My Anxiety and Depression Are My Worst Friends
There it is again. That light tug of the strings that control me. It wakes me up in the morning before the sun does and tells me that I can’t sleep, but I can’t get up and get the day started either. The blankets come up over my head and we are alone.
You don’t need to get up yet. You don’t work for two hours. Class doesn’t start until noon. You aren’t that hungry yet. There’s water right there, you can drink that. Fine, go to the bathroom, but come right back. My clingy, controlling, abusive worst friend is the only comfort I have.
Crawling back into the warmth of my bed and telling myself, “just a bit longer.” But is it really me telling myself that? As soon as I hit the pillow, he’s back. Welcoming me into the darkness with open arms. Telling me that he is the only one I should talk to, the only one that wants to talk to me. The only one who wants anything to do with me. Everyone else is too busy or too healthy to deal with my problems, so why even bother telling them about him? There he is again, twisting every thought that comes through into this dark, misshapen, destructive message of hate and misfortune.
I see him as a shadow. A rough sketch that resembles a man. Dark, misunderstood, but always there. I can always feel his hand on my shoulder or his breath on my neck — pulling at my hair or whispering into my ear. When I’m having a good day, I see him out of the corner of my eye, watching, waiting for the right time to move in and pull me back. On a bad day, he may be telling me that I don’t need to talk to anyone else. You don’t need to go to class today. You can miss one day of work this week. You can call them back tomorrow. You worked out yesterday, lets take a day off.
When I finally drag myself into the shower, it’s a 20 minute ordeal because its warm and safe and we’re alone. There is no danger, there is nothing out of his control. There is no thinking about the day, there is no planning of breakfast or work or school. There is only darkness. I could have every light on in the house and have it full of my friends, but the only one I can talk to is my worst friend.
The constant urge to leave crowded places is there. He always wants us to be alone, and even mid conversation he asks to leave. Pulls a string to grab my attention. Its not that I want to ignore the person I’m talking to, I can’t help it — my worst friend was talking to me. He is important. I can’t function without his approval. He is me.
Together, we are a team. We are not strong, we are not in control, we do not have a plan, we do not know what is next. But we are a team. It has been this way since I can remember. On the basketball court. On the track. In the classroom. He’s always there. He’s the sixth man on the basketball court that only I can see. He’s sprinting alongside me in lane zero, where I didn’t think anyone could run. He’s cheating off my test in the empty desk next to mine. Always there, keeping an eye on me. Making sure I don’t do anything to push him away.
I no longer have a peaceful place. I used to be able to go to my room. Or go to the gym. Go run on the track. I used to be able to tell him I would come back later and see him. Now he goes everywhere. He has completely replaced my shadow, and now he doesn’t leave my side. Even on the cloudiest of days, my shadow is the darkest one around. The negative thoughts about myself, my surroundings and the people I spend time around are the worst on those days. I think he feeds on days like that, getting stronger off of the negativity that comes with an overcast day. I thought his power over me was impressive, but the vacuum he creates to draw in this energy from everyone around me is daunting,
It begins as a slow trickle, like a leaky faucet. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Then the pipe breaks. The room begins to flood. It keeps rising. Up to my ankles. I’m nervous, but I’m OK. My knees. Alright, now I’m getting worried. My waist. This doesn’t look good, I should do something about it. My chest. It’s getting hard to breathe, I’m starting to panic. My shoulders. I don’t know if I’m going to escape this time. My neck. I pick up my phone and begin spouting this negative energy onto whoever will respond, trying to lower the water level, trying to save myself. It has never passed my neck and I am mortified about what happens if the room fills completely.
When the flooding begins, the one thought that never comes to mind is reaching for the door. It disappears. Its just me, four walls and the rising water. The only escape has disappeared, and I am trapped. I pound on the walls, I scream for help. I hope that someone is close enough to hear me. I hope that someone comes and opens the door. But there is no door. There is no escape. He has trapped me again. We do this daily. At least once in the morning and a few times throughout the day. Sometimes he gives me warning with the leaky faucet, sometimes he just throws me into a room with water up to my waist.
The crushing weight he puts on me while he rides around on my back does not make the escape any easier. He hates getting wet, but he thinks its funny watching me struggle to walk through the waist deep water. Calling for help, knowing it won’t ever come. If he gets bored, sometimes he will let me breathe and open a window, but the water never goes below my ankles. I can always hear it splashing. Feel it grabbing my feet and slowing me down.
My worst friend occasionally leaves me alone for a while — those moments are incredible. The freedom. The room to breathe. The room to truly think. In those moments, I am not scared of being alone with my thoughts. In those moments, I realize how dangerous and debilitating my worst friend is, and how damaging he has been. I have this image of myself carrying a weight on my back. Bent over and struggling, with my worst friend watching closely, making sure I don’t do anything that might jeopardize his health. In the moments when I have space, I feel like the weight is lighter. Like carrying it for all these years has made me stronger, until my legs get weak and my shoulders start to hurt and then it gets to be too much.
Making my anxiety and depression into a physical, real being gives me something to focus on. By giving it a personality and human-like characteristics, it helps me realize that it is not me. I am not my anxiety. I am not my depression. I am stronger than them. I am me. I have been fighting him for years, and he is finally weakening. He knows that his time is limited, and all it takes is a little support. A little more time. A little more fight.
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Thinkstock photo via supershabashnyi