The Weight of Depression

One of the main symptoms of my depression feeling stuck or weighted down.  Literally, like being stuck in the snow up to my eyes and although possible to move, it requires considerably more strength than someone who is free.  But since it is the air that is thick and heavy, and not snow, getting out of bed when the weight of the air holds you down is exhausting, or even impossible. And yet we’re expected to hop out of bed like someone who is weightless. I believe that it is one of the reasons depressed people often stay in bed, whether sleeping or not, it is not that we want to. We just don’t have the physical strength required to move.  One of the most frustrating aspects of this is that at end of the day when we feel like we’ve got nothing done, we have in fact we’ve exerted more energy than most people. Unfortunately, this is not reflected on our to-do list.

In the winter this feeling is often intensified as I feel stuck in my home because the energy required to bundle up, scrape off the car, or walk anywhere is so much more work when depression is already weighing me down.  Luckily, the weight is not too heavy these days, but sometimes it still comes over me like a heavy blanket dropped from the sky. I find it hard to see or move and I can feel disconnected from what is going on around me. Like the little Buddha in my garden waiting for the snow to melt, I wait for the blanket to be lifted so I can move freely again, and sometimes waiting it out is all that I can do.

Those of us who have survived depression or other mental health issues are literally stronger people as a result of having to exert the force required just to get up every day.

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Nobody Cares (and that can be a good thing!)

Of course, there are people that you care about and that care about you, but I’m not talking about them at the moment. The people I’m talking about are the ones at the mall, in the waiting room, at the bus stop, or at the movies. These people are just like you and me. They have their own worries and thoughts and they are not caring about what you’re wearing, or if you’re taking medications, or if you have paid off your MasterCard bill.  I’m reminding you, and me, of this fact because when anxiety kicks in it can override our rational mind and make us believe things that are simply not true.  During these moments I find myself wondering what others are thinking about me, worrying that they can see right through me. All my flaws are exposed and awaiting critique by any person who wishes to give me their two cents.  If I can catch this in the very early stages, I can sometimes refocus my brain on the simple fact that “NOBODY CARES”. I can sometimes end the anxiety before it really has a chance to gain momentum.  Sometimes this thought can even make me smile a little.

This mantra can be helpful not only in preventing a more significant episode but it can also help me focus on what is important at any given moment. Usually, that means focusing those relationships with the people I do care about and care about me.

So maybe the next time you feel yourself starting to worry about what others may be thinking, try reminding yourself “that nobody cares” and see how it feels.  Or do you already have little mantras that help bring you back to reality when anxiety is trying to take you off track? Feel free to reply in the comments as perhaps your words will help someone else.

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Emotional Pain is Still Pain

Last night I was looking forward to going out with my husband. We had tickets to a local live event. It was going to be a fun night and  I was honestly looking forward to it (I specify ‘honestly’ as I’ve been questioned about my desire to go, but it is not the desire that is the problem).  When the time came to go,  my stomach decided it did not want me to leave the house, actually, it didn’t want me to leave the bathroom.  I was not sick, but I was in pain.  Real, physical, pain.

Luckily, the pain was not so severe that I couldn’t override it. It came close, but because I knew I wanted to go and that I would feel even worse if I didn’t at least try. So I pushed myself out the door and into the car. I could barely stand up straight as I felt like I was being jabbed in the stomach with every movement.  It then took another significant push to get myself out of the car and into the event (we actually sat in the parking lot till I could gather the strength to go in).

I realized that once in the door of the venue, it wasn’t the show that was the problem, or leaving my house, but the people.  People that I didn’t know.  I’m sure they are great people and were out to enjoy their evening, but it my head they were the enemy.  An enemy that had the ability to see inside my mind and erase any sensible thought. I felt like I didn’t know anything, I could barely remember my name.  All I could think was not to be sick, or trip and land on my face, or say something so ridiculously stupid that the room would go silent and everyone would know that I was an imposter. I felt sure it was obvious to everyone that I did not belong. They could surely see blood pounding in my veins. People would soon agree that I should be escorted out the door and back into the safety of my home.  But I know enough not to believe everything I think.  I know my thoughts deceive me at moments like this.   So I stayed put.  I breathed. I reminded myself that everything was going to be ok. I said my mantra “I am a strong and worthy person”.  I tried to look like I belonged (however I don’t really know what it is to ‘look like I belonged’, but I tried).

For those that have never felt this, or anything even resembling this, I can understand how it could sound ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous as I write it. But please trust me when I say I am not exaggerating.  The pain is real and the fear palpable, even when there is absolutely no reason behind it.   Also, if you are curious, this does not happen every time I go out. In fact, it rarely happens anymore.

The show was thoroughly entertaining and I found myself laughing out loud.  However, intermission was painful and it took every ounce of energy I had left in me not to run for the door. So the end of the show, I knew that I didn’t have anything left to even attempt conversation.  Luckily,  my husband knew this and we were the first out the door. I was beyond exhausted; I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

I am sharing this story as I know I am not alone.  As much as my brain tells me I am the only crazy one that this happens to, I know that I am not. So if you, or someone you love,  has physical pain even if there is no known reason for it, it does not make it any less real.  Pain is pain.

So please proceed with kindness. Kindness towards yourself and anyone affected.  No one needs a pity party, but respect and kindness are always appreciated.

PS. This is not to say I advocate for becoming a hermit or pretending that everything is fine when it is not. But it is just another example of how we never know what is happening in someone else’s mind or body at any given moment. IMG_1783

 

 

 

Riding The Wave Of Anxiety

One day, or one moment, I feel pretty good. My head is clear to think, I have the energy to do the things I want to do and I feel confident in my ability to actually get things done.  This feeling can last for hours, or days, sometimes even weeks.  But then in another moment,  I feel a change in the energy around me, a wave coming, I pray it is only a small one and try to dig my feet into the ground. Sometimes it passes over me like a smooth wave that washes over my feet, but sometimes it knocks me over.  My feet get swept under the current and I lose sight of where I am and I have trouble breathing.  I am not in control of my movements as the power of the wave is too strong and I have no choice but to go with it, hoping that I will be able to bob up for air and my feet will find the ground soon.   Sometimes I manage to get back up before anyone even notices I went under, because very possibly, I actually did not move an inch.  Other times, I am sure that everyone sees me flailing in the rough water and yet no one comes running to pull me up.  Sometimes I hope it’s because no one is looking my way, so just maybe I can catch my breath and pull myself together without having to explain what happened.  But other times I desperately want someone to grab my arm and pull me to the safety of solid ground.

Sometimes it starts with tingling in my hands,  my heart tightens,  I get a lump in my throat and I feel like I may be sick. Other times I am completely numb till the wave is gone, and then I just sit stunned, my body achy from the invisible struggle.  In these moments, I am left completely drained and my muscles are sore.  I just want to sleep and to cry, but usually crying too exhausting.

I have tried to figure out why these waves of anxiety keep happening because I’ve been asked so many times, but I have no answers.  It’s like asking why the waves on the beach keep coming; It’s the tides, the currents, the weather and a million other things that affect our planet.  My anxiety is the result of a million little things that I will likely never even know about.  The expectation to know exactly what causes anxiety is a heavy burden that I am now trying to let go of. I used to think that I would eventually figure it out. I will read, journal, track my moods, my diet, talk to my psychologist and do all the other things that are recommended.  I will eventually know all my triggers. I will learn to control my environment so I avoid those anxiety-inducing events and thoughts and I will be able to see any sign of an attack well in advance in order to change course.  But that expectation in itself causes me anxiety. How can I possibly know what is going on in my unconscious mind? We don’t expect anyone else to explain how their unconscious mind works, why do we ask that of people with mental health challenges?   So, I am going to try to let go of this expectation and just continue to ride the waves however they may be. pexels-photo-570984