I don’t often talk about my depression or anxiety. In a lot of cases where I think to talk about struggling with them, my anxiety kicks in to dissuade me. Today we’re going to talk about it anyway. It’s better that way. It’s just hard to convince myself that that’s true sometimes.
Several months ago, I wrote two paragraphs about how my depression paired with procrastination:
I struggle with depression. As much as I wish it didn’t, it affects my ability to finish articles for the blog. A disclaimer: I don’t deal with depression all the time, some days are better than others, and overall things seem to be improving.
Justine and I have talked about feeling swamped with the obligations we have offline and online. She has so many responsibilities, that sometimes my reason for not working on the blog when I have time feels like a cop-out, an excuse, and not a valid one. I could have been writing, but instead I was on Facebook, or Quora, or chatting with my friends on Discord, or anything else. I even open the Google doc I write my articles in. The tab sits, idle. I want to write, I need to write, but I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I can force myself to write anyway. Other times I while away the hours on the internet, thinking how I’m not even enjoying myself but not liking any of my other pastimes any better in the present.
Some of that is still accurate. Sometimes. I still have days where I want to do nothing, I don’t feel like I can do anything, and I only get out of bed because I have to turn off my alarm. Generally, things have improved from when I wrote those two paragraphs. I started my personal blog in July and that’s forced me to focus. I worry every day about if I have content prepared, if I’ll keep up my daily posting, if I’ll miss a day, etc. Every. Day.
As far as depression goes, I had a lot of dark nights of feeling hopeless and worthless. I pushed through it, and while I felt really horrid for a long time after, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. If I hadn’t had strict deadlines for the last two years of high school, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to graduate than it did. As it was, no matter how unmotivated I was, no matter how much I didn’t feel like I could do anything that day, I had to force myself to get out of bed and do it anyway. Most of that force was fear of bad grades and of not finishing things on time and “what if I don’t graduate because I didn’t do this?” But I also spent a lot of time not doing homework when I should have been.
More recently, as I gained more control over my own life and my direction, I’ve dealt with depression less frequently. Things seemed especially bright around the time I started dating my boyfriend, last December. I had just gotten accepted into Praxis, so I knew what a year of my life was going to look like and I was so excited. Things were looking up. I noticed one month that I could feel the effects of depression but I was in an okay mood, none of the usual bad thoughts were there, which was unusual. This happened just about every month, and I think it may be partially connected to my period. This was quite the revelation.
I had one day that was so bad, depression and anxiety mixed together so well that I had to call off work. I was a mess, crying and irritable, and unmotivated and stressed out for no reason I didn’t think I could handle it. There were other days that were that bad where I still had to go in because to call off would get me fired. Those days were the hardest. Being on the verge of a mental breakdown while putting on a brave face and helping customers is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. I don’t get a lot done when that happens, because I keep going to the bathroom about to cry, on top of all the other directions they pull me.
A lot of various interpersonal interactions make me uncomfortable and anxious. It’s normal to be nervous about public speaking and interviews, after all, they tend to be important. For me, those nerves can extend to other situations that aren’t strictly either. I can recall being asked to read a few Bible verses at youth group one night. To everyone. Unexpectedly. Over the speakers. I was shaking and hoped no one could tell how terrified I was. When I speak up and participate in group conversations, if I’m not familiar with everyone and comfortable with them, I get wild butterflies in my stomach. There’s been very few exceptions to this. Sometimes I have something I want to say but can’t. I have to convince myself to do it. If I finally do get to the point of forcing myself to speak, I feel shaky and nervous. It’s horrible, and it’s hard to convince myself that everything will be okay. So I tend to watch other people interact at group events rather than participate.
In really large group activities, I’ll latch on to a person or a few people I’m comfortable with and stick with them. If I lose them, it freaks me out and I feel lost and confused and strikingly out of place. I’ll frantically search for them or find a place to stand away from the crowd. Recently, my boyfriend and I went to a homeschool carnival my friends invited me to. I was a bit on-edge because of how many people were there, even though they were scattered over a large area. When I lost track of two of my friends, realizing they’d wandered off while I was absorbed in conversation with my boyfriend, I mentally freaked out. I scanned the crowd, trying desperately to find them. We found them and stood with them before going to wait for the carriage ride. Under the pavillion it was loud and my heart was beating fast and while I knew logically it was okay, I felt really unsafe. After the carriage ride, I felt really uncomfortable and out of place and very much not okay. So I said I was ready to leave. My boyfriend asked if I was sure, and I said yeah, so we said goodbye to my friends and left. I nearly burst into tears as we walked to my car and he asked if I was okay. And I said yes so I wouldn’t cry right then. I cried later, feeling horrible. I had wanted so badly to enjoy my time at the event with my friends and I couldn’t because I was so stressed out the whole time. I like to spend time with people, I really do, but I do much better with smaller groups of people that I know well.
Things can be really hard sometimes, but it’s not all bad. Since I started working at Walmart, I’ve gotten better at talking to strangers and feel more comfortable conversing with people I don’t know well. I also feel more in control of my life and that I’m moving toward my goals in a concrete way. That has helped me have more hope for the future, which erases a lot of the bad thoughts aspect that was so prominent in my depression. I know less about anxiety, because I realized more recently that I was even dealing with it and how it was affecting me. It seemed to be getting worse, but now that I know it’s there, I can take steps to better cope and combat it.
I may not have overcome my mental health problems yet, but I’ve made progress, especially in the last year. I may never be totally free of depression or anxiety, but I have hope for the future and know that it can and will get better. It will take time and effort, but I will get there.