Wrestling with Depression and Anxiety

mckaysIf you follow my Twitter account, you’ll notice that for the last few months I’ve been more open about how I feel and my day-to-day life. I’ve tried to be similarly open about myself on this blog, but there’s a piece of my life that I really haven’t shared here.

I struggle with depression and anxiety. Moods like dark waves that threaten to swamp me and drag me under. Anxiety that grabs me in a bear hug, its claws tearing away at me. I sleep fitfully, waking up with such feelings of overwhelming dread that I can barely make it out the door in the morning with sometimes barely a coffee for breakfast. When I return home I’m restless, distant, tormented by worries that won’t go away no matter how I try to avoid them, to escape them. Late in the evening, worn down by anxiety, the weight of the day, and exhaustion, I sink into bed, full of self-loathing.

And then the next day comes, and we begin the cycle again.

I had dealt with periods of anxiety and depression before in college, and in instances over the next few years. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that it began to intensify. Every day a new anxiety, dark moods like a thick blanket over everything. By May, my wife could take it no longer. She deals with depression herself, and knows the signs. She begged me to speak with our doctor. I didn’t want to. She called. We both went to the appointment and set up sessions with a counselor. For the last few months, things have been looking better. I’ve had some fairly intense worries over the past few months, but I’ve largely been able to keep it together.

Lately, though, I haven’t been going anywhere with resolving these issues. I’m spinning my wheels, stuck in a rut of passively dealing with anxieties as they come and not dealing with them proactively. After discussing it with Gavy, it seems that I’m just waiting for a solution to appear magically and solve my problems.

I’ve wondered why this is, and I think it’s because I have to admit – really admit – to myself and to others that I have a problem to deal with. For the longest time I’ve tried to keep my problems with depression and anxiety at arm’s length; as a problem that if I ignore it for long enough, it will go away. I don’t want to have anxieties. I don’t want to be swamped by dark, overpowering moods. But just wanting the problems to go away won’t do a thing. It doesn’t work that way.

I can’t keep pushing this problem into the corner and hoping it will disappear. Like it or not, this depression and anxiety is a part of me, and I can’t deny who I am. If I ever want to succeed in writing, I need to bring my whole self to the task and not shut out vital parts of myself. And by acknowledging it openly with you, my readers, I can begin to deal with it fully as part of my life. Sharing it with you makes me feel more connected, more human. I feel like I don’t have to pretend like I’ve got everything together. I don’t.

I feel that getting these thoughts, these worries and feelings down in words will help me work through my problems and bring a mindful attitude to them. I also hope that by sharing my struggles with you I can help someone else, someone who may be struggling through the same situation that I am. If sharing my struggles can help just one person through theirs, I’ll be happy.

When I posted a question to Twitter yesterday asking if people would read about my struggles with mental health, I was overwhelmed by the supportive response. I’m so glad that there is a community out there who is willing to listen to and support me as I work my way through this. I plan to continue to add to this blog with my hopes and fears as I make my way through life with these burdens that I’m not ashamed to say are part of me.

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  • Sarah Boon  On 18 September 2013 at 10:59 PM

    Speaking from experience, I can say it really helps to ‘own’ the mental health issues and be open about them. It’s difficult and scary, but it helps you be the most genuine person you can be. And helps deal with that sense of waiting for things to get better instead of working towards things getting better. If you’re interested, I have a couple of posts on my blog ( http://bit.ly/1aFZcVG), and at DoubleXScience (http://bit.ly/15R5L4w), about dealing with anxiety and depression from an academic science perspective.

  • Alison  On 19 September 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Really courageous to do what you’re doing. I’ve suffered for years with the depression and anxiety you describe, and can honestly say that you’re doing the right thing here. Big support from me. Take care.

  • CaitieCat  On 24 September 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Bravo for speaking up, Dan. I hope you can find help that works for you, because yeah, depression? Is no fun. Found you through the Open Thread at Scalzi’s.

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