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What It's Like Battling Anxiety and Depression Under Self-Isolation

Like many of us, I’ve been struggling in new ways right now, and it feels like I’m waging a war on two fronts. Before the COVID-19 crisis, I was already somewhat isolated and had just started a big medication change. Everything has gotten significantly harder to manage since then.

My depression has slowly gotten worse over the weeks. Then my anxiety kicks in because I panic about not doing anything, and so the vicious cycle continues. I’ve been swamped with emails and articles about all the courses and activities available during the lockdowns across the world. It has put enormous pressure on me. I feel like I need to go into this cocoon and emerge on the other side as this beautiful fit, knowledgable butterfly with a bevy of new skills and fitness regimes.

Of course, I know this is my pressure and it is coming from my mind. My depression is silently whispering in my ear that I should be achieving all these things, but of course, I am not good enough to have the strength and will power to do it. So as the days tick by and I feel another day further away from becoming a super healthy and bilingual superstar, I just feel worse and worse about not even being able to achieve simple things around the house.

You see this is something I certainly didn’t expect when the COVID-19 crisis began. Silly me thought I would be concerned about my health and not getting sick. But having borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder means things more often than not take a sharp turn that always seems to catch me off guard. That in itself is a source of irritation, I feel silly for letting it surprise me. Yet here we are.

So it has turned into fighting a battle on more fronts than I imagined. Dealing with this new reality and the difficulties that have come from it, the challenges it has presented to my mental health, whilst also seeing it as some strange pressured competition to come out on the other end a changed man, a better person. All of this has left me feeling exhausted from my own inner monologue. I am bombarded with ads and emails of suggestions of things to do at home, not to mention the pressure I feel to present a healthy version of me to my family. This side of this crisis is something that has caught me entirely off guard. I didn’t expect my depression and anxiety to be great, that’s for sure, but I certainly didn’t think it would be this difficult a battle. 

Depression and anxiety both have a language of their own. Depression wraps around you like an all-too-familiar blanket, telling you that everything is difficult, everything feels so much harder. The smallest of things become the largest of tasks to overcome and the guilt associated with these emotions makes it all the more difficult to manage every moment of every day. When anxiety starts its whisper, for me it is a slow build-up of “you can’t even go for a walk even though you know it will make you feel better” to a more panicked version of “what’s going on!?! You are literally achieving nothing every day.” Once the panic merges with the depressive symptoms, it feels like a battle I just cannot win. The only thing I have learned is to accept this is how I feel right now and that I won’t feel like this forever. It will pass.

At the moment my negative self-talk is so specific it has even come up with a nice daily scenario to really ram home the guilt. Here’s how it goes:

Everyone else (no catastrophizing here…) wakes up really early, jumps out of bed and is off for their socially distanced morning walk before coming home and relaxing under a nice hot shower. Next is their new favorite breakfast they found on Pinterest. After that its time for a bit of online yoga and then either stuck into work or the online course they are taking. After a healthy lunch and a quick lap around the block its time to delve into those French lessons before quickly learning a new recipe in time to whip it up for dinner. And after a fully productive and stimulating day, its time to settle in and watch that documentary that’s been on their watch list for so long. 

This is how my brain works. I basically create the perfect scenario that intellectually I know no one is doing and then berate myself for not doing it. I am fortunate enough that I am able to recognize this negative self-talk for what it is and accept that it is unhelpful and not reality. But let me say, it is utterly exhausting. After all that thinking I feel like I have run around the neighborhood 20 times, just without the mental health benefits.

So as this battle rages on, on multiple fronts, I’ve learned that the one thing I can do is try to be kind to myself every day. I can’t conquer the world and nor should I have too. But I can do small things to nurture myself, like continuing to write articles, my journal and my blog. But I also have to acknowledge that for me, living with my illnesses at this time is hard and it has presented challenges I am only now starting to navigate. I don’t open the emails from every online shopping store trying to sell me gym equipment and I don’t read every article on online learning as obsessively as I was before. 

Instead, I have decided to wage the war more on my terms. I reach out for help when I need to talk and I’ve made my goal trying to achieve just one thing a day. At the moment that will suffice until the wave subsides and I am back to feeling more myself. This is certainly a new and strange time for us all and I am sure so many people are finding it hard to get through. I have learned through my own journey that when I start heaping pressure on myself, I have to take a massive step back and set more realistic and smarter goals in order to not let myself down even more. There is no denying this is an incredibly hard time for illnesses like major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, and I can only encourage you to use the resources you have and the people who love you to reach out for support. It’s also extremely important to access your mental health toolkit and post a Thought on The Mighty — because chances are, there is someone out there feeling exactly the same as you.

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Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash