I am not going to sit here and give you my sad sob story of struggling with extreme anxiety and depression looking for sympathy in any way. The reality is tons of people struggle with it. What I do want to do is give extremely informative information and help people who are in pain…figure their sh*t out. I want to help those who don’t get it understand it’s not a matter to be taken lightly.
On that note let me first address those lucky people out there who DO NOT suffer from anxiety and/or depression. You are genuinely so lucky. Those of you who say people with anxiety and depression are just “dramatic” and need to “calm down and act like adults” …. well I would just like to drop a bit of knowledge on you. Anxiety and depression are CHEMICAL IMBALANCES in the brain. Completely internal and not always curable by “taking some deep breaths and trying to relax.” What people who aren’t suffering do not realize is your neurological chemicals are functioning normal so you have no idea what it is like to have a serious chemical imbalance. Let me also be clear this is a permanent mental illness…not something that just happens on a bad day. That means, even on a good day, there is a feeling that is uncontrolled and can cloud any sort of joy in someone’s life. I like to compare anxiety and depression to being gay (I seriously hope that people are not that unintelligent to truly believe being gay is a choice). When someone is gay they know that from the time that they are born (or old enough to understand) and it is all due to chemicals in their brain being a certain way. Neither of these things are someone’s choice and to treat someone poorly because you think you wouldn’t think like that or act like that so why are they. People are BORN with certain cell abnormalities and as we develop human conditions can have an effect on how your body ends up functioning. This can be as simple as eating foods with certain chemicals in them. So when you are a child, if you were exposed to certain things, it could have magnified internal irregularities and caused your anxiety and depression to develop over time. Sometimes it can happen much faster than others. This is seen in children who let bullying or lack of fitting in trigger their depression and some unfortunately take their lives. Let me also be clear for smartasses who will argue that they ate the same as their sibling who is battling mental illness but nothing is wrong with them…every single body is different genius so be grateful and stfu. As we age it can take one instance that triggers the anxiety to kind of “start” for lack of better word. Now bad news, you pretty much cannot cure internal issues without a medical solution. Some people have found natural ways to help them cope with their anxiety and depression, but unfortunately for me things were a bit extreme and I tried everything I could before finally admitting that medication might be the answer (spoiler alert it was).
I guess I will fill everyone in on my experience as quickly as I can so you know where I stand as far as what I have dealt with. I was always super happy and a boss bitch in high school. I was voted most likely to take over the world and had ambitions exceeding a lot of my peers. I loved life and never felt true sorrow other than teenage drama or fighting with my parents. My freshman year of college is when everything changed for me. It is when I went from a happy girl ready to rush a sorority to a depressed and anxious woman. It was anxiety from being overwhelmed by being in multiple student extracurricular organizations, sorority drama and keeping my grades up…I went to a performing arts high school so I didn’t exactly feel extremely prepared to teach myself, aka do college, so I had freak outs. I would call my parents and cry and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Neither could they. Now my sophomore year was when things became apparent that something was seriously wrong. I was in a shitty relationship with a shitty person, which is not the reason I had anxiety and depression, but it magnified everything 10-fold. I was president of my sorority and my life felt as though it were hanging by a thread. Being President of any organization is hard but being President while suffering with severe and UNTREATED anxiety and depression is a whole different ball game. I first started talk therapy at Penn State which was a nightmare for me. I hated it and felt like an idiot answering the question “and how does that make you feel?” It is a very strange experience when you don’t know what is going on with you but life around keeps functioning and won’t give you a second to figure it out. I then was prescribed Xanax for my anxiety attacks. The thing about my anxiety is I have CAH (which I have talked a bit about before) and I am missing half of my cortisol hormones. Cortisol is the hormone that is released to fight stress. So as you can imagine me having anxiety makes complete sense. I also found out that children with CAH typically develop anxiety and depression later in life. I didn’t know this until later in life but it is actually comforting to know that my anxiety was actually caused by my health issues. Let me explain what my anxiety attacks were like in exact detail without any sort of exaggeration.
I would constantly, every single day of my life, have a worried feeling in the pit of my stomach. It feels like you are extremely nervous and could throw up at any moment. I then would start overthinking every detail of every aspect of my life. My relationship was so unhealthy that all my thoughts were consumed with “I feel like he is going to break up with me.” Now because of this feeling anything I felt was “off” triggered something inside of me. A monster is how I would describe it. I would shut down completely. My mind would race and only about that one thought and how I was going to survive if we broke up. I would start pacing and hyperventilating. One thing I did regularly when having a panic attack was go for a drive in the backroads of central PA and smoke cigs. It didn’t rid me of the anxiety, but it did help a little bit. Once I was hyperventilating it was game f**king over. I would text him over and over saying “what’s wrong”, “I feel like you are acting different”, “can you please talk to me” etc. I would call his phone over and over exactly the amount of times you would see in a meme (btw I am absolutely mortified of this stage of my life and wish this isn’t how it went down but at this point the past is in the past). He would be so overwhelmed that he would usually block my number or break up with me which would then be exactly what I told myself was going to happen. I would lose my shit and cry to the point I couldn’t even open my eyes because they were so swollen. Now some of you may be thinking “sounds like a breakup bitch get over it”, well when this situation happened once a month and even at some points, once a week, you can see why this may be seen as an issue.
Once my attack finished within a few hours I would set into deep depression. I would lay in bed, skip class, sleep, go for drives and waste gas every single day, cry myself to sleep and get absolutely no joy from any sort of happy activities. Now you can imagine what everyone around me thought “what the f**k is wrong with this bitch? She is annoying.” Well, I didn’t know what was wrong with me to be honest. All I knew was that I didn’t want to become a zombie so I refused to take medication and refused to accept I needed serious help. I thought that if my relationship would be okay than I would be okay. Fast forward to junior year. I went through some of the darkest deepest depression I had ever experienced. I would wish it on no one. I could not get out of bed. All I wanted to do was sleep because when I was asleep all my worry and sadness went away. A friend at the time actually said to me (after her brother had had a suicide scare) “You and my brother are both annoying and dramatic. Everyone has problems just suck it up.” That is when I knew that my brain was extremely different from others. That is when I realized that people who don’t have anxiety and depression have absolutely no idea how crippling it can be to the point that you no longer want to be alive because you don’t want to deal with it (granted I was never suicidal thank god but some people aren’t so lucky). It has absolutely nothing to do with keeping yourself busy or trying to relax. It isn’t controlled by mental toughness It is genuinely a disease and should be treated as such. So finally, I went to get real medication, not just Xanax which treated an anxiety attack (by making me a complete zombie and I even spoke in monotone. I hated it.), but something to CURE my anxiety.
This is a process people. It is not just take a pill and you are fixed. I tried three different medications for a few months at a time until I found the perfect medication for me. Meds are a double-edged sword. If they are wrongly prescribed and abused it can make things worse. I had to be patient until I found the perfect drug for me that completely took away my anxiety and depression (for the most part) and left me with energy and didn’t cause weight gain (aka Wellbutrin). After I finally found medication that worked for me I found I was less upset in my relationship and more just annoyed and over it towards the end. Once it finally ended, I finally felt a happiness I had never felt before in college and I truly found myself. I still to this day suffer from anxiety and depression and certain medication changes have affected me, but overall I don’t know where I would be without being realistic with myself and getting the help I didn’t want to accept.
Now for those of you who don’t know what is going on with you. DON’T BE SCARED TO ASK FOR HELP. People get so weird about doctors and mental illness. It is completely natural and honestly you are doing people you love a favor as well. My parents used to be worried sick every night because of my unstable mental state. You cannot be your best self if something is holding you down. There are different levels of the severity of each person but don’t be too proud like I was because I wasted two years that I’ll never get back.
For those of you who don’t have it and are trying to better understand the people around you don’t pretend to understand you know what someone is feeling. I hate to be a bitch but you don’t and it is nothing like “when you are really upset about a break up or anxious about a big event in life.” You have felt feelings similar but you’ll never know the gravity of the situation fully. I just know from personal experience. I hated when people were saying they know how I felt. I know they were just doing their best to help but they actually just made me angrier. Be there to just talk and listen. All I needed from my friends was to just be there. It is f**king annoying to hear your friend cry about the same thing over and over, but honestly just let it go as they are trying to figure their life out. Also start associating anxiety and depression with illness BECAUSE IT IS. So please try not to be insensitive.
Here are a few signs that something might be going on with your insides and holding you back from your full potential:
- Do you feel like you could just sleep? I’m not talking a day off and binge watching Netflix. I mean you could just sleep forever and still be tired. Do you feel a constant fatigue over your body?
- Do you have a nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach? Do you always feel uncomfortable even with normal day to day activities and situations? Just like an unexplained feeling that distracts you from being completely happy and relaxed.
- Do you always feel a cloud of unhappiness in your life? You lost interest in things you typically get pleasure from. You feel sad or excessively cry for no reason or over trivial matters.
- Lack of concentration or unable to sleep at all because your mind is constantly racing.
- Are you constantly irritable and annoyed by the smallest things that people do or say in everyday life? Do small issues make your blood boil and large issues give you heart palpitations to the point that you get concerned for your health?
- Does your life seem like it is not really worth anything or constantly impending doom?
Any of these feelings that you might have and not understand may be a bigger issue. There is absolutely nothing wrong for getting some help! Once you do get help understand a few of these things:
- Medication doesn’t mean defeat and it doesn’t make you a zombie. If you feel like this when trying a medication all you have to do is call your doctor and try something else. Yeah it’s annoying but wouldn’t you rather fix yourself overall?
- Medications have side effects that affect other medications. If you are on ANY other meds for any reason, even birth control. Research as much as you can on the side effects and medications that may mix together to create other side effects as well. You want to be completely aware of everything going into your body and what it does. Don’t be immature. Educate yourself!
- This is completely normal. No your cells in your body are not normal, but it is very common to suffer from anxiety and depression and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to be open about it. You don’t need to tell everyone you meet but don’t hide it away like some secret because people can and may try to understand.
- If you genuinely need medication don’t be scared. The advancement of medicine is amazing and we should truly be grateful. People who don’t believe in medication don’t make sense to me…the chemicals that exist in our foods and environment are different than back in the day when people didn’t have access to what we have. You have no idea if someone’s body truly needs something and the only way to find out is to try. People should enjoy their lives, not just try to get by.
Now let’s just touch on a few ways to truly help yourself minus all the meds. There are ways to calm down and feel better.
- Go for a drive! The best way to clear my head was to drive through the mountains and back roads in central PA while listening to music and just doing something. It sucks that there aren’t many places to go in the city of Pittsburgh (I love to drive around really rich secluded areas and look at fancy houses as well) and it also is hard if you don’t have gas to waste, but it is in fact cheaper than therapy.
- Spa day b*tchessss. Treat yourself to a facemask, getting your nails done, meditation and doing whatever you need to relax and pamper yourself. It is a basic tip but it honestly can make anyone feel better.
- Surround yourself with people who better you and want you to be happy! Once I dumped people who didn’t fill my life with positive light I was able to meet some of the best friends I will ever have in this life in my final year and a half of college (@bri and @alex). Once I moved home and was in a good place I continued to surround myself with people with beautiful souls.
- Keep yourself busy! Having tons to do, doesn’t leave time to overthink and feel down.