20 Ways Anxiety, Depression and PTSD Present Themselves in My Life
I often find myself describing to others what my anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) feels like. And for some reason, I find myself having to explain, and sometimes prove to others, why and how my illnesses are so debilitating. So, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of the top 20 ways these mental illnesses present themselves in my life:
1. Everything is exhausting.
Not just people but listening to music, going grocery shopping, driving — all the mundane tasks of the world just drain me. I have so many triggers that, especially these days, leaving the house has given me severe anxiety. I have to dull my senses by using earplugs in public and sometimes wearing sunglasses indoors (especially in fluorescent lighting).
2. I wake up feeling tired.
Even though I often sleep for 12 hours a day, the sleep I do have is restless. I constantly am waking up throughout the night, tossing and turning. I wake up every single morning just as exhausted as when I went to sleep the night before.
3. I have insomnia and trouble falling asleep.
The cruel reality of living with PTSD, anxiety and depression is that, despite being fully exhausted all day, when night time hits, I have trouble falling asleep. I also have chronic pain, so painsomnia (pain that keeps you awake) is also a factor.
4. I have chronic pain and other symptoms.
Sometimes pain can be psychosomatic. Not all of my pain sources are, but I am not denying that some of them aren’t. I’ve had endless ultrasounds, MRIs, and X-rays showing nothing physical as a source of pain, but that doesn’t mean my pain isn’t real. Sometimes I am so anxious that I get gastrointestinal issues like nausea, indigestion, nausea and diarrhea.
5. I have chronic nightmares.
Having chronic, horrifying nightmares is the worst thing for me. I have had some of the most vivid nightmares — some which have made me wake up wondering if what I just dreamed was a reality. I have woken up so many times with my eyes bawling. I actively try to think of other things when I am going to sleep, but I often rile myself up worrying about whether or not I’m going to have a nightmare, and what do you know? I’ve put my mind into nightmare mode. No matter how hard I try to change my course of thought, I still keep thinking about having nightmares.
6. I feel guilty about everything, big or small.
Not only am I scrutinizing my own actions from the day, but this includes thinking about silly small things from years and years ago. I’ve sent myself into hysterics over things I did when I was 5 years old. These memories that drive my conscious to feel guilty are the same ones that keep me awake at night until 3, 4, 5 a.m. when I’m trying to fall asleep.
7. I want a social life but also want isolation (avoidance).
Not wanting to see anyone but wishing desperately that someone would be there to give you a hug and talk is part of my reality. People are so exhausting to be around but are necessary to have a healthy social life. Triggers run rampant when people are in my presence. So many things set me off that I have had to isolate myself to a small circle of people who are sympathetic to my sensitivities. I’ve had to cut family members and friends from my life because they just don’t understand – some can’t even wrap their head around the fact that people who have not been in combat can get PTSD. I’ve had my diagnosis for nine years. If they haven’t figured it out by now, there is no room in my life for ignorance. I find I often cancel plans with people because I am too anxious.
8. I have trouble with relationships (friends, family and lovers).
Because I’m irritable and cranky 24/7 (from lack of sleep, eating poorly and crying all the time), I have trouble maintaining friendships and close relationships. I find I have a short temper and an overactive one at that. I am severely sensitive to people being rude or cruel, losing my patience over the slightest things. Over time, I’ve become somewhat of a recluse by shutting out many people in my life.
9. I either don’t have an appetite, or I have an extreme appetite.
Sometimes this means feeling so empty that I zone out and eat everything in sight. But most of the time, for me, it’s feeling so uninspired to actually cook, so 9/10 times I end up eating junk food. Sometimes it’s not having an appetite at all and just not eating anything.
10. I cry or feel emotionally numb.
Crying uncontrollably. Everywhere and anywhere, about every little thing. Some days I just can’t cry anymore; I feel emotionally numb.
11. I engage in “risky” behaviors.
Being apathetic towards life means I often find myself walking out into traffic, driving without a seatbelt, blackout drinking and generally not taking care of myself. When I’m feeling the lowest of the low, nothing matters to me, not even my own life.
12. I feel immobilized.
Wanting to get out of bed and go hang with friends and family and get errands done but then staring at the mess that has piled up around me in my home and feeling so ashamed of myself that I can’t even get out of bed. I often fantasize about the things I love or exciting things I wish I could do (like ride my bike, go on a hike, go traveling) but then the hassle of taking care of myself (like cooking and eating, getting dressed, etc.) becomes an obstacle.
13. I don’t take care of personal hygiene.
Not showering for days at a time. Sometimes days turn into weeks, sometimes multiple weeks. I have literally gone over a month without a shower before. And brushing my teeth is a bi-weekly occurrence, at best.
Wanting nothing more than to just not be anymore. Sleeping all day (or trying to). Thinking suicidal thoughts. Wishing for bad things to happen to me.
15. I have flashbacks.
Haunting, uncontrollable flashbacks disrupt my everyday activities, making me relive my traumatic history. These can be brought on by a myriad of triggers, whether that be person, place or thing. I often have to screen where I’m going and what I’m doing to see if there may be any adverse triggers that could send me into a panic.
16. I dissociate.
Feeling unconnected to your body. Sometimes, for me, this feels out-of-body, like I’m a floating spirit tied down to a weight. Other times the world looks like it’s made of paint. And other times it’s not knowing how I got somewhere, zoning out of a conversation or not having any memory of recent events. Sometimes I dissociate because of my pain or because of a flashback. Sometimes I dissociate to get away from potential triggers.
17. I have panic attacks.
Feeling like I’m suffocating or drowning, like someone is strangling me or sitting on my chest, is an experience I have sometimes multiple times a week. I end up on the floor, in a mess of tears, trying to gasp for air. Panic attacks can be triggered by a plethora of things, so I try to avoid them at all costs, sometimes leaving me isolated at home.
18. I feel like I’m in flight or fight or… freeze.
In the past, when I’vfoundnd myself in a dangerous or risky situation, I literally have become frozen in fear. I can’t move and I can’t speak; I am a deer in headlights. This frozen-in-fear feeling happens during confrontations (say, if I get in an argument with my partner), which makes keeping relationships afloat that much more difficult, as when there is a communication breakdown, things often get messy.
19. I’m hypervigilant.
I have an exaggerated startle response, which means I can be very jumpy. The sound of a car rushing by, an alarm going off (even the oven timer), or a phone ringing can often make me jump right out of my seat and can even send me into a panic. I feel my heart racing/palpitating, I get sweaty, and I have a hard time calming down.
20. I have problems with concentration.
I have trouble concentrating for a myriad of reasons, from stress to arousal all the way through to chronic fatigue. I have trouble concentrating on conversations (which also makes me anxious) and have trouble reading. I have trouble remembering what happened / difficulty following storylines.
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