For a long, long time I simply thought that I was sad and that eventually I would snap out of it. Then after a year or so of feeling like that, I began to suspect that it was much more than sadness, but a part of me was in denial due to the whole social stigma around the notion of having mental health problems. But at a certain stage I just knew that it wasn’t just sadness anymore and that it was definitely depression, but still, I never admitted to anyone. But at that point, my silence wasn’t out of fear of any kind of social ostracism, it was simply because I was too busy handling my own feelings and trying to convince myself to stay alive.
But when I did begin admitting to people, not in the way that meant I was telling them a secret and was hoping they kept it to themselves, but more in a way where I mentioned it in casual conversations when we spoke of health issues and such. But every single time I have mentioned depression, the one thing I have always noticed is how easily people dismiss it, as if it’s not a real illness, or as if it has no importance or as if I’m merely exaggerating my sadness for attention. And every single time it would piss me off, not because they ignored me, no, but due to their ignorance regarding the seriousness of mental health issues, despite the fact that they were all medical students.
But this is not about my struggle with depression or the importance of discussing depression in today’s world where many of us are suffering silently due to an abundant number of reasons. This is about how depression came along with a “buy one get one free” offer. Well, at least for me that was the case. After years of suffering from depression, I started experiencing anxiety too.
In the beginning it was mild, to the point where I ignored it. It had always been such that I was the depressed one and my bestie was the one suffering through a not so mild form of anxiety. But over the span of the past two years, this mild form kept growing and growing and I just never realized it. Until now.
I have always been a shy person, so as my anxiety kept worsening I kept telling myself that I was just being nervous due to my shyness. But what I failed to see was that it had indeed reached a debilitating point since I did end up spending weeks indoors, refusing to step outside, even to buy basic groceries due to some inexplicable fear thudding away in the recesses of my heart. But that disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared and two-three weeks later, I was back to normal. Or well at least back to my twisted version of normal, which was basically my depressed, lifeless form.
Then came along the physical symptoms, which manifested during my exam season. Believe it or not, my first thought when the muscles in my body started twitching was that I was possessed. Like what?!? I know, it doesn’t even make sense. But that’s how my brain was working a month ago. Every single night, when I would go to sleep or sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night with this particular region on my back just twitching, sometimes it would be my arm or leg, but mostly it was in the scapular region. I spent a few days afraid that I was possessed. Then common sense kicked in and I googled my symptoms, like everyone else does these days and the top hit was anxiety, but did I believe it? Of course not. I went ahead and believed a few of the least possible options because that is what we do, don’t we, convince ourselves that we’re dying.
The twitching continued and I kept refusing to accept that it was anxiety. Told myself I was just stressed. But one fine day, I texted my bestie and just sent her a screenshot of my search results and she said that she had been experiencing the same symptoms and that is when it finally hit me, that yes, I have anxiety as well. But of course, it’s not as debilitating as what certain other individuals experience, but it is there and it does attack me out of the blue and that is what I truly despise. The attacks without a warning.
Because when it comes to depression, after all these years of battling against it, I have come to learn the signs my body expresses even before my mind realizes that we are back in the deep, dark ditch of misery. So I prepare myself or give myself a break if I feel like I need it or stock up on ice cream if I feel like a breakdown is on the way. Because depression is just there all the time, so technically I am prepared all the time. It all depends on which neurons are firing on that particular day when I wake up. But in case of anxiety, it’s like a switch that I have no control over. One minute I’m completely fine and the next I’m panicking or a sweaty mess or I don’t know how to breathe or I’m deathly afraid of the unseen. 80% of the time there is no reason or warning. It just happens and it is so very frustrating.
I mean I never did ask for depression either so I never did actually go buy it. But at least I understand why depression happened. I went through a phase in my life and that definitely precipitated the onset. But anxiety just came along with it and well I guess now I’m stuck with both of them.
Of course depression and anxiety are personalized for each individual. Each one of us experience this in varying intensities with a range of signs and symptoms. What I went through and still go through most definitely isn’t what another human out there with depression / anxiety would have experienced. So just as a disclaimer, this was solely about myself with no reference to anyone else’s experience, which I’m very much aware is different.