Forty million adults in the US have an anxiety disorder. This is her story.
Some days it seems like all I can do is breathe. Sometimes it’s the anxiety that overwhelms me, paralyzing me by being too much all at once. Other days it is the depression that consumes me by taking everything worthwhile away, separating it from me as if by a glass wall. I know everything remains out there, but all that is left is still and rotten as if I am a corpse who yet breathes. Those shadows and fears will choke me if I let them; sometimes the worst of them are made of good things.
The anxiety is particularly frightening. It is as though I am over-sensitized to everything: any breath of air, comment, or even a thought is too much and I end up shaking. The terrifying thing is that I can be happy and still very anxious. I know I have a happy baseline but it seems as though every new feeling and moment of happiness is too much and it turns to pain. The best analogy is when you have your hand in cold water; for awhile it's just cold but if you leave it there, you feel it start to burn even though the water is the same temperature.
The anxiety leaves me frightened of everything, so frightened that I cannot tell you what I am frightened of. I may start out anxious over a specific thing, but eventually it generalizes and becomes so overwhelming that it seems I can never get over it. The only way is to conquer pieces at a time, over years, in order to get over the mountain that is my fear. The anxiety leaves me quietly cowering in a corner, deathly still in an effort to somehow escape from the fear.
The depression quiets me in a different way. While the anxiety leaves me screaming inside, the depression takes away my voice; more than that, it takes away my desire to voice my pain. The wavy glass jar that comes down separates me from any feeling at all. I cannot even say that I am sad when depressed - it would be more accurate to say that I just exist. I can see the rest of me trying to get through the glass, but my drive and ambition are on the other side so I cannot help them get through. I sit quietly and watch, not feeling much of anything while depressed.
In a way, I am thankful for the depression. It leaves me void, but satisfied in some sick way. All of my wants and needs are outside of the jar so I am content to sit inside slowly decaying. Eventually the jar lifts and once again I am free to see the world. This is the cruelest curse of depression - you end up letting your life decay because you don’t have any need to fix it. When the jar lifts, I end up grieving the life I had instead of the mess my life has become.
The sunshine comes and warms me, but that sunshine is a double-edged sword. I know the shadows that haunt me would be invisible if not for the light. People talked about the black being bad, but for me the very worst things were always grey, somewhere in between good and evil - those are the most believable. The shadows that grow as you pay them attention, the fears that have a lot of truth to them are by far the worst... When mired in chaos, my mind grasps for logic and reason - the fears that are based in reality become the most insurmountable problems. It feels satisfying that the scariest things can only be seen by the light; the wonderful warm happy beam that overpowers the shadows nevertheless fuels them, as well.
Out of all that wreckage comes the full sunshine, and when it shines, all of those wicked shadows I see as reality when depressed or anxious are proven to be just small tiny things that can be managed with care. In the light, no matter how big or scary they are, I can see them for their flaws. The sunshine warms me from the inside out and reminds me why it is a wonderful day to be alive. As I smile until my cheeks hurt, I soak in the beauty because I know there will be all too little of it for now, but it will always come back again.2 Comments