I suffer from depression, anxiety, and possibly bipolar (tbd). I face an illness every day—it may be mental, but it is still an illness nonetheless.
I have a friend who I share my life with daily. Hey, Bailey! I’ll probably send her this after I write it. Today was a bad day and I have found the energy and mental capacity to write my feelings out. Even though I have Bailey, I feel alone. I love her to death and I know she loves me. But no one will ever understand my pain or lack of love for myself. That’s usually how it is with people with anxiety. People can be so close but have a bad day and it doesn’t matter.
I’m usually a “happy” person, maybe borderline annoying due to the fact that I have to be. At least to the world. I’m expected to smile and be polite and act like my mind is not working against me every waking second (even when I'm sleeping sometimes). People see me as this happy person but I am not. And many people aren’t.
I think the death of the fashion icon Kate Spade has really triggered my depression and anxiety to a point where I cried for a good three hours tonight, begging god to make me better, to stop the terrible thoughts and stomach aches, to make me normal. But are any of us normal?
I wanted to write this to try to explain to someone who’s struggling with these disorders, or for a loved one to help understand the person they love a little better, and to show they aren’t crazy. Because although I may look happy, I suffer. And sometimes my jokes or stories are to stop my thoughts. I talk a lot to talk over my intruding inside voice. So here’s a small list of what small things people do when suffering with depression or anxiety.
1.They talk too much and then apologize for it constantly.
I noticed this with a friend of mine who has depression and anxiety. He would talk my ear off and I didn’t mind because honestly I don’t want to be the one to talk. But he did. And he would text me later apologizing for being annoying. And I of course reassured him. Because I know that’s what I would want. Reassurance is huge! For people suffering from anxiety.
2. They're constantly looking for reassurance (I’m sorry).
So like I said, reassurance is HUGE for people suffering anxiety and depression. They just want to feel like they aren’t bothering you daily. They want to know that they aren’t doing anything wrong by communicating with you. I know for me this is huge and for another friend I have. I always ask people if I was annoying, or apologize constantly for it. I just want they reassurance that you don’t hate me. And that may sound dramatic but honestly, that’s what’s going through my mind. I can’t help it. So please don’t judge those seeking forgiveness. Because it may not be big to you. But in their minds it’s huge.
3. They use illness as a way to explain their pain.
So I think this is where the ignorance of mental illness comes from. Because we minimize our illness to make it make sense to someone else but the use of a headache or a stomachache to describe this thing that is almost 100x more painful can be damaging. I do it all the time. Someone’s like what’s wrong? and I’m like I just have a headache. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m like “ I don’t feel well and I don’t know what’s wrong. I just don’t feel well” cause then if I say “oh I have a headache” I’m met with “well, have you taken a Tylenol” which just makes me roll my eyes. A lot of anxiety and depression is a stomachache and a headache to most but it’s like 100x worse. And I’m not over exaggerating. I remember when I was like in 3rd grade I would go to the nurse every morning because I just felt nauseous. At the time I could only describe it as “ I feel like I have to throw up”. Which I never had a fever or anything. So I was sent back to class. And at this time in my life I was being bullied a lot and my parents where getting a divorce. I had my appendix out the next year and I remember my third grade teacher saying to me “ oh, so you actually had a stomachache this time”. And I was like “ umm yeah” not know how to explain to her that I was never lying. So just watch that from your love ones. Just ask if there’s more going on and that no matter what you’re there for them and give them a huge tight hug. It’ll help. Promise.
4. They sit quietly.
This one may not be everyone. But when I am in public I do notice that I get nervous and become quiet and do not want to speak. I just can’t say anything because I don’t want to bring attention to myself. It could be different for people, but if you notice these in your loved ones. Just stick by them and don’t draw attention to it.
5. They don’t want to be judged!!
I wish this one was obvious, but it’s not. Don’t judge your loved one. It creates anger and distrust. If your loved one becomes angry when you ask about their lack of participation in family activities, their sleeping habits, their work performance, or their lack of communication, there may be more to what’s going on than them being lazy.
It’s not easy to spot mental illness, and it’s not easy to understand. But I ask you to do some research, learn about what you can do to help, and where you can find help for your loved one and yourself. The more you know, the easier it may be to get through this. There is so much help waiting to be used. I ask however that you don’t treat your loved one like a crazy person but someone who just needs a little help.