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The Self-Doubt That Comes From Living With Dysthymia

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I like to think of dysthymia as a shadow of depression that’s always creeping up from behind me, following my every step. Until suddenly, it’s right in front of me, and everything around me is covered in this shadow. After a few days, it disappears again. I know it’s still behind me because I can feel it. It can throw a shadow over happy moments or rather, moments when I’m supposed to be happy. Yet most people, including me for years, don’t notice the shadow until it gets too close.

Dysthymia is often unrecognized and thus, it is also underdiagnosed. For a long time, it caused me to wonder what was wrong with me. I was depressed, but not “quite depressed enough” to call it depression, I thought.

That’s why I try to tell friends and colleagues about my illness: To bring awareness. To show people depression comes in all shapes and sizes. To show that it doesn’t have to be this stereotypical thing like we see in the movies.

Yet, talking about it on a personal level, beyond the facts and symptoms, is hard. Whenever I tell someone about how I feel, I wonder if they really believe me. After all, I don’t have scars on my wrists to prove I have depression. My panic attacks are happening inside of me. No nausea, no throwing up, no trembling body. There’s only this panic raging through my veins. I never missed a day of school or work because I couldn’t get out of bed.

It still feels like I have to prove my illness is real, not only to people around me but also to myself. Dysthymia can be such a subtle feeling, a feeling I have known for so long, but sometimes I just doubt myself.

What if I am making this up? Maybe I’m overreacting? There are people out there who have it so much worse.

It’s frustrating and it’s scary. The better I cope with it, the more I doubt myself and the more I’m afraid the shadow might come back and cover everything in darkness, like it did last year. It’s like I’ve gotten so used to dysthymia being a part of my life over the past couple of years that I become anxious when it’s not around. I almost miss it.

One of my own friends had been struggling with depression without telling anyone, and she only felt comfortable enough talking about it after I did the same. It proves there is so much power in speaking up about my experiences, even though people might not always believe me.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 14, 2016
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