It’s Not Like That

I am sure many of you who read my blog are familiar with the misconceptions about depression and anxiety that are seen throughout pretty much everything. I don’t think that there is a perfect perception of mental illnesses, but even as more accurate portrayals are being made in media, the misconceptions stick around.

Some of the worst misconceptions are:

  1. “It’s all in your head.”
  2. “Just get over it.”
  3. “You’re doing this to yourself.”

To which my responses at this moment are:

  1. Exactly. So how do you expect me to be able to get better? Especially with people like you telling me things I already know.
  2. I’m just trying to cope with it right now. How do you expect me to “get over” a chemical imbalance in my brain that is highly likely genetic and that can cause me to be unable to verbalize what I am feeling?
  3.  Yeah, sometimes I am nervous and send myself into a full blown anxiety/depression/panic attack. Sometimes I am having a great day and my brain picks something to be anxious about from my subconscious. I don’t always know what is causing me to panic or feel anxious nor do I know when an attack may start or how long it will last.

I know that not everyone diagnosed with depression has it forever. Some people have it for just a few months and it never comes back. Others have it for a few months, but it may pop up a few times a year. Some people, like me, deal with it on a nearly daily basis. I think that I feel a little depressed almost every single day.

Anxiety on the other hand is something more people are familiar with in my opinion. A moment of panic before a test or presentation. A fear of some sort that just thinking about can make your heart beat faster.

I have grown used to the fluctuations of my heart in response to my anxiety. Part of he reason I indulged and bought myself a Fitbit last year was to monitor my heart rate. I’ve seen it spike as I get anxious and I watched how my Nonno’s death, which came suddenly and months before we expected, caused my resting heart rate to hover around 89 beats per minute and take weeks to return to normal. My heart rate during the was 129 bpm from the moment we found out and this lasted for about a week. My body was in a constant state of arousal from shock and grief and it took its toll on my body. I was stressed out and upset.

Dealing with grief, depression, and anxiety was, and is, really hard. I muddled through my schoolwork that quarter and still made the Dean’s list. I honestly have no idea how I pulled that off. Maybe it’s because I have been doing well in school despite my anxiety and depression for years or maybe it’s because the grief was the worst when I was trying to fall asleep at night. My nonno has been gone for eight months already, but I find myself thinking about him every few days, sometimes the memories are welcome, but other times they make it hurt all over again.

I am learning how my body responds to stress and lack of sleep and anxiety. I am learning to cope with my mental illnesses and not let them control me. I am learning who I am and I know that those common perceptions about mental illness are not what everyone experiences. I know my experiences haven’t been typical, and I feel a lot of people with mental illnesses feel that way, like “Yeah, I feel that way sometimes, but other times I feel ….”.

My advice to you is to embrace your life despite your mental illnesses, learn how your body responds to different stressors and how you can try to reduce or control these responses. Find who you are and embrace your true self.

I am different. I have trouble socializing with new people. I like glitter and books and cats and blankets and the beach and hammock and music. I like to sing even though I don’t sing well and I can’t really dance, but that is completely OK. I can be sassy and snarky and sometimes funny. I get attached to people who make me feel good and I believe in looking at the best in people. I am working on practicing mindfulness and being a better person. I am me, and I am learning to love myself.

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