“Freedom to me means that I am able to do the things I’d like to do.”
As some of my close friends and family will know, I have suffered from depression and anxiety for a while now and the last few weeks have been particularly difficult for me.
There is still a stigma surrounding the subject of mental health, despite how much people try to break it. I think the reason for this is that the terms ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ are used far too carelessly these days. If someone’s having a bad day, they’re automatically ‘depressed’. If someone feels nervous for a few minutes over something, they are ‘crippled with anxiety’.
“There is still a stigma surrounding the subject of mental health, despite how much people try to break it.”
I just don’t see why mental illness is treated so differently than physical illness. You would never claim something is cancer without a diagnosis, so why should this be any different. This makes it difficult for people who are suffering to speak up because rather than it being seen as an illness it’s becoming more of a trend.
As someone who has been professionally diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder I’d like to give a little insight into my day-to-day life.
Suffering from depression and anxiety at the age of 20 has had a negative impact on my life. Instead of being off in college or being able to hold down a job like most others my age, I am eaten up with guilt because getting out of bed each day is a such a painful task. And some days I can’t bring myself to do it at all. Trying to drag yourself up and be productive isn’t easy when you have spent the whole night wide awake feeling numb to the bone while you blankly stare at a wall or crying for hours into a pillow. These sleepless nights leave you looking physically sick because you are so sleep deprived and worn out from the constant war inside your own mind. Each day you are consumed by your own thoughts.
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“Suffering from depression and anxiety at the age of 20 has had such a negative impact on my life.”
Then the anxiety kicks in. The irrational thoughts begin. You have to get something from the shop straight away. You leave the house thinking everyone is looking at you, wondering why everyone is judging you, thinking everyone is talking about you and wondering if you have done or said something wrong. As you cross the road you are freaking out because there is a line of cars with people in them looking at you. You get to the shop and have to rehearse what you are going to ask for in your head 10 times before getting brave enough to go to the counter, money ready in your hand so you don’t have to spend time at the checkout. Your voice almost changes at the counter as your heart is racing in your chest speaking to the cashier, hands become clammy, you can’t breathe, you become dizzy, start overheating, and feel as though you are actually going to collapse. From the outside, though, you look just as normal as the next person.
“From the outside, though, you look just as normal as the next person.”
You quickly get out of the shop and run home, going back to your bedroom to be in your safe place where the anxiety subsides but depression kicks in. You become extremely hard on yourself for finding an experience such as going to the shop so difficult and spend the rest of the night asking yourself questions like “Why am I a failure” and “Why can’t I be ‘normal’?”
Once this begins, the guilt takes over and the thoughts get stronger. Before you know it, it’s 3 a.m. and you’re still just sitting there either in tears, feeling completely numb and worthless, or simply falling apart. You finally get maybe 2 hours sleep until you wake up and this vicious cycle begins all over again. It’s absolutely exhausting. I would do anything to not be living this way, to be able to hold down a job, to be able to stick out college, to just have the life of a 20-year-old girl.
This illness can hit anyone and it doesn’t need a reason. I would not wish this illness on my worst enemy. Let’s please stop using the terms ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’, ‘bipolar’, etc so carelessly and take a minute to consider those who are suffering.
If you’re feeling down please do get help.
I finally bit the bullet and asked for help in December and I was absolutely petrified. I am currently on medication and go regularly to counselling. Honestly, I love my sessions each week. Please know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help, going to counselling, or taking medication if that’s what helps you. It’s absolutely OK to need help and to talk; we are all only human and need a bit of help from time to time. This is something I am no longer ashamed of.
“It’s OK to need help and to talk; we are all only human and need a bit of help from time to time.”
I am one of the lucky ones who has a great group of friends who have done nothing but support me, even when I am being extremely difficult. I have also met people on this journey who I consider friends for life (you know who you are). I am still battling each day, but I am grateful to each and every one of them for their continued help and support!
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