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Depression and Anxiety Can't Take Away My Gratitude

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By all objective measures, I have a good life. A wonderful life, even. A husband I love very much. Two healthy, unique kids. A cute dog. A house. A fulfilling job. A spiritual community. People in my life who care about me. I have everything I need, and even most of what I want. I also have debilitating depression and anxiety.

Depression makes me numb. Anxiety makes me feel like electricity is running through my body. My depression feels nothing, and my anxiety feels everything. I can’t turn either one off. My mind is a void, and my mind is also running in a million different directions, in a completely disorganized and haphazard way. My depression makes me not want to get out of bed; my anxiety tells me child protective services will show up if I don’t make sure my kids are ready for school on time each day. My depression makes me not want to leave the house; my anxiety believes I will get fired from my job if I’m even 10 minutes late. My depression makes me isolate. I distance myself from my friends and even my family, because my anxiety tells me my feelings aren’t valid, that I’m a burden and I’m not worthy of their love and compassion. Depression makes me want to disappear, to just be swallowed up whole by the universe; anxiety beats me up for even thinking such a morbid, oppressive thing.

It is exhausting. And it’s been my reality for nearly as long as I can remember. Sometimes it wanes, but it never completely leaves me, even with medication and therapy. Sometimes it holds on like a vise, even if I’m seeing the psychiatrist every month and doing intensive therapy three times a week.

Some people may think because I have depression and anxiety, I don’t like my life. I’m weak. Pathetic. Ridiculous. Ungrateful. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I know how lucky I am to have all kinds of wonderful things in my life, and I am grateful for them. The challenge comes in feeling completely dissociated from all that goodness. I know it’s there, but it feels like there’s some kind of impenetrable force field surrounding me, and I can’t connect to anything outside of it. It’s all there, just waiting for me to unlock the secret code that will retract the shield.

The thing is, I can’t do it alone. It’s like being in an escape room — I need a team to help me work out all of those little puzzles so the door can be opened and the light can get in. I find that team in my family, my friends, colleagues, doctor, psychiatrist and my therapist.

Sometimes, I fail. I can’t work my way out. Sometimes, with help, I can break out into the sunshine, only to be shoved back into a dark place soon after. And sometimes, I make it to the other side of that force field, and I get to stay there. And because I know those times come, and come again, I will keep trying to crack that code. Because I know I have a good life. A wonderful life, even. And I want to be fully present for as much of it as possible.

Unsplash image by Jared Murray

Originally published: February 18, 2020
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