoy my night. I ended up sitting quietly at my end of the table hoping the night would move faster so I could curl up in bed. I avoid social situations for that reason.”

I am honored by the outpour of support I have received from my community of friends on my social media account. The comments and messages they have left me encourage me to continue to speak about my experiences and try to be one person in the world to try and start a conversation about mental illness.

My experience shook me to the core. I haven’t been criticized for my tiny, Asian eyes for many years now, nonetheless by a healthcare professional. It felt discriminatory and made me self-conscious and aware of my appearance. I already struggle with anorexia. I didn’t need somebody else to comment on my appearance and add to my ongoing battle with myself.

Yet, this isn’t about just the discrimination of my eye shape. It is about the fact that I was told outright by this healthcare professional I take “happy medications.” He said it in such a lighthearted, jovial manner that I was so taken aback. I didn’t know how to respond.

Why is it that when it comes to medication for mental illness, it is laughed about, minimized and stigmatized? Mental illness should be taken as seriously as any other illness. The brain is an organ. So let us treat it like one.

Just by looking at my medical history and jumping to the conclusion that I take “happy medications” has really put me in a sour mood. I feel judged by a complete stranger, and I am now even more hesitant to take my medication regimen than I already was. My father already tells me not to take medication and to not need it or rely on it.

I can’t help I am on four different psychiatric medications. I’m not happy about this. Yet, I have accepted it.

So how come such a simple statement shook me to the core? It’s because of the ignorance and stigma surrounding mental illness that this hits so close to home.

Please, don’t judge those of us struggling with mental illness by our medication list. Please, don’t jump to conclusions about our condition and who we are. Please, don’t judge a book by its cover. Please, don’t ever tell me again that I take “happy medications” because that minimizes the struggle and experiences I have had to get to where I am today.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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