I wrote this first a few weeks back, to come back to. I’ve tried to focus less on fact, and more on feelings – after reading something about being clear in expressing how you feel to help your mental health. So I’ll put a *trigger warning* at the top of this, that if you don’t want to be reminded of how depression and anxiety feel, and the thoughts it triggers, it’s best you don’t read on.
Taking a deep breath first, as this is the first time I’m publicly disclosing this, and it can be difficult to talk about…
I’ve had clinical depression and anxiety disorder for 15-16 years. Describing this feels odd, as I’ve only just realised that the impact it’s had on my leading a ‘normal’ life (don’t like that term, need to think of a better one!) in that time classifies it as a disability. A lot of the time you’re too busy trying to keep your head above water trying to hold it all together, to step back and really think about what it means in a bigger context.
I go through flare ups, sometimes for weeks, sometimes a couple of months that make life really tough. The change is more micro than that too. So I can be having a bad period for a month and a couple of days I think I’m balancing out again, but I’m really not, and I crash again. It’s unfortunately an unpredictable roller coaster. I think the longest I can remember not feeling this way for without an interruption of some kind, is probably about 3 months of rational/happy. That was about 2 years ago.
My self-esteem plummets, I become more reclusive, over-sensitive, and my negative thinking about myself takes over my life – giving it a really cynical hue. I become suspicious and untrusting of others (a consequence of projecting my own feelings of low self-worth on to others) and the idea of doing anything fills me with dread. I’m right now hitting that time of year where I lose all motivation to do anything. But the anxiety means all I do is sit and worry about all the stuff I’m not doing.
I basically become this husk of the person who I actually am. And because I can see that, I don’t like myself even more. It gives me more material to beat myself up about. It’s really hard to stop the downward spiral once I’m caught up in it, and it can make day to day functioning pretty near impossible sometimes. It gets worse in winter, and some flare ups are worse than others.
In these bouts, amongst other symptoms, I can’t face plans I’ve made. I become a nightmare flake to friends. Then I worry they just think I don’t want to see them, which makes things worse. But I have a problem leaving the house. Which means not making in to work sometimes.
In the past I’ve had to lie about absence reasons in some jobs, but am fortunate enough to be able to be honest with the managers I currently have. So I can work from home during bad flare ups, which helps me avoid too much sick time. This is still loaded with needing to judge when is bad enough and worrying about what others think about these absences from the workplace, though.
So going back to the beginning, when it started. I realised that how I felt wasn’t normal… I took myself to the doctor from the age of 15, telling them I thought I was depressed, and was patronised (the guy looked and dressed like Timmy Mallet, which did not help). This continued for the next 6 years of my life as I tried to get diagnosed at different points.
At 21, I went to the doctors one day after no sleep, having had panic attacks all night, shaking and looking awful. I was finally diagnosed, put on meds, and sent for therapy.
I then spent ten years yo-yoing on different dosages of an anti-depressant that was supposed to be a 6 month temporary fix. I’ve decided to come off medication now, which makes anxiety tougher to deal with – it rules a lot of my thinking. I’d never say never about going back on meds. There were times where it was more severe than it is now, and without going into too much detail, I’ve needed them to keep me alive.
If you have any questions about my experience, please ask in the comments, as I know one post doesn’t cover anything. Also open to suggestion about what you’d like to hear, or what else you think would be useful for me to include. If you want to talk about your experience too, I’d love to hear from you.