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I Have Depression and Anxiety, but They Don't Have Me

If you ask my friends what I’m like, then you might hear words like “outgoing,” “creative,” “awkward,” and the ever-popular “she thinks she’s funny.” I firmly believe in the healing power of chocolate, dog kisses and cold-pressed coffee. I am a lover of crafts, cooking and traveling at every opportunity. In high school, I was voted “most likely to be successful.” (Humble brag.)

If you asked my friends what I was like, then you definitely wouldn’t hear the words “depressed” or “anxious.” That’s partially because I can count on one hand how many people I’ve confided in about my mental illnesses. It’s also, however, because I don’t consider depression or anxiety to be a part of my personality.

Mental illness runs in my family, and it’s a reality I’ve struggled with for years. I’ve had anxiety since early childhood, and depression since I was 14. I’ve seen more therapists than I can count, and I’ve been taking antidepressants for well over a year.

For me, depression and anxiety are often a package deal, but they aren’t something I’m plagued with every second of every day. Like many people, I go through “episodes” of depression, which are often accompanied by anxiety. These episodes range in severity from daily panic-attacks and suicidal thoughts, to generally feeling fatigued and upset without reason. Generally, these episodes occur two or three times a year, and last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

I’ve done everything in my power to fight my depression and anxiety. I’ve been particularly fortunate to grow up in a house where getting help was not only OK, it was encouraged. During my worst episode of depression, I was prescribed antidepressants, which also help manage my anxiety. Although I originally felt like taking antidepressants was sort of like admitting defeat, they helped me get to a place where I could help myself again.

I practice self-help when I’m up to it, usually in the form of drawing. I seek help from family, therapists or counselors. Some days though, when nothing feels like a victory, getting out of bed is often a victory in itself. I’ve learned those small victories are something that deserve to be celebrated.

If you are reading this because you struggle with depression or anxiety, then know there is no “normal.” There is no “right” way to cope, fight or heal. What’s important is you fight back however you can. Helping yourself can mean talking to your doctor about getting a prescription or just treating yourself to an ice cream cone. You don’t have to be struggling to survive before you reach out for help.

Fighting anxiety and depression has been an uphill battle. I like to think I’m winning.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

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