There was a time when I think I was one of the worst when it came to judging those who claim to suffer from depression and anxiety.
“Why don’t you just get up and take a walk rather than lay in bed?”
“It’s just a mindset, get over it.”
“You’re there because you let yourself get there.”
“It’s just an excuse.”
I was one of the worst. And then one morning I woke up, made breakfast and then found myself back in bed. Later in the day, I was so tired that I had to go lay back down. Over the next few weeks, it got to the point where I would do something and then go sit down in bed for a while until I could convince myself to get up again, and this pattern went on day after day. It wasn’t laziness. It’s not a weakness. It’s not a mindset. It’s a mental disorder.
I had become one of the people that I judged.
Now I sit in a therapist’s office week after week and talk about what hurts, and I’m not just talking mentally or emotionally, but the real pain and effects that come with depression and anxiety. And yet every time I say that I’m exhausted to the point of my legs hurting, or that my arms hurt, my chest feels like a weight is sitting on it or that I’m not getting work done because I don’t have the will to do it, my therapist doesn’t look at me with judgment or give me a motivational to-do list. Do you know what her reply is?
With eyes filled with empathy she says, “I’m sorry, I know it does. I bet you are tired right now. I bet it does hurt.” And then she smiles the smallest smile and nods her head, letting me know that she understands. She gets it.
I didn’t get it for years, but now I do. I learned the hard, very painful way – which is how I usually learn things.
What Depression and Anxiety Look Like For Me:
While I try to be open with you guys, this list is just a sample of what it looks like for me because of privacy reasons. This list will also look different for everyone. Also, I’m not a mental health professional. My professional resume consists of things I can glue together or paint. This is just my personal experience. I’m also lumping depression and anxiety together because they are co-morbid and since I’m not a mental health professional, I’m not sure where one starts and the other ends.
1 – Body Aches, mainly my arms and shoulders. To me, this was the most surprising part of depression and anxiety that I’ve dealt with. When I first started struggling earlier this year my neck and shoulders would often hurt as if I had a weight on them. I remember the first time the depression lifted off of me and the feeling that the weight was finally gone. Right now? That weight is back but I know that soon it will be gone again.
2 – The Blahs. I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term for it. Many times depression is presented as constant crying and extreme sadness. For me personally, I’m just blah. I can’t cry nor can I feel excitement. I don’t feel much of anything somedays. Am I sad? Probably but I’m not always aware of it. Conversations with others that are happy or peppy are hard because I don’t want to plaster on a fake smile and pretend to be bubbly, I just want to be blah.
3 – Easily Overwhelmed – This one is easy to identify as an effect of the anxiety. My head is constantly filled with things I’m worrying about or thinking about in a negative way. Slowly those thoughts stack up until it all gets to be too much. Big groups of people right now are overwhelming to me. Certain social situations are overwhelming. Life… is a little overwhelming.
4 – Low Self Worth – This is the hardest one to tell you about. The irony is that confessing I have low self-worth is a pseudo blow against my self-worth. I’m not telling you this so that you email me telling me great things about what you think about me. I’m putting this out there, making it public, to take the power away from it. When I’m in a group of people, I feel like I don’t belong, like I would be rejected if they realized I was there. Please do not email me or message me about this – simply be aware that your friends fighting this same battle probably deal with this too.
5 – Isolation – Isolation is bad but it’s something I’m prone to right now. If I get overwhelmed, I go off by myself to escape. My closest friends know that they might have to drag me, or blackmail me, to leave my house. I do not want to be out in public, I want to hide. This week I was also dragged, in love, to Sunday School and then to coffee.
6 – Exhaustion – As a mom, I thought I knew exhaustion. Depression has hit me with a form of exhaustion that’s like nothing I have ever experienced before. It’s not a form of exhaustion that’s cured from a cat nap or even 12 hours of sleep. It’s a constant form of tiredness that makes me go slower and everything a little bit harder. There’s days that just getting dressed makes me tired. Then there’s days, such as today, where I’m productive and appear full of energy but simply move a little bit slower than usual.
7 – Mental Fog – If you want to know what day it is, ask someone else. I know what I’m worrying about or obsessing over in a negative way, everything else is just a fog.
8 – Lack of Sleeping and Appetite – There’s days that I don’t eat and there’s nights that I don’t sleep. Many times I am able to fall asleep but I wake up an hour or two later and I’m up for the night. Melatonin has helped a lot with sleeping but not always. I have been painting a lot, usually around 4am.
I choose not to take medicine to treat depression and anxiety for personal reasons. However, there are things I am doing that is helping such as depending more on others and journaling.
Growing up I had the quintessential P.E. coach who liked to torture us for fun. She’s sit in the bleachers in her blue and red windsuit and yell from her comfy position, “no pain! no gain! If you haven’t thrown up yet, you’re not working hard enough.”
I think that’s where I am… One push away from throwing up but gaining so much in the process. Maybe she was right after all.
So how I am feeling today? Tired. Down. Blah. But I know this isn’t forever. I know it’s a season in my life in which I’ll break down walls and overcome hard things. Doing hard things makes you tired.
If you’re in the same place, reach out and get help. You’re worth it. I am too.
If you’re not in this place but you’ve thought that depression is just something you can get out of bed and deal with, I hope that you’ll research it further and learn more about it. Ask questions to people you know who have dealt with it. Read books about depression. Learn and change your viewpoint because there’s probably someone you love that’s dealing with it and they need your support.