This is what I want to be doing. Traveling. Creating art. Connecting with people. If these are the things I love and what makes me happy, why am I so sad?
I was tucked into a corner of the hallway wearing naught but an over-sized t-shirt and ill fitting red athletic shorts, when a group of well todo ladies and gentlemen walked past me in all their finery.
One of the women audibly gasped when she caught a glimpse of my disheveled self, so I grinned apologetically from halfway behind the curtain.
I waited awkwardly until they had left the vicinity before turning back to my Mom on Skype.
“Sorry. There were fancy people walking by.”
The Four Seasons is hardly the hotel you hang out like a bum stealing wifi in public areas, but I had our room key in my pocket which would quickly prove my right to be there should anyone press the issue. Ah, the things we do for a little bit of faux privacy.
Such is life, eh?
There’s a redundancy in the system.
I’m still in Budapest.
Only, for the time being I not only have our apartment readily available to us, but also the hotel room we were booked for the weekend. It’s a little over the top, but I’m not one to complain about being treated well.
I mean, goddamn, just look at the view.
Yes, you are understanding correctly, I took this from our hotel window. I hardly believe it, myself.
Everything in my life right now is spectacular.
…except for one thing: My anxiety and depression issues are beginning to become a real problem for me again. It seems almost impossible given my circumstances, but I wanted to share a little bit about it. I’m sorry if it bums you out, but I think it will be therapeutic for me - and as always, I share in hopes that it will one day give someone else some kind of insight or peace.
Everything is great! Why am I sad?
I thank the fortunes that be for blessing me with the family and friends I have.
Most of them have either personally struggled with or been closely involved with those who deal with anxiety and depression. They get it. Because of that, I have a deeply understanding emotional support system to tap into when I can bring myself to reach out for help. (An issue often being I feel too overwhelmed or down on myself to reach out, but that’s another topic.)
In particular, I’d like to point out and thank my mom for not only being there for me, but being generally wonderful, insightful, and did I mention always being there for me?
It’s very easy to look around and see all the splendor, to think of what I’ve always wanted out of life, and know this is exactly what I want to be doing. Traveling. Creating art. Connecting with people. Being over-the-top awesome.
If these are the things I love, the things that make me happy, then why the &#$% am I so sad?
This sort of thinking leads to a dark vortex of self-hatred and feelings of existential pointlessness, which in turn makes me feel like I must be ungrateful for these opportunities, which makes me even more frustrated with myself. This darkness leads to my becoming incredibly unpleasant, which affects people in really negative ways, which makes me feel even worse.
But my mom knows what’s going on, and I am so thankful that she does:
Depression vs. Depression
There is circumstantial depression, and there’s chemical depression.
First of all, there’s a lot of things I’m still working through. I’ve written about some of my funks in the past. In general, I’ve dealt with some pretty enormous life changes over the last couple years.
To summarize: I quit a career, I traveled without a home for 7 months, I split with who I believed for years was my life partner, I moved cities alone, I floated on by attempting to figure out who Anne is, and now I’m off in the world living day-to-day, hardly knowing what will come next.
Even though my immediate circumstances are externally glorious, there’s a real lack of foundation and emotional stability. I haven’t really dealt with things healthily, I have avoided therapy and professional help, and I’m only just starting to realize how deeply these things impacted me.
Secondly, I’ve actually been struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression since I was maybe 11 or 12. It got much worse when I was in high school, and I learned a lot of coping methods since then — but it’s never really gone away.
I grew up surrounded by really extreme examples of mental disorders and so it’s hard to look at myself and think, “Yeah, I have something that’s a serious problem here.”
But to be honest? There is truly something chemically imbalanced up here in my head. I can be out having the best time, with my favorite people, and I’m still at huge risk of suddenly being struck with an overwhelming sense of doom and nothingness deep in my gut. That feeling almost always sends me into a disastrous mental spiral and I can’t dig myself out of it.
The problem with anxiety and depression this way is there is no logic to it.
Everything just… means entirely too much or nothing at all. You can’t reason with it. You can’t talk yourself out of it. It’s like a boa wrapped itself around your brain and your heart and your soul and it’s squeezing everything out of you, consuming every little piece of you and leaving nothing for you to work with. It has a physically exhausting impact too, it’s not simply mental.
I have spent so much of my time here in Budapest feeling apathetic, with ridiculously low energy, and many days it’s hard to even make myself shower.
I’m in Budapest on the most epic adventure of my life and all I can bring myself to do is lay in bed most of the time. I think that can be filed under “Negatively Impacting Daily Life”, thanks.
Coming to terms with… anything, really.
Like many things… I think the first part is admitting, well, there’s a problem.
I grew up “knowing” how to deal with all this stuff, I’ve been to therapy, done the research, I “know” a lot of coping techniques and what I should do to start dealing with things.
Unfortunately that’s what I’ve been telling myself for years now, and here I am.
There’s a lot of challenges to dealing with this on the road, and maybe at some point I’ll have to sacrifice travel to deal with it. But for now, I want to start by at least addressing that it’s an issue. Once I’ve addressed it, I can slowly begin taking steps to see if I can get better on my own terms without giving up on the really great things I have in life right now.
Paradoxically, I can’t start feeling better until I know it’s okay to feel not okay.
It’s also helpful to be reassured on an incredibly regular, almost obnoxious basis by the people who love me, that they still love me even when I’m just dragging them down into the abyss.
It’s in the moments I’m hating myself most that I need to hear — not that “everything will be okay”, or “look around you”, I don’t want promises for the future or to feel guilty about my depression — but, “Hey, it’s okay you feel that way. I’m sorry you feel that way. I love you. I’m right here.”
And maybe, just maybe, by letting people know about it… I’ll be able to bring myself out and find the support when and where I need it.
I apologize for whatever times I forget to answer messages, check email, or just generally end up hiding myself away from all contact. I get cripplingly overwhelmed sometimes but I really appreciate knowing you’re there.
Learning about anxiety and depression is important.
I’m sorry about the downer update, but this is the sort of thing I think needs to be able to be talked about.
I personally want to be able to talk about it, but I also know I’m not the only one who deals with these issues. There’s a lot of people out there struggling with this and _don’t _have the support I have, or the knowledge base, or an understanding of why they feel these things. There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental health and that can make it scary to open up. There’s a lot of people who are quick to say “You’re just looking for attention” or many other reactions that just worsen the issue.
So, here are some resources if you’d like to learn more:
- “Adventures in Depression” by Hyperbole and a Half: Part 1 & Part 2 — A humorous approach to understanding a serious issue… it actually captures depression really well.
- National Institute of Mental Health on Depression and Anxiety
- Mayo Clinic on Depression and Anxiety
- Calm Clinic’s Tips for Friends & Family of the anxious