Wrestling the Black Beast of Depression and Anxiety

When I sit down to write a blog post, I might touch on a tough topic or two, but overall I try to keep things light-hearted. I post recipes, I try to be funny and positive. But lately I have been thinking about tackling a much tougher, harder-to-deal with subject.

http://rebloggy.com/post/depressed-depression-sad-suicidal-suicide-pain-anxiety-alone-b-w-broken-black/117931065216

This resonates so much with me. As I’m sure it does with a lot of people.

The other night I was chatting with my friend, A.D. in Montreal, and we got talking about my blog. She asked if I had considered writing about my experiences with Anxiety and Depression. I told her I had been, but wasn’t sure if anyone would really want to read about them. And then I realized what a load of utter bull crap that is. Because as someone who is dealing with both of these illnesses (and I’ve been suffering from them for years), one of my biggest struggles is that I feel so alone in all of it.

Attention Sufferers of Mental Illness: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

So before I begin, I want all of you suffering from either condition, or any other, to know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I know that you probably feel that way (I really do, because I feel so alone most days). But know this: your brain is lying to you. Because that’s what your brain does. It’s what my brain does. It lies to me every single day. My brain tells me that I’m alone, that I’m a burden, that I’m a failure because I can’t function properly.

I have been dealing with my illness since 2002. At least, I was officially diagnosed in 2002. But I’m sure I was suffering for several years before that. It was in 2002, after I thought about swallowing a bottle of pills, that I went to see my doctor. At that point, I was diagnosed with Severe Clinical Depression and put on anti-depressants. I hated being on them. I hated how they made me feel: empty, hollow, like a shell of myself. While I didn’t feel quite as sad anymore, I also didn’t feel particularly happy. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything. I constantly fought with my doctor to go off the medications. Against his wishes, I stopped taking them. I convinced myself that I was ok. That if I just learned to relax and breathe, that everything would work out.

I wish I could say that was what happened. Instead, I continually find myself on this roller coaster of ups and downs, of times when I feel great and others when I feel like I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. In those extremely low times, I am certain that nobody would miss me if I was gone. Because I feel like I am a burden to everybody and I don’t matter to anyone. See what my brain is doing there? It’s lying to me again.

Depression AND Anxiety? Great…

As I’ve gotten older, my depression has evolved to include General Anxiety Disorder. I find it harder and harder to function. And it gets harder and harder to explain to people. People think I do this to gain attention or sympathy. The truth is actually the exact opposite. I end up in these episodes because I am trying to hide it. Because I don’t want people to know that I have these illnesses. I have been treated like an outcast because of my depression and anxiety. Employers don’t understand, and if I try hiding it, hoping that this will all just go away, I end up in a vicious cycle of crippling panic, fear, and dread. I constantly worry that I’m going to let everyone down. Which inevitably results in me letting everyone down. Because I hit my breaking my point and then I can no longer cope.

This latest episode has been really bad. And when I emailed my boss to explain, her response was “well, I’m going to go ahead and hire someone else, and maybe you should just think about whether you even want to bother coming back.” Which leads back to the thoughts of why bother. I wish people would understand that I don’t like feeling this way. I am, by nature, a very hard worker. I was always the person that would take on extra shifts at a moment’s notice. If a colleague was sick, I’d gladly cover for them. I like to help people. I like to be busy. I like to work. When I was at university, I went to school full-time and worked two part-time jobs. I’m not afraid of working hard.

But now, it’s like my brain and my body are conspiring against me. Depression and anxiety aren’t just illnesses of the mind. They affect a person’s physical well-being too. There are days when my body hurts so much I can barely move. Other days I am so gripped by nausea that even the thought of food makes me vomit. I deal with headaches on an almost daily basis. And don’t even get me started on the exhaustion and fatigue. If I manage to have the energy to be productive one day, I am completely wiped out the next.

I have tried all the usual techniques for dealing with these illnesses: meditation, writing in a journal, mindfulness, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, various anti-depressants, exercise, healthy eating, cutting out alcohol and caffeine. And while these techniques usually have limited, short-term success, eventually the GREAT BLACK BEAST comes storming back into my life. Chewing me up and tearing me apart.

The black dog will let you go eventually. You may be covered in gooey saliva, but you will be whole and stronger. – from my friend R.K.

For anyone going through their own struggles with the Black Beast, remember this (and I am totally including myself in this reminder): You can get through this. You most likely have made it through many episodes before. And while this one may seem like it’s the worst one ever, you can succeed. I have to believe that we all can.

If this blog post resonated with you at all, I’d love to hear from you. You can comment here, or email me: 161daysinparadise (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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17 Responses to Wrestling the Black Beast of Depression and Anxiety

  1. Thank you. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in this.

    Like

  2. Skye Stone says:

    Thank you for writing about your experiences, I have just begun my own blog talking about mental illness both as a way to let out what I am feeling and to help other people, it’s nice to know we are not alone 😊

    Like

  3. Pingback: Soul-Crushing Exhaustion | 161 Days in Paradise

  4. I greatly admire your courage in discussing this so openly. My struggles have been more on the anxiety side of the spectrum although I can say I have experienced both. There have been times when for no particular reason I have been stressed and anxious to the point of shaking and being unable to do much of anything. It is a hard struggle but I hold you and your unwillingness to let other people feel alone in their struggles in very high regard. You are both courageous and compassionate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting to me how my illnesses have changed as I’ve gotten older. The last few years, the anxiety has really been taking over. And it has been quite a struggle as it really doesn’t respond to my usual coping methods like my depression did. So I’m constantly having to learn new ways to process it, new ways to cope with it, and new ways to hopefully lessen the effects of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My hope for both of us is that we both continually find new ways to strengthen and care for ourselves. New ways of finding joy. Knitting, writing, singing to the moon or dancing in our underwear:-). I’ve learned to honor those things if my heart needs them.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Miriam says:

    I’m so glad that you were able to write about this. We’ve all gone through bouts of this, some worse than others, and I honestly believe one of the best things we can do is talk about it and support each other. Thank you for such an honest relatable post. Warmest wishes to you as you try and find peace. xo

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  6. I went through a year-long depression that I later found was SADD (we had moved to very gloomy climate, after having lived all my life in a sunny location). I’d never EVER wish that experience on anyone, it’s such a cruel disease, as you indicated.
    Thank you for writing about it so openly and honestly. It can only help those who are suffering from it, and bring more understanding to their family and friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ann Coleman says:

    Thanks so much for sharing about our struggles so honestly. I think it helps for others who are dealing with the same thing to know they are not alone, and that they can prevail. It takes courage to speak out, but it does so much good!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. losedabooze says:

    I have lived through my own bouts of depression and anxiety and have watched (and still watching) my daughters suffering through this so for sure you’re not alone. The hard part is finding the formula that will work for you. For me it took years and a lot of counseling which I believe helped me more than anything else. Participating in support groups with those dealing with similar issues. While I know I’m very lucky today to have the life I have – I didn’t have it so easy all the time … I went through depression, job loss, bankruptcy, losing my home, moving away from all that I knew to rebuild my life and it was hard work and scary at times… and there were ups and downs but I kept pushing and I made some good connections and was pulled out of it. Even now as I try to navigate as a mother of two who are dealing with it – I am better able to manage it (although it has of course affected my own job performance and ability to focus)… I’m hanging on. I may not be able to be there as much for others as I conserve my energy to focus on the things that help me most through this… so while I haven’t said much – and haven’t reached out as much – I hear you and support you writing about this. My blog with the Lose ‘da Booze is what helped me most. By making myself vulnerable and putting myself out there, I gained so much and now feel that in doing so, I am helping others and that’s the best feeling in the world. You got this Kathleen and YES you will get to the other side!

    Liked by 1 person

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