When Your Depression and Anxiety Go Hand-in-Hand
When I say I am depressed, people often write it off saying, “Oh trust me, I am too” or “Everyone feels that way. It will pass.” Some even have the nerve to see my cries for help as the desire for undeserved attention… Yet in reality, this is deeper than what most people feel. This is not normal. This will not pass. This is something I live through each day, bouncing consistently between “OK” and the feelings of pain, sadness and often — nothingness. It is a deep, dark void in my mind that I cannot escape. I can climb out of it, only to be reunited with it at any moment. I spend countless nights driving home from work, screaming and crying, wanting to find help, yet fearing that people will misunderstand me.
This is not predictable by any means. Of course, I have come to realize that the long nights of winter and the dark coldness that takes place in the months between fall and spring triggers this void more than other times. It is not, however, limited to season, time or place. It can strike while I am in an otherwise happy atmosphere — at a party, out with friends, even doing the very things I have always enjoyed. This void makes me want to disappear from everyone, even from myself. All at once, I can go from laughing and feeling confident, to feeling like nothing. The illusion that I am meaningless, and all life within me is meaningless, too. I do not necessarily wish to isolate myself physically, for if I do I may feel more empty and alone. It’s a cold feeling. A frightening feeling. Instead, I unwittingly isolate myself emotionally and mentally. I become a shell of who I was only moments before. I am silent, but my mind isn’t always so.
During these times, my brain could be filled with what feels like the droning of a hornet’s nest. It feels like I am being pushed into a corner by a fast-moving, deafeningly loud crowd of people. I am trapped. At work, I feel this way the most. If my mental health is not where it should be to accomplish my tasks properly, I am still forced into that corner. I cannot call out for feeling sad, at least that is how they would see it. No matter how low my level of energy is on a given day, I must force myself to stand. I must go through the motions. I want people to understand how hard it is to function at times, yet I also realize that they write it off because I do not give in and call out of work or sleep all day. I can credit that to maturity, the fact that I have lived like this as long as I can remember and also my severe anxiety.
One of the worst things in the world of mental illness is the comorbidity between two seemingly opposite disorders. Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, which is quite literally physically painful to deal with. My depressed mind makes me feel nothing, but my anxious mind feels everything. By everything, I do not mean happy emotions. Instead, all joy has been swallowed by the void — by that black hole that resides in my brain. In place of it manifests guilt, sorrow, anger, resentment (mostly of myself), fear, panic, heightened self-awareness and a plethora of negative feelings I cannot stop. These thoughts buzz around my head, and it is like the fuzzy screen on an old television. I cannot think straight, and what was once an intelligent mind turns into mush.
I can see things around me just fine, but in my head I feel as if everything is closer. Lines become blurred, and when I move my eyes, everything seems delayed. The world around me feels like stop motion. Fast, yet slow. I cannot describe it any other way. All sounds are so loud, but also muffled. As friends, family or coworkers try to speak to me, it’s almost like I hear my name being called a hundred times at once. I panic. I snap. I lash out. Those close to me tend to victimize themselves when I snap. They think it an injustice, that they did nothing wrong, only to be repaid with what they can only guess is rage, hatred, rudeness. I will not be insensitive enough to say they are the ones to blame. Of course, they may have triggered it unknowingly, but how can I call that wrong? They have done nothing, yet my mind has done everything. It has warped my perception and made me paranoid, irritable and antisocial. I want to be alone, but I cannot bear to face myself alone. At this point, depression and anxiety are at war with one another, telling me I feel nothing and yet I feel everything all at once. If ever there is a time when I feel truly insane, it is then.
Countless times, I have wished for my life to end. This is something people do not know. At times, the combination of my disorders makes me seem apathetic. Depression and anxiety tend to project the image of not caring at all, even when I care so much. My family has accused me of being cruel and only caring about myself, but I find the complete opposite to be true. I love and sympathize with all people, but cannot show it without seeming fake or unnatural. Needless to say, my friend-making ability is compromised. In turn, I do not feel valued. I feel abnormal, like a freak. I am made to believe I am not good enough, and that every eye in the room is looking at me. Paranoia sets in, and I shut down again. I often wonder at times like this if I am merely imagining the animosity from other people, or if it is real.
When depression manifests itself, my physical body feels heavier, more sluggish. I lose energy, appetite, drive and the interest in everything. More often than not, I feel excruciating aches and pains in my legs and back. I want to sleep the pain away, but the pain is what keeps me awake. When I am not sleeping, my anxiety kicks in. This has an altogether different physical impact, but undoubtedly piggybacks on the constant weight pressing down on me that depression brings. I feel frozen and unable to move without shaking. My legs are weak, and still in pain. My hands tremble and the rest of my body flashes between hot and cold as chills run through it. My stomach churns and my whole abdomen feels twisted into a knot. My heart seems to skip a beat, then pounds as if it is going to literally break through my chest. I feel loose, but I know I am tensing up because I cannot breathe. The breaths I do take are fast and short, and my face becomes numb from the hyperventilating. I feel dizzy.
In times like these, where I feel attacked by my mind, I am able to ground myself in more healthy ways than before. In the past, when I felt like I had lost control and touch with reality, I would resort to self-harm. This seemed to wake me up from the terrible nightmare that I had lost myself… but returning to reality, I was forced to face the repercussions. Scars mark my body as a brutal reminder of such low times. I felt like I deserved to feel pain… People who do not understand the reasons behind self-injury tend to assume that it, too, is an attempt for attention. But my pain was, and is, and may always remain, hidden.
Following these draining ordeals, I look into the mirror to see a face far different from the one I had seen a day, a week, a month, before. I appear to have aged suddenly, with dark circles formed under my eyes, which themselves are red and teary. My entire face appears sunken in and pale, or even red. I feel fatigued and tired, like I need comfort but do not know who could truly be that for me. I tell myself I do not need to show this to anyone. Forcing myself into composure, I do what I must to hide any traces of tears, and I face the world as if nothing happened… Even so, I know that people can feel it emanating from me. There truly is no hiding, because my smile is broken and my eyes are sad. No matter how good my life seems.
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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Getty Images photo via Dmitri Kotin