I’ve talked some about my depression and anxiety on this blog, but I realize I haven’t really defined those words. While those who struggle themselves might know what it means to have depression and anxiety all too well, others might not understand what those words mean. I say this because some of my friends and family, when I tell them that I struggle with these issues, sometimes say something like, “oh, everyone gets a little down from time to time.”
It is not their fault that they don’t understand. Our society overuses and misuses those words quite a bit. For example, I know much of Chicago (the North Side at least) described themselves as ‘depressed’ after the Cubs’ early exit this postseason. My friends and family who dismiss what I am telling them mean well. They really do. They are not trying to be mean or dismissive. I know they want what is best for me. They just don’t understand. And I figure if I have a blog about the struggle with mental illnesses, maybe I should define some things.
Depression, to me at least, is about degree and magnitude. While everyone gets down from time to time, there is usually a reason. Clinical depression is being down and lacking energy for no reason and/or having those feelings for far longer than is typical. For me, depression is a constant. On my very best days it is a little weight, a little sense of self-doubt combined with a feeling that no one really likes me. Sometimes events will ratchet that depression up a few levels and I’ll feel myself wanting to withdraw from the world, even from people I like, even from people I truly love. On my worst days it is a hundred pound weight on my chest, making it hard to breath, making it hard to even get out of bed. Depression is Wile E. Coyote trying to crush roadrunner with a boulder, only to have it fall on his head instead. It is like that but instead of a boulder crushing you it is your own mind. Every action seems to cause pain that is everywhere, but nowhere at the same time, because it is impossible to pinpoint.
Depression’s other half, anxiety, causes me to worry about everything. I obsess over the simplest email. Generalized anxiety disorder sounds amorphous and somehow better than a specific anxiety disorder, but clinicians just use that term because it’d be too hard to define every thing that makes that person anxious, because it is literally everything. It is a racing heart when your surrounded by good friends because you worry you might embarrass yourself. It is double and triple checking that you have your keys, your wallet, you phone, your everything, even though you know you do, which is great because you forget things less, but you’re also constantly late, or at least I am. And now, in this moment even, my anxiety is telling me that these descriptions won’t ring true for others who struggle, which they might not because it is different for everyone, but nevertheless it makes me feel like I’ll be considered a fraud, a phony, not worthy to talk about these issues that make up so much of my life. And then I feel like…I feel like I failed, triggering my depression, in a horrible negative feedback loop extending into a hell that exist only in my own mind.
So sure, other people get down. Other people worry about things. That is normal, healthy even. There is nothing normal about depression and anxiety. There is nothing healthy about the stress it puts on my body and on my mind. There is nothing normal about obsessing over this post for the last 18 hours, and feeling like I was nothing more than a rambling failure in my attempt to define two words.
Sorry, if this was a rambling incoherent mess. But maybe that is a far more elegant definition of what it is like to struggle with mental illness. A rambling incoherent mess, wreaking havoc from within you own mind. A demon that exists within you, that on the best days you merely learn to live with.
Hopefully this post will help those who also struggle with these issues, while also helping those who don’t better understand. If not I’m sorry.
P.S. I apologize a lot because I assume I am always wrong. If that bothers you, I’m sorry about that.
And as always, thanks for reading.