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How I've Spent My Life Running From Depression and Anxiety

I have been running for years.

I have been hiding for years.

I have sought comfort in a universe that is known only to me.

I have lost myself to it more times than I could count, and absolutely more times than I would ever admit to anyone — even those who I know are in the same personal marathon I am going through.

I have lost seconds, minutes, even entire days running from it — quickly darting to my safe spot before it consumes me. The heavy cloak of it dropping on my shoulders and tying around my neck as I desperately scramble to be freed from the restraints it has had me shackled in for what feels like my entire life.

There are people who seek out silence; people who want to escape to a quiet, dark place to be alone with their thoughts. That place is pure hell for me.

I take great effort in avoiding that place, scrambling for noise in every moment of my day. I don’t want to be forced into silence to sit with only my thoughts. I don’t want to be consumed by the emotions that grotesquely ravage my soul.

I have been in a mental marathon with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and like any good race sometimes the person in first place — me — has an obvious lead only to have the person in second place, my anxiety, find a way to sprint ahead and lead the charge.

I have used writing as my coping mechanism since I was a young bullied teenager. Writing is my safe spot. I always compare the blinking cursor in a blank document to the wagging tail of a dog, quickly moving as it waits for me to give it attention. I can take charge with what I write. I can write myself into another character that allows me to lose myself, and my anxious thoughts, for as long as I need to at any given time.

Writing and freeing myself through words helps ease the anxiety, but I know that bastard is always right at my heels, just waiting for me to slip up or lose stamina. Once it gains the lead, it passes the baton off to depression. You want to see fast? Watch how quickly anxiety and depression work together as a team. They fuel each other as I try to maintain the momentum to keep up to them, hoping that at any given time I’ll be able to usurp the baton that is my life back and propel forwards.

Sometimes I do get the baton, and it is glorious. I feel triumphant. It’s a grand feat when you fight your inner darkness and win. I celebrate the victories, no matter how long they last, because it’s a reminder that life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. I will be doing this intricate dance with myself for probably the rest of my life.

I keep hearing that I’m in control. I am the one in charge and I have the ability to take lead in this back and forth tug of war dance. Maybe dance is too pretty of a word. The fight is ungainly. There is no grace or elegance. It’s a hurricane of fighting a flurry of my own negative thoughts and self-doubts. It’s a tsunami that overpowers every part of me at moments.

Being left alone with my own thoughts creates a snowball effect. It starts with one stupid thought that continually gains speed as it races along. Before I know it that single, simple thought somehow ends up with me reliving an embarrassing moment from 14 years ago with details so vivid you would swear it had happened that day.

I think the healthy thing to do would probably be to sit down in silence and confront those thoughts. Let the snowballs keep rolling until they are boulder-shaped orbs acting as a barrier in my mind. I’m not strong enough for that yet. I hope that someday I will be strong enough.

One day I’ll be able to shower without having to put music on or a movie on my laptop that I bring into the bathroom with me. Until that day comes where we have a final dance off to see once and for all who takes the lead, I will continue to run. I will continue to use my words and emotions as energy, fueling my body forward. I want that baton. I want that finish line with a victory where I left my opponents tasting defeat. I want this to be the epic race I’ll remind myself of when I feel down. I want to look back when I am having a bad day and remember this marathon where I pushed myself through every hurdle life threw my way; exhausted and drained I’ll remember slamming my feet against the proverbial ground and how, despite the odds, I managed to squeeze out a win, as marginal as it may have been. The baton will sit in an enclosed box in my brain on display for when anxiety and depression challenge me to a rematch. It will serve as a reminder that I beat you once against the odds and I can do it again. Just watch me.

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Thinkstock photo via oneinchpunch