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How the Hamster Wheel of Depression and Anxiety Affects Me

Everyone has that feeling: the thought rushing through their head when they first wake up in the morning. “I just don’t feel like getting out of bed today.” But they proceed to do it anyways, casually going to the bathroom or to start their morning cup of coffee, not thinking about anything else in particular other than the tasks at hand that they need finish before they go to work or go on with their day.

That feeling, however, is extremely real for people who live with depression, anxiety, chronic illness or panic disorders. When you struggle with mental illness, your body feels like it weighs a thousand pounds and like you got hit by a truck, all at the same time. You contemplate whether staying in bed will solve all of your problems because the longer you go without moving, the longer you can hold off feeling like you’re suffocating from your racing thoughts. When I wake up next to my boyfriend each morning, I find myself staring at him, envying him. He has the luxury of waking up, getting dressed and carrying on with his day, and if a problem should arise throughout said day, he handles it and moves on. With someone who has anxiety, waking up isn’t so easy; it’s devastating. Getting through one day isn’t easy, it’s debilitating.

Having anxiety is a mixed bag of tricks. It’s being cold and hot at the same time. It’s feeling like your heart is going to explode out of your chest and plop out on the floor in front of you. It’s feeling like not eating, nauseous and hungry all at the same time. It’s crying uncontrollably, yet not wanting to cry because if you get too worked up you might gag. Anxiety comes out of nowhere sometimes, and other times you can pinpoint the exact trigger as to why you feel like the world might end at that particular moment. And each time you have an attack, you think you could never feel as shitty as you do in that moment… until the next attack happens, whether it be an hour, a day or a week later. You feel like you’re suffocated by people who try to help and ease your discomfort and erratic thoughts. You want to be comforted and you want to be held but at the same time, you push people away because you feel confined and annoyed. There’s no easing the devil.

I often compare anxiety and depression to a hamster wheel. It never stops turning, much like the thoughts in your head. There are a few ways to end this turning, like therapy, but that only works some of the time. You can try reading, taking a shower or a hot bath, but even then your mind continues to race and you become disengaged. A long drive with music helps, until you have to go back home and if the panic attack hasn’t subsided you feel like your world is spinning out of control. To you, in that moment of despair, some (if not all) of those things help in stopping that hamster from turning. But eventually, it starts back up again. In the most extreme scenario of trying to get that wheel to stop, you might attempt suicide. Once that wheel has finally stopped turning, it’ll be forever.

Struggling from a mental illness is an internal struggle, and it’s hard to communicate with someone how you feel because unless they have it, they simply don’t fully understand. A lot of words go left unsaid, and you might become accustomed to holding in feelings, triggers and/or more panic attacks than you can count. You may feel embarrassed, misunderstood and alone.

Since I was 3 years old, I knew I was different from everyone else. I would ask my mother every day if I was sick, going to get sick or panic over being sick. Every single day. Every day, I don’t feel good. This is what struggling with anxiety and hypochondriasis feel like. “Oh, you’re just a hypochondriac” has never been more relevant to my life, because I am. I’ve been medically diagnosed with hypochondriasis and it’s not a joke or an understatement to me. It’s never wanting to leave my house, not wanting to get close to people, and freaking out whenever someone is sick. It’s always feeling sick because you’re convinced you are.

I struggled all of my life, but it really hit me hard in high school. That’s when things got worse and I finally got the answers I was searching for. I started seeing a therapist and in a few short sessions, I was told news that would forever change my life, but for the better. I would have to live with having a chemical deficiency in my brain for my entire life and because of the low levels, I would have to struggle with anxiety, depression and a categorized panic disorder.

It’s been years since my diagnosis and I still continue to struggle every day. I am still in therapy; I contemplate suicide; I am convinced the people closest to me, like my boyfriend, hate me. I’ve also managed to add anorexia nervosa to the mix, especially after I hit a deep depression after my grandfather’s death in 2010.

This life isn’t easy and I would never wish this on anyone. You are essentially your own worst enemy, and it’s a horrible feeling to not have control of your own body. Even though you tell yourself you’re OK, you never truly believe it. Now, you might be asking why I said the news of my diagnosis was for the better. It’s because I feel like my purpose is to share and educate about the taboo that is mental illness. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean that it don’t exist. That is the stigma that I am trying to change. I used to be afraid of my scars and now, I embrace them.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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