I don’t know exactly when it started, but I’ve been dealing with it for a long time now. Years. I don’t even like to talk about it, so it’s taking a lot for me to write this. I’ve only really talked to a few people about this. It’s a kind of confession, I guess.
I can usually feel it coming on before it actually happens. There’s a tightness in my chest that makes my heart race and my breath quicken. What happens in my head is worse, though. I get so overwhelmed that I freak out and feel like there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them. Sometimes it’s a literal freak out and I have some kind of crazy emotional outburst: panic, rage, tears. It changes. Other times, the freak out is happening inside my head, usually because I have to maintain my composure because I’m at work or something. It’s ridiculous, but it brings this sense of doom, like I’ll never get anything done. It’s crippling. It’s like a hurricane of emotional response. No telling where the wind will blow.
But that’s not all. It’s soon followed by complete apathy. I feel empty inside. Not sad. Sadness comes and goes. It’s just more of a nothingness inside me, like nothing matters anymore. Since I can’t get everything done, I might as well just give up on trying to get anything done. It’s rough. Even my favorite things in life lose their luster and bring no pleasure. Then come the mood swings. There are moments of happiness, but there’s still an emptiness inside. It’s like be stranded on a island covered in fog.
Last year, I went to get a free evaluation done at a local clinic, and they said it was almost certainly anxiety and depression. I’ve not gotten any official diagnosis other than that. I guess I’m too scared to, or too stubborn to. I don’t want to admit that there’s something off about my mind. My mind is what I consider to be the best part of me. It always has been. My mind is my favorite part of myself, and I don’t like the thought that it isn’t working right. My pride doesn’t want to admit that I’m not working at 100% capacity.
I don’t want to end up on medications either. Maybe I’ve watched Garden State one too many times because I don’t want to end up numb because of medications. I’ve witnessed what meds do students that I’ve taught, how it puts them into an almost zombie-like stasis. I don’t want to become numb and lose my emotion and imagination. I don’t want to be a zombie. I don’t want it to take away my ability to write. What if I go on medications and all my creativity goes away because the way my mind is constantly changing produces some interesting things to write about.
Also, I know this may sound a bit ridiculous, but I keep seeing at it as a lack of faith. If I believe that God can heal anything, He can certainly heal this. I fear that God hasn’t taken care of it because I don’t have enough faith. By taking medication, I feel like I’m copping out on my faith, like I don’t have enough faith so I’m taking the easy way out. It’s not true, I know, but that thought is always there. Perhaps this is my own personal thorn in the flesh to keep me humble.
Then there’s the lie that tells me to hide all of this because people will look at me differently, that I will be alienated from the rest of the “normal” people. The truth is I’m far from alone in this. The statistics tell the truth. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 15.7 million adults suffer from depression, half of whom also deal with anxiety. 40 million adults deal with anxiety, about 18% of the population. This means that roughly 1 out of every 5 people you know suffers from this.
Mental health issues have been somewhat of a taboo issue that we don’t talk about. As if it’s not a legitimate problem that people have. Other diseases are worse and deserve our attention, so mental issues take a back seat. I’m not downplaying other health problems, but this is something that can’t be ignored because something like clinical depression and anxiety can lead to major issues like suicide.
I will say that finding out that depression and anxiety is the likely cause of several problems I’ve dealt with the last several years has made life a little easier to deal with. Shining the light into the darkness at least allows me to see what I’m facing. I can feel the anxiety attacks coming on. I try to take deep breaths. I try to talk myself through the panic. When I feel empty inside, I try to keep going. I find funny things to brighten my mood. I try to talk through it. I try to bring others in to help me through because, no matter what my mind may try to say, I’m not alone in this.