From time to time, I come across random memes that try to explain what it is like to live with both anxiety and depression. Though everyone who has been there always nods in agreement because we understand the struggle behind those few words, unfortunately no meme could ever adequately explain what it is truly like to live with both. Even simple, average days can feel unbearable and insurmountable.
Upon waking up today, I began jotting down random ways both my depression and anxiety presented itself throughout the day and how they interacted with each other. This was just an ordinary day. I did not expect anything monumental to occur. I just wanted an honest portrayal of an average day living with both depression and anxiety. Yet by the end of it, I am thoroughly exhausted. Not because my day was particularly eventful but because the mental illnesses inside my head have left me yet again mentally and emotionally drained.
Anxiety is waking up far too early because the cat has dislodged the bedroom curtain, inviting the sun to shine in my face. Anxiety is laying there as my mind begins to race, picking up where it left off the night before. It is knowing there will be no more sleep today because I cannot shut my brain back off. It is thinking of everything I should have done or still need to do, panicking over all that I might have forgotten and everything I know I won’t get to today. Anxiety is my mind on an ever-playing loop reminding me of all that I’m doing incorrectly and all the ways my life could go wrong. It is wanting to scream within my own head a hundred times a day “Oh God! Oh God! Make it stop!” even though I know full well that it will never stop.
Depression is laying there for hours after I wake, unable to move despite anything I might have to do that day. Being hungry or having to go to the bathroom is irrelevant. I’m not being lazy. Though part of me knows I should get up, my depression has rendered me immobile. I carry within myself a strange sort of apathy for the world again today though I’m not entirely sure where it came from. Whenever one part of my mind attempts to prompt me into action, another louder part responds back, asking “What’s the point?” That part of my brain reminds me that everything is hopeless, nothing will ever get better, that everything is a waste of time. As much as I don’t want to listen, don’t want to believe, that voice is boomingly loud and self-assure. It convinces me for hours that it is better to stay in bed than to start yet another day of misery.
Together, I have a combination of steady stress, apathy, hopelessness and despair. I have one part of myself revving up, pushing for action, warning me of everything that could go wrong if I do not do something and another part refusing to budge at all because it cannot see the point. Together, it is the combination of the panic of Chicken Little’s sky falling and that deer, frozen in the headlights the moment before it is plowed down by a tractor trailer. It is a constant go go go and stay stay stay, a battle of opposites where I cannot help but feel the game is rigged and no matter what I do, I’m going to lose. And all of that occurs before I even pull myself out of bed.
My depression and anxiety continue on throughout the day, sometimes sporadic, other times constant, wreaking even greater havoc whenever their paths cross.
Depression is barely eating for a couple days because I have no appetite or because I simply cannot see the point of wasting food on myself that someone else might enjoy more. Anxiety is realizing I haven’t eaten much in days and worrying that I might be making myself sick and not wanting to saddle anyone else with taking care of me. Together, I find myself going through bouts of not eating and then binging to make up for it. Grazing on whatever is nearby, not because I want to eat or even that it is good for me or tastes good but because I know that I have to put something in my body. I eat some soup straight out of the can without heating it up, because it is quick, close and convenient, telling myself that I’m making less dishes to wash, but in reality, I just don’t care. Nothing tastes like it should anyway. I’m just eating out of obligation so that nagging voice in my head will shut up.
Depression is wearing the same sweater for three days, making excuses that it is my favorite or most comfortable. In reality, I have no plans to go anywhere. Laundry is already piling up and wearing clothes longer means I can put off washing clothes for yet another day. My depression insists this is reasonable. Anxiety is panicking and rushing to hand wash a spot out in the sink when I accidentally spill something on it. One part of me is willing to wear that sweater until it is threadbare and worn, while the other cannot stand the thought of it being ruined or stained. Though the two sides are so contrary that they make no sense together, somehow they both exist in my head.
Depression is having my laundry and dishes build up for days because I just don’t have the will or the energy to do them. Anxiety is rushing to spot clean the apartment because someone is coming over even though I know there’s no way I could get it all done in time. When combined, I find myself rushing to clean until the last possible moment, trying to tuck away, hide or set aside messes I don’t have time to deal with, breathlessly asking them to “please excuse the mess” as they come through the door. That small amount of anxiety-fueled exertion to clean is enough to wear me out for days.
Depression is putting off showering for days because it’s not like I have done anything or that I am going anywhere to warrant it. Anxiety is feeling like I have to do things such as pulling my hair back in a braid so that it doesn’t get tangled or unruly. Between the two, I look more put together than I am, provided nobody comes too close. I apply extra deodorant “just in case” and take an extra long shower when I finally do get in there, my anxiety trying to squeeze days of self-care into one tank-worth of hot water.
Depression is feeling completely alone sometimes, even if someone is right there with me. It is simultaneously wanting to never let go of them and wishing they would just go away because I believe they would be better off without me. Anxiety is wanting to talk to them, to tell them how bad things truly are, but being terrified it will scare them away, terrified I’ll somehow mess everything up. Between the two, I find myself feeling lost and alone, afraid to speak up. I’m afraid to let them in and afraid to let them go. Even when they’re right next to me, I’m isolated and afraid.
Depression is sitting there for hours in a fog, unable to retain much of anything my mind has pulled in. It is re-reading the same page or watching the same scene multiple times, before giving up because it all doesn’t really matter anyway. There is a lack of enjoyment in everything. Life feels stale and empty. I go through the motions of living though it feels like a pale reflection of life. Anxiety never shuts up, like a perpetual snooze alarm set to go off whenever my mind attempts to focus on anything else. It is a constant distraction, constant reminder of everything I haven’t done, should have done, should be doing right now and should be doing later. Between the two, I have constant distractions and a complete lack of interest. It often feels virtually impossible to keep myself on track because my mind is all over the place and has no desire to cooperate.
Depression is putting off making phone calls for hours because I dread having to deal with other people on my low days. When my depression is bad, any interaction is a struggle. Anxiety is dwelling on those phone calls the entire time leading up to them and for hours afterwards. It is having trouble verbalizing what I mean, reiterating some things repeatedly and forgetting others completely. Between the two, I have scraps of paper filled with information that I keep with me whenever I make important calls because I’m afraid I might forget something important and I dread the possibility of having to call back again.
Depression regularly leaves me feeling physically worn out, tired and sluggish. No matter how much I try to rest, I still feel drained. Anxiety has me jumpy and jittery, my leg bouncing a mile a minute. My body always feels revved up and over-wound, my mind won’t stop racing. Between the two, I can never seem to get comfortable, never feel fully rested. I cannot sleep well because my body never powers completely down. Yet I cannot seem to harness that energy, either. It is a nervous energy that serves no practical purpose beyond blocking me from even momentary peace.
Throughout the day, I am in a constant battle within my own mind. It screams at me with the fierceness of a drill sergeant, nags at me with the persistence of an old world grandmother who believes they always know best. Contradicting everything they throw at me and forcing myself into some semblance of functionality sometimes takes every ounce of willpower I have inside of myself. I am fighting to do all I can, the best that I can, battling against my own mind to keep going though my depression urges me to throw in the towel and give up. I know I will never accomplish everything my anxiety thrusts my way, but I have to keep encouraging myself that I have done something and that is good enough. I cannot allow my depression to weigh me down or my anxiety to beat me up.
It has been an average, uneventful day. I didn’t even manage to pull myself up out of bed until after ten in the morning. It is barely ten at night and I feel exhausted. It has been twelve hours, barely half a day. Very little has been accomplished beyond a load of dishes, a handful of phone calls to schedule appointments, some basic self-care and one small glimpse of my mental illnesses, written down for all to see. Yet I consider it a victory to have gotten through yet another day, managing to accomplish what I did. I feel exhausted already and ready for bed. It is not that the day was particularly eventful or busy. It is the constant battle within my head and my body that has worn me out.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about living with depression and anxiety is that, even after sharing this, there will be some people who still don’t get it, who will insist it is just mind over matter. They will suggest I just need to be more positive, just need to stay focused and try harder, to have more faith in God or to just stop making excuses. Some people cannot seem to grasp that this is not anything I am intentionally doing to myself. I would not wish this on my worst enemy if I had one. I cannot wish away my diagnosis with happy thoughts, sheer willpower or positive mantras. The fact is that this is a medical condition that I struggle with every single day. Some days are harder than others but even the simple days like today are not easy when I’m waging a constant war within my own mind.