Depression and anxiety carry a lot of stigmas. Before I experienced them myself, I tried to not give in to the stigmas. However, now that I have personal experience there is no way I can give into the stigma. In fact, I fight against it. Here are some things I wish I had known before experiencing the symptoms myself.
The Physical Pain
I always knew that mental pain was a part of depression and anxiety, but physical pain is a big part of it as well. My doctor introduced an idea she has about fibromyalgia that makes a lot of sense to me.
She thinks it comes from the pain of depression and anxiety – there is so much going on in my mind that I force it into my body instead. I didn’t show any signs of fibromyalgia until my depression and anxiety got really bad.
Of course everyone that has depression and/or anxiety doesn’t have fibromyalgia. However, I’m sure each of them would express some form of physical pain they have experienced because of their condition.
It’s More Than Sadness and Worrying
My depression usually manifests itself in apathy. Apathy is 100% different from sadness. When it hits, I feel almost literally nothing. This is a common symptom of clinical depression.
Depression can also manifest itself as irritability; believe me, this is definitely me sometimes! It’s frustrating because it’s not how I want to be and I know it isn’t really me, but it is so hard to push against.
On the other side of things, anxiety is so much more than just worrying. The word anxiety is thrown around a lot in modern culture, so it’s easy to get used to the word and not understand its true meaning. I really like the way my therapist defines anxiety: negatively predicting the future.
Oh man, if I had known this 20 years ago! I really do think I have had anxiety my whole life. It wasn’t until I had panic attacks that I saw it in myself. But hindsight is always 20/20 right?
When I’m having a panic attack, I feel pure terror. I wish I had known what it would feel like, but that’s impossible until you’ve experienced something for yourself.
How Much It Affects Relationships
Depression and anxiety is difficult to deal with whether you are the one that has one or both or someone you love does. I never imagined how difficult it would make my relationships with others. This goes for romantic relationships, friendships, and relationships with family members. However, I have found that those I have a relationship with are much more understanding with me than I am with myself.
As I mentioned before, anxiety is negatively predicting the future. I think anyone can relate to this when it comes to relationships. You do or say one little thing wrong and you immediately assume the worst. Or is that just me…? 😉 That mostly goes for romantic relationships.
With family relationships, I get very irritable and don’t want to be around any of them. I first noticed this in high school. I thought I was just a moody teenager, but turns out it was probably a symptom of my mental illnesses.
The biggest way that depression and anxiety affect my friendships is through my mood and energy. If someone invites me to something, it seems that I’m always feeling great when they do. But fast forward to the event and I would rather die than go out and be social. I am grateful to have friends who understand and are trustworthy. However, I still sometimes feel like a bad friend.
How Real It Is
Needless to say at this point, depression and anxiety are absolutely real. It is easy to be convinced that it is all in your head. Other people may think and say that, but don’t let them convince you. I wish I had known how hard it is to know every day that something is wrong with your mind. I am learning how to use my mental illness instead of it using me.
This blog is one way I’m using it – to empathize and create a community. Depression and anxiety thrive on loneliness. So please: know that you are not alone. Even if you do not have a mental illness, you are not alone in your challenges. Please let us in. There are people around you who love and care for you. If you aren’t so convinced, at least know that I do even if I don’t know you personally.