What Living with Anxiety and Depression Looks Like
Anxiety is a serious, overwhelming problem affecting millions of people around the world.
In the United States alone, nearly 40 million people suffer from anxiety according to The Odyssey Online. Although there is a very common misconception that people with anxiety are simply sad and should snap out of it, the disorder is actually a chemical imbalance which if left untreated can lead to more debilitating disorders, the inability to function in life, depression, and in many cases, for sufferers to take their own life.
At some point in every person’s life, they may feel sad, disconnected and lonely. Although the occasional bad day may not be an indicator or symptom of depression, feelings that linger or stay around longer than usual are cause for concern. Depression is a serious medical condition that surpasses the everyday ups and downs of life. Millions of people in the United States suffer from this debilitating disorder with women being more susceptible.
Anxiety and depression sufferers are often stigmatized as being weak, incompetent or lazy. People truly believe and express the fact that they should simply bounce back, smile, or snap out of it when in fact, living with the illness is painful and traumatizing on a daily basis.
Because people with a diagnosed mental illness are seen to be viewed as “lepers” of modern society, many people are skeptical about speaking up, seeking assistance and receiving the help and support that they need to live healthy lives.
So, what do anxiety and depression look like? Looks can be deceiving.
Mainly because depression and anxiety look like you and me.
From the outside, someone suffering from a mental illness may appear to be functioning. You may see them smiling, engaging in conversation, relationships and their career. However, it is what you don’t see on the inside that may be the true indicator of a serious illness.
You may pass someone on the train or in the hallway, work next to them for years or even be in a relationship with them and never know that they are suffering from the effects of depression and anxiety. How can some people mask the symptoms while others experience and display more external signs?
Depending on the triggers, stimuli and nature of the mental illness, symptoms or signs may manifest differently in each person.
Let’s take a look at a day in the life of a sufferer of mental illness and what living with these disorders looks like.
Have you ever heard of someone who has committed suicide and their family and friends are shocked because they seemed ok, or otherwise normal? They gave no indication of depression or even that anything was on their mind. This is the problem with depression. Unless there are outward physical symptoms, sufferers may be unaware of their condition, too embarrassed to say anything or too proud to ask for help.
They don’t want to inconvenience anyone with their problem or want any sympathy or pity. So, they walk around trying to pretend that everything is ok, to make others believe that they are “fine”, maneuvering through their daily routine as if there is no issue consuming their every thought. To the outsider, they may appear to be living their dream, have the perfect life or blessed more than others. However, what outsiders don’t see is how difficult it is to do ordinary things such as get out bed and get dressed.
Those suffering from depression may be experiencing feelings of hopelessness, restlessness, low energy, irritability, sleeping issues and low appetite to name a few. Each of these signs may be unrecognizable to the unobservant onlooker. They have to force themselves to do many things that should be second nature like brushing their teeth or doing the dishes. Although there are things to be done, places to go and people to see, a major depression sufferer has to first overcome the feelings associated with each before even tackling it and may put things in place to help them fight the battle:
- Household tasks may be overwhelming and cause anxiety just thinking about the magnitude of them
- Although exercise is beneficial, actually putting in the effort of doing yoga or going to the gym may be excruciating
- Darkness may be unsettling and therefore sleep may be elusive
- Projects may be too overwhelming, causing unnecessary concern, anxiety and frustration
Living with depression is exhausting. The daily routine of managing the disorder is debilitating in and of itself, let alone trying to function in their everyday life. For those who are trying to appear to live normal lives, the stress may push them over the edge into the abyss from which there may not be any return.
In a typical day, the average sufferer may have to struggle with hundreds of decisions, thoughts, and actions which cause them undue pain and discomfort. Dragging their exhausted body out of bed after a sleepless night, peering into the mirror to see exactly what they expected . . . an ugly, fat, underachiever. Although that is the depression talking, it requires so much energy to suppress those negative thoughts and poor body image. As the emails appear to come streaming in and the words blend together on the screen, the thought of having to respond or communicate causes anxiety, stress and can be crippling.
Feeling stuck in the mud, the fear of not accomplishing anything places additional strain and burden on the depressed person, causing thoughts of poor job performance and criticism. Of course, there is always the underlying motive of having to blend in with everyone at work, having to function and also appear to be “on” is exhausting.
Finally back to their safe space at home, a person suffering from depression knows the importance of proper diet and exercise, yet the action of actually preparing a meal or working out seems like an impossible task. Muscles and ligaments seem to have a mind of their own, forcing them to stay on the couch or in bed rather than do what they know is the right thing. Their skin may feel unlike their own and their head seems like it is too big for their body. Sitting for hours, not realizing how much time has passed, they feel incapable of doing anything productive.
As the feelings and emotions try to take over any logical, rational part of the brain, they may feel that they are a terrible person, unworthy of love or relationships, and believing that they are completely alone. What the sufferer does not see is that they are NOT alone and although it may be difficult for friends and family to understand, there are millions of people just like them, experiencing the same thoughts, emotions, and struggles.
For those who suffer from anxiety, a day may be filled with worry and undue stress. Things that are seemingly simple for the non-sufferer are wildly nerve-wracking for the sufferer. A trip to the supermarket or a call to the phone company may cause excessive sweating, relentless nail-biting, and a constant uneasy feeling. As a person with depression, the signs can be masked, allowing the person to maneuver through life seeming normal to an onlooker.
However, the symptoms are real.
A person with an anxiety disorder may find themselves waking up suddenly in the middle of the night to worry when there may not be anything significant going on in their life to worry about. Now exhausted, they drag themselves out of bed, overly concerned about being late, having to deal with the issues of the day, and possibly even being fired. Rushing around, heart racing, the sufferer applies pressure to themselves over something that may have been forgotten, the stove that wasn’t turned off, the misplaced cell phone or car keys.
This frantic chaos creates even more anxiety and nervousness.
Now the droll of small talk. “What will I say? Will I fit into the group? What if I say something stupid or disrespectful? How am I going to be able to join the conversation?”
As these thoughts rattle around their brain, the stress creates more and more feelings of inadequacy and judgment. As the day moves on, feelings of doubt and self-consciousness begin to creep in, weighing heavily on the sufferer. Not wanting anyone to know these thoughts exist, a person with anxiety may overcompensate in other areas.
Finally arriving at home, to a place of comfort, the sufferer is overwhelmed by the dishes in the sink, the chores to be done, and the bills to be paid. It is less stressful to scroll mindlessly through social media feeds than to put the effort into cooking a meal.
Everyone experiences a sense of worry or nervousness at some point during the day.
Life events such as a new job, financial troubles, and relationship up and downs can cause even the most relaxed person to experience a sense of stress. However, a person who truly suffers from anxiety will find even the smallest of challenges to be immense, unmanageable and disproportionate.
When the worry never leaves, when the nervousness never subsides and the thoughts never stop, there may be cause for concern of mental illness or anxiety disorder.
Today may be a bad day. For the person without a mental illness like anxiety and depression, tomorrow will be a new day, more than likely a better today. But for the person suffering, tomorrow may in fact bring more of the same: exhaustion, lack of energy, feelings of shame, confusion, negative thoughts, irritability, excessive worrying, mental fog, loneliness, and powerlessness.
Does it have to be this way? Treatment and recovery from anxiety and depression are possible. People diagnosed with mental illness can live a normal life with the right tools, resources, behavior modification, and prescription medication. Residential treatment facilities specializing in mental illness are very effective in helping those who struggle to manage their daily lives and function in their roles and responsibilities.
If you are experiencing five or more of the following symptoms every day, or most days for 14 days or more in a row, it may be time to seek help. Begin with your primary care physician who may refer you to seek treatment at a residential treatment center.
Here are some of the symptoms commonly linked with depression:
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Inability to sleep
- Feelings of being sad or unworthy
- Feeling that you are unable to move, stuck in the mud
And, here are some of the symptoms that are linked with anxiety:
- Difficulty focusing
- Excessive worrying
- Overwhelming sense of fear
- Irrational fear of judgment or criticism
Often mental health professionals find it difficult to diagnose depression or anxiety separately. In fact, many people have determined that anxiety and depression are simply different faces of the same overarching disorder. While they may present differently with varying symptoms, the ones which overlap are significant enough to be treated together through cognitive behavior therapy. Not every person with depression will be sad or lonely; not every person with anxiety will have trouble sleeping. Many people are in fact suffering from both depression and anxiety simultaneously and these disorders shape their everyday lives.
You do not have to suffer alone. Do not allow society’s views on mental illness or the stigma that is placed on it to keep you in this state. Anxiety and depression are serious mental issues and without proper care and treatment, they can lead even the strongest, most grounded person to behave in ways that they may not otherwise.
Taking matters into their own hands, attempting to take back control of the urges, sensations, anxiety, self-doubt and worry, sufferers may resort to self-harm and possibly suicide. No one can tell you that you should not feel this way or to simply snap out of it. Mental illness does not work that way.
Seek professional help from your preferred medical professional at a treatment center like The Meadowglade to help you manage your day, function in meeting your responsibilities and enjoy life. At the Meadowglade, you have options for healing. Contact us in order to find out how our facility can help you move forward.