Anxiety and Depression
We all have the capacity to feel incredibly devastating amounts of physical and emotional pain.
Anxiety and depression walk hand in hand.
It was the physical effects of intense anxiety that first made me realize I was having mental health issues. When I’m anxious I feel warm and gross. I find it difficult to focus my attention, as I’m worrying about ten or twenty things unrelated to what I am presently doing. My stomach knots up and I lose my appetite. Anxiety makes me worry about things that have little bearing on my life and because they take on such importance within my mind they can trigger big sways in my emotions. I become extremely self-conscious and isolate myself.
Periods of high anxiety usually precede more severe dips in my mood. When I am able to recognize that I have been overly anxious or stressed, I can use my anxiety as a warning system to help prevent entering or at least lessen a depressed state.
Painful emotions and feelings are part of life; they overwhelm us when a close relationship ends or when a friend or family member passes away. Under these circumstances we feel a deep and wrenching sadness that can last days or weeks. It’s a sadness that tears us up inside and is difficult to express. Our feelings can be so overpowering that the love and support of those closest to us can’t cheer us or lessen our pain. We cry and grieve for what was lost.
This type of emotional suffering is normal under circumstances such as those mentioned above. We may never forget these painful memories but the intensity of grief and sadness we feel alleviates over time. With depression my body can become stuck in this state of emotions for weeks, months or years on and off.
These feelings can be difficult to deal with for a few days or couple weeks. Slowly feeling like this takes a toll on my work, and my relationships with friends and family. As time goes on, my diet becomes worse, my strength and energy deteriorate, I lose weight, I lose sleep and I lose touch with those closest. I have trouble concentrating and thinking clearly. As I lose interest in life, depression further feeds into itself. My symptoms and actions spiral together and my emotions cause deep pain within me. I start to wish I wasn’t alive and am unable to feel like I can get better, even though I know I can.
When we’re angry we don’t act like ourselves. We do things we regret. This is true of sadness and depression as well. I become quieter, more reserved and I cease to be who I usually am. After months of feeling like this is it easy to forget what I’m really like.
Figure Above: When I’m feeling well my emotions, thoughts, mind and body all act as one. I react to life but my actions are not controlled by it. When depressed, all these parts of me unravel and I feel myself being pulled in many directions. Some days I am incredibly anxious, others tremendously sad, some days I feel both or nothing. The parts that make up who I am and define my character begin to follow separate paths.
Summary: Signs and Symptoms
Depression consists of prolonged and repeated periods of intense emotional pain that can occur regardless of circumstance.
With depression, the emotions and instincts that guide life lead towards self destruction.
- Intense and debilitating level of sadness
- Prolonged instability and/or numbing of emotions
- Inabiltiy to think clearly and articulate myself
- Stomach cramps, nausea and decreased appetite
- Tense, sore, and weak muscles
- Anxious and panicked thoughts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of confidence and motivation
- Increased social isolation
- Thoughts of suicide
Experiences with mental illnesses vary as much as the people they affect and can also vary within an individual at different times.
These days when I am feeling depressed, I stop trusting my thoughts and instincts. Instead I try to look at whatever situation I’m facing from a more logical and detached point of view. I remind myself that I have felt much worse and recovered, and I can do so again.