Lately I've seen a lot of articles concerning mental illness (themighty.com is an awesome one to read peoples experiences concerning a large variety of things from mental to chronic illness and everything in between) and as I've read them I realize what I am going through is very different than what most people would consider as mentally ill, but that there are a lot of people who face the same or similar lot. I do not look mentally ill. My face does not show the depression and anxiety I deal with everyday. No one would know I am taking medication to lessen my symptoms unless you are pretty close to me. And I actually prefer it that way.
Part 1: I have a mental illness
I have high functioning Persistent Depressive Disorder (also known as Chronic Depression or Dysthymia) and high functioning anxiety. What this means is that I am endlessly exhausted. I can take a 5 hour nap and (as long as the anxiety doesn't kick in before bedtime) I can sleep all night long. No matter how little or how much sleep I get, I am always exhausted.
Having PDD means that sometimes I have a really hard time getting out of bed. It feels like my legs are being sat on by an elephant and I cannot will it to get off. I have missed days at school, work, and time with loved ones because of this. Sometimes it is so hard to text a friend or family member back, or pick up the phone or keep plans with friends because you don't have the capacity to go out and pretend to have fun. I have a hard time seeing myself in a good light. Not in a big way most of the time, but this paired with the anxiety causes me to replay stupid things in my head 100+ times a day. Whether I made a small mistake at work, had a not so great conversation with a loved one, or I remember something negative someone said to me 8 years ago. It could be anything. This also means sometimes I practice conversations that need to be had in my head ahead of time that replay 100+ times. I remember all my mistakes and have a really hard time letting them go. It almost feels like those memories have been crazy glued to the front of my memory that cloud the better ones.
My anxiety also causes me to have panic attacks every once in a while when I'm particularly stressed out. These start by my muscles being really tense (which is an everyday occurrence for me. It's almost like I am incapable of relaxing). Next comes what I like to call "train brain" where I start thinking about something, which leads to another and another and another and another until theystarttooverlapandmyheartstartsbeatinginsanelyfastuntilsuddenlyIcrash into a wall and I cannot breath I cannot think and I cannot move. I curl up into the smallest I can physically make myself, hands clenched, jaw clenched, muscles all clenched and I stare ahead not being able to breath, not being able to think all the while you feel absolutely helpless. You feel as if this is how you'll have to live the rest of your life. That the panic episode will not end. But thankfully, it does end.
I have only had four panic attacks in my life. The very first one was pretty low grade, and I didn't even realize I was having an attack. I was in the 10th grade and was panicking about the fact that I had to have a potentially difficult conversation with a loved one. I literally sat on my bed, frozen, not being able to move or think, for almost an hour. Now that I know what I face everyday I know what it was, I only wish I had known sooner.
Part 2: I unknowingly have been struggling with depression since middle school, and anxiety since the 10th grade. (How I found out)
With my form of depression, it's really hard to know that you have PDD unless it is clearly spelled out in front of you. And in most cases, it goes diagnosed because it is way more high functioning than any other form of depression.
Some of you know that I have been trying to figure out what causes my constant fatigue for a while now. My first appointment with my doctor out here in Logan told me she thought I was depressed and I automatically threw that option out the window. Because I don't want to kill myself, I've never thought about self harming, and other "stereotypical" symptoms you grow up hearing is depression. So we looked into other things. I was tested for a variety of different health problems such as diabetes, mono, and way too many others for me to even think of at this moment. Finally, after everything came back looking good, my Doctor brought up the conversation about depression again, this time explaining what PDD is and that that is literally the only thing she can think of that is causing my constant fatigue, general disinterest in doing things I love, and my weeks where I feel absolutely nothing.
Since being diagnosed by my amazing doctor I have started taking an antidepressant that also helps with my anxiety. And soon I'll be adding another one to help give me more energy since my body can't seem to make enough.
Part 3: acceptance
When my doctor and I talked about my depression the first time I (thought) I accepted it. I partially did because finally I had an answer to my problems and a way to work with it. But it wasn't until last week Saturday that I finally accepted the fact that I truly have a problem, which I will get to in a moment.
When I was in High School, I thought I was depressed and opened up to a loved one about it. They responded that they didn't think I was depressed (which I now know is from a lack of general knowledge about mental illness and how it affect different people differently). This has stuck with me even through my diagnosis. I mean, I don't seem depressed so obviously I can't be. Other people have it so much worse then me, so there is no way I have depression.
I started accepting my situation when I found out from a friend that it isn't normal to be tired all the time. It isn't normal to be able to take super long naps at any point during the day. But my true acceptance came last Saturday when I had a really good day. And by that I mean I felt like myself. I had enough energy to actually do things. Cleaning my room didn't seem like an enormous task that I could never complete. I listened to music (which I haven't done in a really long time). I read a book (I also haven't done this in a really long time). I was productive and I felt good. But then, my anxiety about how long this goodness was going to last kicked in. I wondered if I would ever have that good of a day again. I worried endlessly about whether or not the next day would be even remotely good, because these days come once in a blue moon for me. And it's on days like this that I can't get myself to go to bed, because if I don't go to sleep, I don't have to worry about waking up the next day feeling like my head is stuck in the sink drain. Following these thoughts (after keeping my roommate up way to late talking to distract myself) I had two, terrible panic attacks around four in the morning. Thankfully I have people I trust in my life to help me through the really terribly scary episodes. Thankfully I found enough courage to call my fiance who had just gotten back from a trip. Because when you are having a panic attack, you feel alone. Unloved. Desperate for relief.
The attack will always end. It will be exhausting, and you'll feel weak and pathetic, but the panic will subside and you'll start breathing at a normal rate, and heart will slow, and you can open your eyes and find that you are okay, at least for the time being.
I hope you all know that I am not sharing all of this very personal information for pity. I despise pity. In fact, thinking about actually posting this is terrifying and I can't believe I've gotten this far, with this much information. I am posting this because people need to know that mental illness doesn't have one face. That you aren't alone. That there really is hope. I am sharing all of this because I feel like someone might be able to relate to my story, or finally understand what is going on with them. That just because you can normally get out of bed in the morning and not think about hurting yourself doesn't mean you aren't struggling with a real illness.
Lets stop the stigma. Mental illness is just as real as any other physical illness or ailment.
If you (whoever you are) need to talk to someone, you can talk to me. Not because I'll have amazing insights, but because I am a good listener and can actually relate.
ps if you want to understand more about anxiety, go listen to Car Radio by twenty one pilots.