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Depression and anxiety are two of the most well-known mental disorders in our society today. Anxiety affects roughly 40 million adults in the US (about 18.1 percent of our population) every year. Depression affected roughly 16.1 million adults in the US (about 6.7 percent of our population) in 2015 alone. This doesn't include the millions of children and teens who are also diagnosed every year or the multitudes of people who go undiagnosed.
Now, these disorders are different, but sometimes may have similar symptoms, such as problems sleeping (too much or too little), irritability, and nervousness. Many people have both disorders, though there is no clear evidence that one causes the other. Before I begin cataloging my own journey, let me say this: no two people with the same disorder are alike. What symptoms I may have, others may not. If you suspect you may have a mental illness, PLEASE seek help and medical advice.
With that being said, I have eight different mental disorders. I will be focusing on these two, though three of them are anxiety disorders and two of them are depression disorders. Let's start with depression and how it affects me. This started when I was very young though I wasn't diagnosed until I was well into my 20s.
Depression is a black hole. It sucks everything you love into it (your favorite hobbies and pastimes, your friends and family, etc.) And leaves you with a void you can't fill.
I love to cook, paint, create. I find very little joy in them anymore. I love music but find I don't sing and jam to them the way I used to. I find myself constantly secluded from others because I find little joy in conversing.
I heard an analogy once that went something like this:
"Depression is like if one day, you gradually started to lose both your sense of taste and your ability to feel full. You don't know why, but now everything tastes like mashed potatoes and nothing you eat is satisfying. You keep eating because you must eat to live but the effort that it takes to prepare food is taxing and there is no payoff. You just know it will taste like mashed potatoes. You just know you will still be hungry. So you stop bothering with seasonings. Then you stop bothering to use ingredients you used to like. Then you start to wonder what the point of eating is because there is no payoff. You still feel hungry and you are sick of the taste and you don't know if you will ever enjoy food again or why this is happening. When others come to you and say, 'Well have you tried spicing your food? Using different ingredients? Eating foods you used to love?' it isn't necessarily helpful because the reason you stopped doing all that in the first place is because EVERYTHING... TASTED... LIKE... MASHED... POTATOES."
This scenario shows how your favorite things become bland. The world is empty. Now, not every day is like this. Sometimes, I have very good days, even a good week on rare occasions. But most of my days are spent bored and listless. It's wanting to get up and create a culinary masterpiece but instead, laying lethargic on my couch, staring at Netflix because it doesn't seem like fun. It's being incredibly exhausted and dozing off and on all day. Fighting a losing battle against your brain is extremely exhausting.
The flip side of that coin is my anxiety. To me, my anxiety almost feels worse than my depression. Anxiety is feeling nauseous and nervous for no reason. It's jumping to worst case scenario EVERY TIME. It's not being able to focus on one thing for more than five minutes or overly obsessing over it for DAYS. It's crying because you are overwhelmed by too many people. I walk into my dark bedroom and fully expect to die in a grisly way before I can turn on the light.
My dog recently had puppies. I wake up every morning fully expecting to find nine dead puppies because she killed them all. When I wake up, they are happy and healthy because she is a FANTASTIC mother. But my brain has a way of fooling me into believing things even when there is absolutely NO BASIS OR EVIDENCE that said scenario could happen.
Oftentimes, when dropping one of my brothers off at my mom's house, I stay to watch them walk in, to make sure they are alright but then fight the urge to go inside to make sure all is okay inside as well.
What if they walked inside and there was a murderer inside who had already killed the rest of my family and now him too?
What if someone set up a bomb in the house and it explodes, killing them all?
What if the house collapses?
All of these thoughts occur in a split second of time. Another symptom is racing thoughts. My mind doesn't shut down. Ever. You know when you are tired and lay down to sleep and your brain becomes blank or white noise and you drift off to sleep for 8 hours? I don't.
I dwell on stupid things I did when I was 5. I'm 31. No one else remembers but me. No one cares because it was silly and inconsequential. But my brain has decided that we MUST find a solution to this scenario it has deemed a calamity and we must do it tonight. RIGHT NOW. It can't wait. So I lay awake worrying about something I did 26 years ago.
But having both depression and anxiety is another beast entirely. Both have side effects of fatigue. But whereas my depression wants me to sleep for 12 hours, my anxiety only lets me sleep for an hour and a half. It's needing everything dark and quiet but needing the light to make sure nothing is lurking and sound to distract my racing mind.
It doesn't just affect my home life. It affects my work life too. I will go from happy, laughing, and joking, to snippy, hateful, and rude because I get overwhelmed by all the noise. It's not something I can control. I fly off the handle out of nowhere. It's terrifying and confusing.
It's secluding yourself because you have no desire to talk to anyone (depression) and people make you nervous (what if I make a fool of myself? Anxiety) but needing to have human contact. It's wanting to reach out to family and friends for support but instead ignoring them and making them feel like I don't like them anymore (which in turn makes me feel guilty but I still can't bring myself to change it).
It's frustrating, frightening, and exhausting to have one of the disorders. It's worse having both. Your mind is at war with itself ALL. THE. TIME.
But I stay mostly sane by telling myself how extremely important self-care is. I force myself to take a hot bath, put on a face mask, and just relax, even though my brain tells me it's too much work. I read to keep my brain strong, even though my brain tells me there is no point and I no longer find enjoyment in it. I make sure I eat, even though the task of preparing a simple sandwich seems daunting. I've implemented routines to make sure my dog is taken care of and to make sure I stay healthy, even though I'd rather wither away.
I am enough. I deserve a fulfilling life. I have many, MANY people who love and support me. Despite what my lying brain tells me, I will fight against it and I will win.