Here is my second essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!
My Experience: The other side of my depression coin is anxiety. The two go hand in hand like chocolate and peanut butter. Anxiety keeps me up all night, and depression keeps me in bed all day. Anxiety is in part a result of my depression, telling me that I can’t do anything right. However, in some ways, I think I’ve always been an uneasy, anxious person. I can remember being very anxious as a child. I’m anxious almost all the time.
Often, the anxiety is just a whisper I can tune out, but when it’s loud, it screams. One day, I was at my daughter’s school, helping the other board members with a deep cleaning of the school before fall classes started. I can be a little OCD about cleaning, so I was making sure that the legs and underside of the tables were clean. The entire time, I was having an internal dialogue about how the other parents probably thought I was taking too long. I’m sure they weren’t, but that was my fear. My depression gives me a negative view of myself, and my anxiety, at times, is that others will see that. My depression tells me I’m safer isolated, and so I become anxious when I ignore that compulsion and put myself out there. I’m anxious now, writing my truths for all to see. My internal dialogue is the harshest critic, but it attributes all my negative feelings and thoughts to those around me… insisting that this must be what everyone is thinking. Making decisions can be hard for me because I worry about the consequences of making the wrong one. I get overwhelmed and anxious at work for the same reason, and it can be stifling. I get anxious going to parties, especially if I don’t know many of the guests (if I’m ever late to a party, there’s a chance it’s because I was panicking at home, trying to talk myself into going. If I’ve been invited to a party and I didn’t show up, there’s a good chance I just couldn’t get past the panic). Hell, I get anxious going to large family functions. I’ve just always felt like an awkward outsider, no matter where I am, and it’s difficult to enjoy something with the mean internal dialogue that often accompanies me. Identifying with others has helped me. I’ve learned that there are so many others whose anxiety and depression manifests itself in many of the same ways that mine do. It makes me feel like less of a freak. Recently, I learned that there is a name for my habit of picking at my cuticles when I’m nervous or anxious. The habit goes back to at least my teens, and there are times that my cuticles and the areas all around my fingernails are torn, scabbed or bleeding. Often, I don’t realize I’ve done it until it’s too late. Other times, it’s a compulsion I can’t stop. Either way, I thought it was a shame only I carried. Knowing there are others that do the same helps me to understand myself better, and see that there is another way for me. I’m learning more and more that it’s ok to be me, and I’m really not so bad.
My Tools: I mentioned in Part 1 that my most important tool has been therapy. My second most important tool is talking and writing about my depression and anxiety. I’m blessed to have family (especially my husband) and friends that I can be honest with regarding how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. When I was young, I wrote a lot of poetry. Recently, I have channeled my writing here, trying to express and share myself in a new and frightening way. Talking and writing about my feelings and experiences keep me from poisoning myself with the negativity.
How To Give Support: This site offers some simple tips for helping someone with depression, and #4 is often overlooked, but can be immensely effective.
Resources: NAMI, or National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a wonderful resource for those with a mental illness like depression (or any other mental illness), as well as anyone wanting to give support to a loved one. The site can also help you find local resources.
Share It Forward: As I mentioned above, writing has helped me live with depression. Obviously, I’m not the only one. There are many writers, artists, etc. that have channeled their feelings into their craft. Here are some wonderful examples of that kind of artistry:
Loudes Wainwright talks about his album, Haven’t Got The Blues Yet
Logic’s Anthem for Suicide Prevention, 1-800-273-8255 (the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as this article details)
Finally, I just wanted to share this comic from Robot Hugs because I LOVE it. I highly recommend checking out the many other comics posted on the site.