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When Anxiety and Depression Become All Too Familiar Friends

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For me, my anxiety has always been there. In the back of my head, in my shaking hands, in my racing heartbeat and sweaty palms. That whispering voice in the back of my mind telling me, “They don’t really like you,” “You’re making a fool of yourself,” “No one could ever love you,” “You’re only going to embarrass yourself again…”

Over the years the voice has only gotten louder with age. As if reaching 16 was not just a milestone for me, but also a reason for the voice to get louder, for one voice to become a chorus of them, telling me everything I was doing was wrong, that my life was going horribly downhill.

Then came along the depression. I didn’t realize it was there for a long while. I didn’t realize sleeping endlessly to escape my thoughts was a symptom, and I didn’t know not wanting to leave my house and being completely unmotivated to participate in life would only make it worse.

There I stayed, wrapped up in a cocoon of safety and protection in my room. I’d spend days lying in bed staring at the bank ceiling as if looking for non-existent answers, crying to myself or just sleeping altogether. I’d get angry and aggressive at those who loved me, shouting and lashing out — only to push away the people I cared most about. This inevitably only strengthened the voices of anxiety I had become so familiar with. “You’re such a horrible person.” “How could you treat your loved ones so badly?” “No one could ever love you.” “You’re going to be alone forever…”

It became an obsession; I’d wake up in the morning and my first thought would be that I was worthless and hopeless, that I’d never be successful or have a family, that there was no point to anything. Every task felt like I had been challenged to pull a 500-ton boulder single-handedly up a mountain. I didn’t have the strength for simple tasks; brushing my teeth, brushing my hair, putting on my makeup and even getting out of bed. I had completely given up on life.

My mum made me go to the doctors. My family were so frustrated and helpless and didn’t know what to do with me anymore. Drugs are sometimes the first option doctors try. “Try a 10 mg dose of this.” “Let’s up that dose to 30 mg.” “Now let’s try something else…” What they don’t tell you is that sometimes these drugs can make it worse. My experience with the last drug I tried was an extremely negative one. After only a week on it I attempted to take my own life. I could not even explain what I was thinking at the time… my thoughts were so incoherent they didn’t even make sense to me. I just wanted to escape my own head, my constant torment. After spending three days in the hospital and seeing various psychiatrists and mental health specialists (and being told I had autism spectrum disorder and that my symptoms matched up with depression and anxiety) I was discharged.

After returning to my doctor, I was placed on another medication. After only a few days, I noticed a big difference. I could at least block my negative thoughts for a small amount of time, and this would allow me to make logical and simple decisions, to force myself out of bed in the morning and to make myself at least try to be more social.

However, depression and anxiety are isolating illnesses — people think you’re making excuses about not meeting up with them, or that “feeling ill” for the third time in a row is just not possible. When you cannot truly explain how your body refuses to cooperate —  how you’re in a constant turmoil of either feeling “too much” (anxiety) or “too little” (depression). I ended up pushing away the people I loved most, losing my closest friends and connections and feeling even worse about myself because of it. I don’t blame my friends for leaving me when they did. Depression and anxiety makes you unable to see past the black barrier of hopelessness and misery. You can’t see anybody else living beyond that wall. It’s not that you don’t care about them, but that you don’t even have the ability to care about anything anymore. You’re a vessel of complete apathy, yet you’re still force to “put on a face” and to “snap out of it” — so it at least looks like you’re OK. So that the those around you can keep on living in ignorance, or denial — that maybe at least if I pretend to be happy then maybe I will.

After you’ve lost all of your friends and pushed away every loved one you ever had, depression and anxiety become your friends. You become so used to the constant self-hatred and fear that you begin to listen to it even more. It’s in your head so it has to be right, correct? Wrong — depression and anxiety seeps into your head and makes you think they are part of you. They’re not. They’re an intruder. Depression and anxiety are not your friends.

Here I am. I’m still fighting depression and anxiety. But I am a fighter, not a sufferer. I believe if we call ourselves “sufferers” we also surrender, we let mental illness win. Even the fact that you’re reading this shows you have enough fight left in you to keep going. I have faith in you. From one fighter to another.

I’ve been on a waiting list for cognitive behavioral therapy for about six months now, and I’ve received counseling and drug therapy. However, it’s only when I realized the only one who can make a change in my life is myself, that I finally started seeing the good in each day, and woke up with the strength to push through the negative thoughts and anxiety. The ironic thing is, the best things to help you with depression and anxiety are often also the most difficult to pursue — reading, walking, running, exercising, meeting up with loved ones, yoga, meditation, writing… the list goes on. These things which seem so trivial to everyday life become lifelines when battling mental illness. Your lack of motivation will sometimes make make these things nearly impossible, but you must push through. You must drag yourself out of the dark hole that you have named a home for so long.

Mental illness is not your friend, it’s deception, it’s lies and it’s the enemy. Reject it, don’t just accept it.

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: December 16, 2016
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