A friend of mine recently posted on his blog, detailing his struggle with “depression, anxiety, and mood swings” (as he puts it). Alex is a very outgoing human being; his nature may be too much for people to handle, which means that sometimes people just stop talking to him. I know a few of these people, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions (of course). And while some of you who know him may not believe him, I choose to.
After all, there’s nothing worse than feeling like a stranger in your own head.
“And who are you to say this?” you may ask.
I’m a person who knows exactly what it’s like.
Have you ever felt like the world is closing in around you? Because I do. Most of the time, actually. Ask those closest to me – particularly, ask one person. I’m constantly telling her about how nervous, paranoid, anxious I get. My mind plays tricks on me all the time; she’s been through the brunt of it with me too (and I can’t thank her enough for sticking around).
I like to describe it to people as the feeling of the whole world being titled to one side, and it just feels off.
If that still doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, don’t worry. It will soon.
I realized something was wrong with the way I was thinking when I was around 19. Admittedly, 4 years ago, I was a mess. I was in a relationship that I shouldn’t have been in, I wasn’t speaking to my parents, and earlier that year my mother had been admitted to the hospital because of cancer for the second time in my life. But sometime in that summer, I suddenly realized that something was seriously very wrong with me.
Or, at least, that’s what I thought at the time.
I started getting thoughts that didn’t make sense – intrusive thoughts, they’re apparently called. I started thinking of things and forgetting about them three seconds later, and this made me panic. Who wouldn’t, to be honest? Having a perfectly clear, round thought one second, and nothing the next. It was enough to drive me insane, and it almost did.
I got to University that year, and heard the words ‘anxiety’ being said in context to my feelings for the first time. And I finally had a name for the Brute.
Cognitive Anxiety Disorder. Fancy words that just mean this – imagine a computer with a web browser open. Now, open 15 tabs on that web browser, and put three of them on the same page, and the rest on different, random topics. Make sure two of them are playing music. Watch your browser slowly slow down until it has no idea what it’s doing anymore.
That, my friends, is exactly what happens to me on a regular basis.
I joke around and say that the only way for me to actually calm down when I get like this is to take a nap. “Switch it off and on again, like a computer!” And to be honest, it’s my most foolproof plan! But I usually have weeks of this burst of feelings. And trust me, anxiety isn’t pretty.
Anxiety is like having your body on constant alert – it’s basically your ‘flight or fight’ response being ALWAYS switched on, even when there’s no immediate danger around. Something like this…
Me: Ah yes, what a nice fine day to wake up on!
Me: Why are you panicking?!
Brain: I DUNNO MAN IT JUST FEELS LIKE SOMETHING’S OUT TO KILL US
Me: …We’re alone in this room.
Brain: OR ARE WE?!
Basically, these feelings don’t really go away. Leave me alone with my anxiety for a few days, and I’ll end up with the whole heavy-breathing, glassy-eyes, shaking-hands thing. You get to a point where a logical thought going through your head is ‘If I shoot myself in the head, then all the noise inside it will stop’. That’s honestly what it feels like – noise. Very loud, disturbing noise that doesn’t want to stop. And you can try and replace it with some nice Destiny’s Child, but it doesn’t take long for it to come back.
Samples of thoughts I get when I’m particularly anxious:
- You’re not good enough for your course, and you may as well stop trying.
- You’re a failure and the only reason people keep you around is because you’re useful somehow.
- Sleeping will get you nowhere, you need to work harder
- Why stop at 2 jobs? Why not have 5?!
- Nobody could ever love you/Why is this person interested in you? Clearly they have no idea what a mess you are
- Killing yourself would be easier than dealing with all of this
And so on.
Do take note, I’m not doing this for the attention. Not in the slightest. But Alex’s post made me realize something.
If none of us talk and tell other people how we’re feeling – even if it is an in-control situation like my own – then who will? Sure, people speak up for and about anxiety and depression, but the more people with these things actually open their mouths, the more we’ll get to the bottom of things. And maybe, the less people feeling like they can’t speak up there will be.