An Open Letter To Anyone Who Doesn't Understand Depression & Anxiety
Dear person who doesn’t understand,
Close your eyes and imagine you have tons of bricks laying on top of you. You’re paralyzed, and no matter how hard you try to push the bricks off, you cannot get them off. Well, that is how I feel every morning trying to get out of bed.
Still don’t understand?
OK, you are in the middle of the ocean and trying to float because swimming is too exhausting. You are panicking, constantly kicking your feet, flapping your arms and hands, breathing rapidly and you begin to drown, but you never actually drown. You are only able to hold your head above the water but the kicking, flapping and rapid breathing does not stop. Your mind is racing but you cannot control it.
Do you understand now? Not yet. Let me give this another shot.
You are emotionally, mentally and physically drained all the time. You have absolutely no energy. You are in pain and it never goes away. You do not have an appetite so you do not eat. Some days you sleep too much and other days you do not sleep at all. You have feelings of sadness, but it’s more than the blues; it is a dark place and you cannot seem to find the tunnel to get just a little bit of light. You are extremely irritable and have difficulty concentrating on simple tasks. Thoughts of death pass through your mind every second, every minute that turn into days, weeks and then months. At one point you were able to suppress the thoughts but you can no longer suppress them. You want to put yourself to sleep for a few days but, if you are really honest with yourself, you never want to wake up.
Do you understand? A little better. Ok, I’ll take it.
Welcome to my introductory course; MDD and GAD 101.
MDD (major depressive disorder) is not a choice. I cannot just snap out of it. Biological and genetic factors play a role. For some people it’s situational, such as going through a financial hardship. For others, mental illness runs in the family, so a depressive episode isn’t always tied to a specific reason(s). Life events such as death of a loved one and losing a job only maximizes the depression and anxiety. So saying things like “Why are you depressed?” frustrates me because sometimes I do not know why. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith in God.
GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) can be caused by life events, generic factors, brain chemistry and lifestyle. It’s characterized by excessive, persistent and unrealistic worry. So when you tell me not to think about it, it’s not that easy for me. It takes a lot of mental work to turn off my brain and it’s exhausting.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million people in the United States are affected by an anxiety disorder. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are diagnosed with the anxiety disorder. Bipolar, panic disorder, schizophrenia, depression and any other mental illnesses don’t discriminate based on your educational, socio-economic or professional background. It impacts everyday “functional” people such as mothers, fathers, lawyers and doctors. Please know there are different types of depression and anxiety disorders, so do not lump them all together. It looks different on every person.
I hope this intro course gives you more insight into the world of a person with mental illnesses, even if you cannot understand.