I’ve struggled with depression for well, as long as I can remember. It doesn’t happen every day but when it does, the overwhelming darkness that seeps through to my core is something I can’t describe. Depression for me, isn’t crying my eyes out in my bedroom because the girls at work decided to throw me under the bus – again. For me, it’s coming home from work and laying on the couch alone, in the dark, in complete silence and slowly drifting to sleep. It’s looking at my dog, who has been locked in a crate all day, and wondering if she can hold it for a few more hours while I close my eyes and forget about the world. It’s constantly feeling like a failure and continuing to sabotage my success. It’s being energetic and cheerful one day and having the life sucked out of me the next. It’s making plans with my friends and then hoping they cancel so I don’t have to get out of bed and put on a fake smile. It’s having no appetite one day and binge eating the next. It’s waking up in the morning and calling in sick because the thought of getting out of bed is too painful to even comprehend. Most people experience this after a horrible breakup, or after getting fired from a job. I’m not a doctor, but I think that’s pretty normal. For me, the darkness happens smack dab in the middle of a typical Tuesday. No warning, no reason, and it stays for days, sometimes weeks.
That’s what depression is for me.
Over the past 4 or 5 years I started feeling a different type of depression. This form is much more intense but doesn’t last as long. My heart starts racing, I get clammy and nervous. I feel trapped. I get an overwhelming sense of pure panic and for no reason at all. In the beginning, I was sure I was having a heart attack or heart palpitations. Soon, I discovered the word a n x i e t y. All of my life, I thought anxiety was another word for stress. You hear it all the time, “Omg my kids are bouncing off the walls, they give me so much anxiety” or “I have anxiety about this final exam”. People misuse and misunderstand the word every day and when someone really does have it, most people just assume they’re being dramatic or can’t handle stress.
After googling for hours one night, I came across a post titled “What anxiety is to me” or something like that. Every word this woman wrote was spot on. I resonated with her so much it was almost like she took the words out of my head and typed them into her little blog. She explained it like “Imagine if someone locked you in a big haunted house and cut the power. Imagine it started getting cold and you heard someone whisper your name” That’s the feeling you get while you’re putting on your makeup or cooking dinner. Holy shit… Is this feeling I get an actual thing? Did I really have a freakin disorder? A chemical imbalance? Everything was making sense but I really didn’t want it to…
It’s funny, even after 5 years I still never consider myself a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder, even though I am definitely a person and I certainly have anxiety and anxiety is totally a disorder I no doubt suffer from. I think more than anything, the fact that I am dealing with it everyday, without the use of medication or therapy has helped me feel like I am fighting it.
It took me years to find and create my own customized remedy. I had to really focus on what was triggering these episodes. There had to be a reason I would have one every morning around 8:20am. Why was this so apart of my daily routine? Shower, coffee, makeup, hair, take the dog out, have a mental breakdown, drive to work. This was my life for about a year. Day in, day out.
I slowly started to realize that I always had an attack when I was over heated. See, Kenny (my ex boyfriend) and I lived in this disgusting little apartment in a horrible part of town. The apartment didn’t have central AC but had those little window shakers that we ran only when we had to. Doing my makeup in the summer was pretty fucking pointless if I’m being honest. I would blend the mixture of foundation and sweat until it was patchy and separated and well disgusting. That’s when I felt the anxiety start. Blow drying my hair only made things worse and it was downhill from there.
I rushed around the kitchen, making my breakfast and packing my lunch. I guzzled my coffee desperately trying to stay sane and my heart would start to race. See, caffeine is the fuel to my anxiety. It’s where it thrives and where it flourishes. Sometimes if my anxiety was really bad at that point I would stand in front of the window shaker until I calmed down.
If I didn’t have time for that, which was always the case, I took my dog outside and hurried her as she did her business, hoping I would make it to work in time. That literally never happened.
I hopped in the car, almost always forgetting something, like my phone or my lunch or my thermos full of anxiety fuel, and had to run back upstairs. This is where my full on anxiety attack would happened. Every. Single. Day.
Kenny would silently drive us to work as I sat in the passenger seat crying and shaking, and holding my chest. I would turn the air on full blast and point all of the AC vents towards me. Sometimes the AC had already been set up perfectly from the day before. Reminding me how crazy I was.
It really was torture, especially starting my day in that state. I really had to change my life. I had to get up earlier, take my time getting ready, drink WAY less coffee, and learn to adapt to this new dysfunction that was my life.
Fast forward to now. I still have depressive days and weeks but they have gotten shorter and I know how to get out of them. It’s hard, but I know how. Exercise helps me a ton, writing for my blog, photography, all of that helps me feel “better”. If I start to feel a bit down, I can’t come home and sit on the couch. I have to be careful not to get sucked into the dark days, because those days are – horrible.
To help my anxiety, I have to keep my house organized and clean, I have to wait to drink my coffee until I get to work and even then, I only drink ½ a cup. I have to slow down and breathe more. I have to consciously try to not overthink things (which realistically causes me to overthink even more). It is absolutely a struggle but trust me, it’s worth it. I am in such a great place right now and really couldn’t be happier.
Ignorance is never bliss when it comes to mental illness. Sometimes, even the people who seem to “have it all” are battling something on the inside, and sometimes they don’t even know what that something is.
Kate Spade’s suicide really affected me and when her husband’s statement was released yesterday it broke my heart even more. I don’t want any of you to take this post as a cry for help or a warning sign because I promise you, I have never had thoughts of anything like that. I just wanted to educate you on what someone with depression and anxiety goes through. I really don’t think it’s something that goes away, or something you grow out of. I think it’s something we have to learn to live with and hopefully we find someone who grows to understand us.
I love you all and I am so grateful that you took the time to read about something so personal to me.
Rest peacefully, Kate