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Learning to Live With Anxiety and Depression Without Losing Myself

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Mind wanders. Worry swirls. Doubt grows. Her head swims, flooded with unwanted reminders of internal unrest.

Heart pounds. Eye waters. Hand trembles. Her body reacts, plagued with the physical reminders of internal unrest. She reaches for a pen to click, a hairband to snap. Something — anything — to distract, to cure, to occupy. Nothing satisfies the need for internal peace, emotional release, a mind at ease.

This is my friend Anxiety. She has stuck with me since my first cry and will remain until my final breath. She inhabits my mind, controlling my thoughts and my fears.

When I was young, she reminded me to stay by mommy’s side. What if someone wants to hurt you or take you away? she whispered in my ear. I quickly latched onto my mother’s hand, now fearful of every strange passerby.

In school, she taught me to avoid rejection. What if they don’t like you? she taunted my young mind. I drifted to the swing set, entertaining myself alone on the playground.

She taught me to only raise my hand if I was positive I had the right answer. If you’re wrong, they’ll laugh at you, she often reminded me. I kept to myself, only opening up when outwardly encouraged. Anxiety held onto every thought passing through my mind, sometimes creating her own doubts and questions.

In high school, Anxiety began to mislead me.

Don’t even try. So I stopped trying.

You’re only going to make a fool of yourself. So I stuck to what I knew.

You’ll never be perfect and you’ll never be happy. So I gave up the things I loved most.

You’ll never succeed. You’re worthless, she tormented.

Anxiety gave birth to Depression and then I had two friends controlling my thoughts and fears. Depression told me life wasn’t worth living anymore. Anxiety told me the world would destroy me if I kept living.

Anxiety and Depression began to spread to the rest of my body, revealing themselves physically. Sometimes, Anxiety prevented my lungs from breathing normally. She made my heart beat quickly, my eyes water and my hands tremble. Depression made my my eyes glaze, my weight shrink and my arms bleed. Anxiety and Depression began sucking the life out of me.

Somewhere deep down, beneath the worry, stress, fear and doubt, the real Taylor hid. Taylor’s love, smile, joy and kindness were all trapped beneath Anxiety and Depression, who had grown so large they almost blocked out Taylor. Eventually she began to fight back. As Taylor focused on regaining strength, she grew. Whenever Anxiety told me to fear, Taylor taught me to be brave. When Depression told me I was worthless, Taylor taught me how to prove my worth. When Anxiety told me to doubt, Taylor taught me to hope. When Depression told me to give up, Taylor taught me to keep fighting.

I have a battle in my head. Anxiety, Depression and Taylor argue every day. I have learned how to please all of them. Writing allows Anxiety to release, Depression to feel heard and Taylor to express. Painting gives Anxiety peace, gives Depression accomplishment and gives Taylor joy. Performing gives Anxiety excitement, gives Depression distraction and gives Taylor confidence. Each day, the three pieces get closer and closer to combining and completing me. Until that day, I will struggle. However, the struggle is worth becoming completely whole one day. One day. taylor photo

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 26, 2017
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