Stop Blaming Mental Illness For The Abhorrent Behavior Of Anti-Maskers

Whenever anyone behaves poorly or against the grain of what is considered socially acceptable, many people automatically attribute it to that person being crazy, off their rocker, completely unhinged, mentally ill. There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness that many assume that any unreasonable action or poor behavior must be synonymous with mental illness, because why else would someone behave so badly unless they were crazy and mentally ill.

Our country is currently in the midst of a viral pandemic, seemingly split down the middle. On one side, we have those who fundamentally believe in science, medicine and fact and are willing to take precautions for the safety of all. And on the other, we have those who are trying to politicize the virus, with many touting that the virus itself is a hoax, or no worse than the flu, or simply declaring it not their problem because nobody they know has been affected by it yet. These pandemic deniers, minimizers and anti-maskers have become increasingly fond of video recording themselves as they supposedly “stand up for their rights”, planning strikes against businesses attempting to abide by restrictions put in place for the safety of all. They storm into stores, refusing to wear masks, recording both themselves and the reactions of others, hoping to earn their 5 minutes of fame. They go in with the sole intention of showing their defiance, causing turmoil to businesses, workers and customers alike, and creating a scene worthy of becoming a viral trend.

As we have seen time and again during this pandemic, this type of egregious showboating often backfires, with those who are thumbing their nose at health restrictions ultimately being thrown out of stores and banned, being widely and publicly shamed for their apathy, and in some cases even being fired from their jobs as a result of their very public displays. Yet these bizarre occurrences continue in America, partly because these individuals want to make it fundamentally clear that they believe their personal right to not wear a mask is more important than everyone else’s right to not get sick or die, and partly because they ultimately hope to go viral for their bad behavior, to become infamous on the internet.

Yet whenever someone is called out for their horrid behavior, many people immediately blame mental illness. People assume that in order for someone to do something as foolish as to outright deny a viral pandemic that has infected over 18.5 million people worldwide and killed over 700k in less than a year, let alone to make such a spectacle of themselves by outright refusing to care about others, they must be “crazy” and “unbalanced”, that they surely must be mentally ill.

Often people in this country automatically associates horrible behavior such as this with mental illness, pointing fingers and claiming those involved “obviously need mental help” because their utter disregard for everyone else is unfathomable. Other times, the perpetrators themselves attempt to blame their own horrendous actions on mental illness whenever they are confronted. They cavalierly issue a non-apology, using mental illness as their scapegoat instead of taking any amount of personal responsibility for their own ridiculously irresponsible, ignorant actions. It’s as if they are smirking, shrugging and dismissively claiming they should not be held accountable because they are, after all, “crazy”.

Sadly, much of this comes from the stigma attached to mental illness. It is much easier for many people to assume that anytime anyone behaves despicably, they must be “crazy” and “mentally ill” than to consider that those individuals might just be inconsiderate, attention-seeking people who do not care about anyone but themselves. It is much easier to designate mental illness as the catch all scapegoat for all the wrongs in society than to consider that these people are behaving poorly simply because a portion of our society glorifies their bad behavior.

As someone who struggles with mental illness myself and who actively advocates for the mental health community, I would like to make it very clear that there is an enormous difference between the actions of these people and the mental illness community as a whole. While it is possible that someone who displays this type of abhorrent behavior might also be struggling with a mental illness, mental illness itself is not immediately to blame whenever anyone behaves inappropriately or with malicious intent. People who have mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, ptsd, and bipolar disorder deal predominantly with issues such as self-worth, motivation to accomplish daily tasks, and battling the demons in their own heads and the trauma of their past. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, could not have put it more perfectly when addressing the myth that being mentally ill automatically means you are “crazy”:

It’s plain and simple, having a mental illness does not mean you are “crazy.” It means you are vulnerable. It means you have an illness with challenging symptoms — the same as someone with an illness like diabetes. While mental illness might alter your thinking, destabilize your moods or skew your perception of reality, that doesn’t mean you are “crazy.” It means you are human and are susceptible to sickness and illness, the same as any other person. (1)

When attempting to attribute mental illness directly to poor behavior, let’s consider the penal system. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are currently approximately 2.3 million Americans incarcerated. (2) Yet, according to statistics by NAMI, “Only 5% of violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by people with serious mental illness. The unfortunate truth is that individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.”(1) Furthermore, “Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have ‘a recent history’ of a mental health condition.” (3) Though there are always exceptions, the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not the least bit violent or otherwise confrontational, they are not by and large out committing crimes. With only one in five people who are incarcerated having any type of recent mental illness diagnosis,and only 5% of those with a mental illness being convicted of a violent crime, being mentally ill is clearly not the predominant driving force behind bad behavior.

Even if someone who is mentally ill were to momentarily lose control and behave poorly and irrationally, they are extremely unlikely to go on grandiose, premeditated video recorded rampages with the intention to upload the fallout later to the internet, screaming about their supposed rights to do whatever they please even if it means harming or killing others in the process. People who are mentally ill don’t normally plan out and intentionally video record their outbursts from start to finish in order to garner internet attention but rather any adverse reactions they may have are typically an unscripted, unplanned, unrecorded, spontaneous result of someone who is struggling to cope with life in the moment.

People who are struggling with mental illness often isolate and shut down. We struggle every single day to concentrate and focus on simple things, to function and accomplish daily tasks. Nearly one in five people, an estimated 46.6 million adults in the United States today, is currently struggling with a mental health diagnosis. Again, according to NAMI, severe mental illness is defined as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” (4) In other words, even the most severe mental illnesses are defined specifically by the impairment and limitations they place on the lives of those who struggle with them. Being mentally ill does not typically send people out on premeditated, politically-fueled tirades and crusades to callously violate the health and safety of others for personal validation or internet infamy. If these types of self-recorded outings and outbursts were commonly indicative of mental illness, with over 450 million people suffering from mental illness worldwide according to the World Health Organization (5), there would be drastically more people causing scenes like this all over the globe.

When taking into account that there are 2.3 million people currently incarcerated and only roughly twenty percent of those have any type of mental illness diagnosis, we are looking at roughly 460,000 inmates who are mentally ill. When you further consider that there are roughly 46.6 million people in the United States currently struggling with mental illness, those who are incarcerated and also have a mental illness diagnosis account for less than one percent of the over all mentally ill population. Again, the proof is in the pudding. Over 99% of the mentally ill community are going through the motions of living their everyday lives, struggling with their diagnosis, not out committing crimes or thumbing our noses at laws or restrictions put in place for the safety of all.

We are not gathering en masse or heading out in droves, intent on recording ourselves causing a scene in the desperate hope it may make us internet famous. Many of us struggle to even function at all, let alone make plans even remotely close to this extent. Rather, these are the calculated actions of self-centered, egotistical people who are showing complete disregard and apathy for everyone else, people who place more value in their own temporary fame than in the health of their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors. These are attention-seeking individuals throwing temper tantrums, so hungry for their five minutes of infamy that they are willing to put other people’s lives at legitimate risk just to have their name trending on the internet.

Though you may see the occasional anti-mask sentiment in other countries, no other country has the widespread, reoccurring, largely combative and often explosive or violent issues that the United States has with people being unwilling to tolerate minor temporary inconveniences for the safety of all during a global pandemic. While there are some people in other countries who may disagree with wearing a mask, you don’t hear frequent stories about their citizens recording themselves causing combative scenes like you do in the United States. To date, I have personally only seen one news story out of the UK about protesters recording themselves storming a store and making a scene. The vast majority of those who disagree with wearing a mask in other countries simply organize peaceful protests or hand out informational material explaining their beliefs on the matter. For instance, in late July there was a peaceful anti-mask protest in London attended by hundreds of protesters. More importantly, those who disagree with wearing masks in many other countries appear to be a small minority. The vast majority of people in many other countries have taken a united stance, observed health precautions with little to no issue and have, in the majority of countries, seen cases declining by the day as a result.

You simply do not see the largely hostile and combative anti-mask sentiment to the scale and degree elsewhere that you see in the United States. Only in the United States are we seeing such a ridiculous and reoccurring blowback against common sense during a viral pandemic that has frequently escalated to rage-fueled outbursts and outright violence, with people even being physically assaulted simply for asking others to comply with restrictions and regulations. Only in the United States are we seeing the virus being widely politicized, regularly used and abused to garner people’s five minutes of internet fame at the detriment to other people’s lives. And only in the United States is a bonafide medical condition being used as a catch all scapegoat to garner all the blame for the bad behavior of these self-centered individuals. With mental illness being a worldwide problem, if this abhorrent behavior was truly a direct result of mental illness, these outbursts would surely be widespread worldwide, as well. But this type of disturbing behavior is predominantly an American thing, driven not by mental illness but rather the largely American desire to become famous or infamous by any means necessary, even if it means putting other people at risk.

Whenever a woman shoves her cart through a grocery store while defiantly refusing to wear a mask, recording herself screaming about her rights to do as she pleases other people be damned, or whenever a man records himself causing a scene by screaming that he is under attack in a store because he was asked to either mask up or leave, or whenever a woman video records herself violently attacking a display of masks while proclaiming she has had enough with the pandemic and being told what to do, it goes viral because people cannot fathom others behaving so ridiculously, screaming like petulant toddlers throwing a temper tantrum because they were asked to be considerate of the health and safety of others. As long as these people continue to trend as train wrecks that other people laugh at for their sheer absurdity and willful ignorance, there will continue to be people out there acting out just for the attention that going viral brings. While we cannot stop those people from behaving badly, nor can we stop others from watching their ridiculous outbursts with abject horror, we must stop assuming their behavior is automatically caused by mental illness instead of simply being the result of attention-seeking, arrogant, apathetic human beings desperately chasing their 5 minutes in the spotlight. Often, bad behavior directly correlates to inconsiderate people who care only about themselves, not to mentally ill people. We don’t deserve to be scapegoats for their poor behavior.

1. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2019/Six-Myths-and-Facts-about-Mental-Illness

2. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/pie2020.html

3. https://namibuckspa.org/education/about-mental-illness/facts-figures/

4. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml

5. https://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

Having A Positive Mindset Will Not Cure Depression

Many people assume that those who are suffering from depression are just caught in the wrong mindset, that we’re being Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys, wandering through life with a Trelawney*-sized penchant for doom and gloom.  They assume a great deal, if not all, of our mental illness could be solved simply by trying a little harder and adopting a more positive mindset.  I can tell you firsthand that is not the case.

I have been told by multiple people over the years that I am the most positive, cheerful, upbeat little depressed person that they have ever met.  I refuse to be a victim.  I am a fighter.  A Survivor.  Even in the roughest of circumstances, I still search for something positive to cling to like a life preserver in rough waters after being thrown overboard during a raging storm.  I am a firm believer that there is always something positive to be found if you look hard enough.  Even on the worst days, I am that one person you can count on to offer an encouraging smile and to point out something good to be grateful for in life.

I do not intentionally surround myself with negativity.  Over the years, I have systematically removed many so-called friends and family from my life who found more pleasure in knocking others down rather than helping each other up.  I’ve chosen instead to surround myself with people who believe in kindness and compassion, those who prefer to cheer openly for the success of others rather than privately snickering over their defeat.

I don’t carry within myself an undue amount of anger, hurt or resentment.  If someone has grievously injured me, I have learned to just remove them from my life as a doctor might amputate a gangrenous limb.  I do not allow their cruelty to continue to fester and grow but rather I accept that they do not deserve a place in my life and I continue onward without them.  I have accepted that not everyone belongs in my life and that some people were merely meant to play the passing role of a teacher of harsh realities.  I refuse to waste undue amounts of energy dwelling on the cruelty of anyone who would not give me a second thought.  I choose to focus the majority of my energy on improving myself and my future rather than dwelling on other people or a past I cannot change.

I have trained myself to consciously focus on happiness and positivity every single day.  Every day I strive to accomplish three goals.

  1. Every day, no matter how rough the day might feel, I look for at least one reason to smile, one thing to be grateful for in my life.
  2. Every day, I try to reach out and do something kind for someone else without expecting anything in return.  This could be as simple as holding open a door or reaching out to someone else to see how they are doing.
  3. Every day, I make sure to tell at least one person in my life that I love and appreciate them.

At my core, I have a very positive mindset.  I have a fundamental belief in the strength and resilience of the human spirit, that we as a species are stronger than we realize and are survivors at heart.  I carry within myself a genuine hope that one day things will get better and I am proactive in working towards that goal.  I encourage not only myself to power through and not give up on a daily basis, but I reach out to others, as well, through my writing.

I also have friends and family that I have opened up to about my illness.  I do my best to be honest with where I am at mentally and emotionally at all times.  I have constructed a support network of people I can reach out to if I need help so I am not facing everything alone.

I have not given up on myself.  I not only see my doctors regularly, but I push myself as much as possible to attend wellness activities such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and art classes.  I take my treatment seriously.  My wellness and emotional toolbox is chock full of useful techniques to use when I am struggling.

I make sure to eat regularly even if I am not feeling particularly hungry so that my body receives the nutrients it needs.  I do not smoke or use drugs and very, very rarely do I drink any alcohol, let alone have more than one drink.  I practice self-care and engage in hobbies such as writing, sketching and painting so I have positive outlets to focus my attention upon so I do not lose myself along the way.  Over the years, I have learned to love myself and to treat myself gently, with the same kindness and compassion I would show others.

I have not surrendered to my mental illness or turned a blind eye to it, pretending it is not there.  I read up on the latest studies on a regular basis.  I belong to multiple online support groups that share not only encouragement but share information, as well.  I want to remain knowledgeable about my illness so I can make educated decisions about my ongoing and future treatment.

My mindset is not an issue.

I am fighting every single day.  I am like the cancer patient who pushes herself to eat even though her chemotherapy has left her feeling nauseous because she knows it is what her body needs or to go for a short jog because she is determined to not let her illness defeat her.  I am like the woman with rheumatoid arthritis so bad that every step wracks her body with pain who still goes out to work in her garden because she doesn’t want to lose herself to her illness.  I am no different than many other people with hundreds of different debilitating diseases, illnesses and ailments who are fighting the good fight every single day not only to survive but to find some way to truly live despite their diagnosis.

Again, my mindset is not the issue.

All the positivity in the world will not negate my illness.  A wellness toolbox full of handy tricks will not fix it.  It is a medical condition that needs medical treatment.  As good as things like having a support system, a positive attitude, eating well, exercise and engaging in healthy hobbies might be for someone’s emotional well-being, they will not cure mental illness any more than they would cure cancer or arthritis.  I have learned to cope with my illness to the best of my ability but I still need ongoing treatment.

The main difference between other more widely accepted ailments and mental illness is that my condition stems not in my body but in my brain. That, and the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents others from viewing it as a legitimate, treatment-worthy condition.  Because it cannot readily be seen by the naked eye, it is often doubted, minimized and trivialized, treated largely as a joke.  Though it may be considered an invisible illness, I am fighting it every single day.

From the time I wake up every day, I am fighting my own mind.  As much as I struggle to stay positive and focused, a very real part of me is trying to convince me that the world is hopeless.  Whenever I attempt to reach out to friends and loved ones, it tells me that I am a burden to them, that I shouldn’t bother, that I should leave them in peace.  It pushes for me to isolate, to hide my pain, to succumb and surrender to it.

There are days I am overwhelmed with emotions.  I feel everything so deeply and there appears to be no way to turn it off.  I have this intense need to cry, to weep not only for myself but for everyone else struggling, for everyone who’s lives have been made harder by my illness and for everyone else who has lost their battles along the way.  On those days, my world is overflowing with so much pain that it is overwhelming.

On other days, I feel nothing at all.  I find myself trapped in a dark void where nothing feels like it matters, least of all me.  There is no joy in that darkness, no light, no hope.  I struggle to even move because I feel swallowed up within its depths.  Everything on those days feels like an insurmountable obstacle.  Even simple tasks like eating make no sense because everything tastes bland, like nothingness.  That voice within my head echos through the darkness, asking what’s the point.

No mater how much the sun is shining, my world always feels dark, cold, hopeless and full of despair.  No matter how many times I tell myself that it isn’t truly the case, it still feels that way.  It is like my mind has constructed its own alternate reality and has taken me hostage within its walls.  I feel helpless like I have no control over my own life, let alone my body or my mind.

Every single day, I have to fight myself to even get out of bed.  It isn’t a case of laziness or just not wanting to get up.  The weight of everything I want to do and need to do rests so heavily on my shoulders that I often find myself immobile, incapable of action.  Every single day I am beating myself up for everything I know I should be doing but cannot manage to bring myself to do.  I desperately want to get up, do things and be productive, but the weight of my illness pins me down.  It then uses my inability to function against me as evidence that I am worthless and a waste of space.

Every single day, my mental illness presents itself in very real and physical ways as well.  My body is always as exhausted as my mind.  I ache all over.  My anxiety frequently has my head spinning and my heart pounding.  When confronted with stress, my chest tightens and my thoughts race.  My stomach is always in knots.  I regularly experience nausea and vomiting and have a recurring bleeding ulcer.  I have absolutely no desire to eat most days or to even do anything at all for that matter.  Every night, I struggle to get to sleep and to stay asleep.  I am plagued by horrible nightmares on a regular basis.  No matter how much rest I might get, I always feel sluggish, like I am running on empty.  It is like my own body has betrayed me.

My world feels hopeless.  I feel helpless.  I feel lost and alone.  I feel broken beyond repair.  There is not a single day that I do not have to remind myself multiple times that this is not reality.  This is my mental illness.  There is not a single day that I am not fighting with myself, pushing myself to do something, anything, even if it is just to pull myself out of bed and eat something.

I am not consumed by negativity, nor am I lazy or weak.  I have not given up on myself or the world.  I have hope for my future and a strong will to fight.  I am doing my best.  I refuse to let my mental illness beat me.

My mindset is not the issue.

My mental illness is.

I struggle every single day not because I am not trying hard enough to have a positive mindset but because I am ill.

 

*For those unacquainted with Sybill Trelawney, she is one of many wondrous creations from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, the Divination professor who at one time or another had foreseen the death of every student at Hogwart’s.  Whenever I imagine anyone embracing hopelessness and envisioning a world full of nothing but doom and gloom, I think of Trelawney.

 

An Average Day Living with Depression and Anxiety

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.