Life with a Dual Diagnosis
The Bitch Sisters: Anxiety and Depression
I want to talk about what it is like when anxiety and depression team up. No bullshit, no sugar coating like the latest article on your social media feed. Buckle up, buttercup. It’s about to get real and a little uncomfortable for some people. This is what it’s like living with a dual diagnosis:
Me, Myself & I
It’s living your days in a fog. Sometimes, you can’t even retrace your footsteps. Your memories of the day look like static on the television. Your brain manages to go through familiar motions to keep you on track, only as much as it has to. I feel…nothing. Why do I even try to be normal?
It’s the repeating movie reel, hearing voices from your past on instant replay in your mind. Comments family and friends have made; obsessing over them for weeks, months, years. You are pathetic. You’re a loser. You’re misguided. You’re crazy. You’re a fat bitch. You never follow through with anything. You’re a bad friend. You’re selfish. What is wrong with you?… They were right. Weren’t they? I am pathetic. Why did I even try?! What are they going to think and say now? I’m going back to bed; I’ll take a nap and make it go away.
It’s reliving the moment when it first began. A little brown haired, green eyed girl. You were 11 years old when you dropped a picture frame, looking for a sharp sliver. Hoping that the pain on the outside would take away the pain on the inside. Your younger self watches the blood drip down towards your elbow. Why am I so sad? What am I doing to myself? This is wrong. I’m scared. Someone help me. You realize the dark cloud always comes back, you just get better at dealing with it. No, your first memory is kindergarten. Six years old. You sobbed for hours and sat at the front of the class beside the teacher for your entire first week.
It’s crying and pleading to yourself to stop, to get yourself out of bed, or to just calm down and do something with your day. Your perfectionist tendencies and negative feelings towards being unproductive drives you further into the hole and the sobs increase in frequency. You feel hopeless and helpless. You scream and sob into your pillow so the neighbors won’t hear you. Who would want to deal with a train wreck like me? No, I’ have to keep it to myself. Don’t call or tell anyone. I don’t deserve help. This is ridiculous. It will pass, just like it always does.
It’s feeling the wind against your body, left behind by the rushing car as you stand on the curb waiting to cross the street. You are staring blankly at the road in front of you and catch yourself wondering if the speed of car was enough to end your life if you had stepped out. Some days you wish you actually had the courage to step out. That’s sick, knock it off. You open the shop door and order your coffee, forgetting the thought as if it never happened.
It’s moving slow, intentionally and heavier with every downward step. The next day your movements are quick, sudden and unpredictable.
It’s picking at your fingers as you sit idle. You’ve become so accustomed to the way that you are during these times, that you don’t even realize that you’re making your fingers bleed. Then you look down at what you’ve done and realize you’re in pain.
It’s lashing out at the people that you love the most. Being unable to control that reaction, instantly hating yourself more for hurting them.
It’s unable to ask for what you need or want. Not because you’re necessarily scared of how they will react, though that is part of it, but also because you’re worried about what they’re thinking about you. They think I’m lazy. They don’t believe that I need help. They think I’m trying to take advantage of them. I can’t ask for help because I will be a burden and I should be able to do this all by myself. You are so pathetic.
It’s pushing away the only people who have loved you unconditionally, leaving them in complete confusion. She deserves a better best friend than me. I am too selfish and undeserving. I take so much more than I give. She’s sick of me. I wonder when she’s going to cut off our friendship; it’s really just a matter of time.
It’s needing someone to be there but being too scared to ask. When you finally get the courage, you instantly feel humiliated for being vulnerable and tell them to forget it and don’t communicate with them for days. I’m so needy, normal people don’t act like I do.
It’s staying home every weekend while you’re friends are out having fun. Justifying it to yourself that you just like to be at home in your own space, you have a project to finish, or you’re too worn out from a long week. Though the later is true because of your mental illness, in reality you just don’t have the energy to deal with your own thoughts in a social situation. It doesn’t matter anyway, because everyone has stopped inviting you. Why do I always say ‘no.’ Fuck it, I’m going to bed.
I can’t sleep in that position, I look fatter that way. I’ll lay on my side and angle forward. No, that’s bad too; okay, flat on my back. I’ll just bend my knees up off the bed so that I look cute, carefree and playful. Should I say something? Should I touch him? I bet he’s grossed out with his hand on my stomach but doesn’t want to move his hand and hurt my feelings. Maybe I should turn around and we can cuddle looking at each other? So awkward. When is he going to fall asleep?! He thinks I’m too clingy. What if I call him “babe?” Are we ready for that yet? No. He’ll leave me for sure. I’m going to end this tomorrow after I go home and nap; it’s obviously not right if I’m worrying about him this much. The End. Again.
It’s listening to direction from your superior, staring intently at them. Thinking to yourself that you’re focused, you need to know this so they don’t get upset if they have to repeat themselves. Then you can’t remember because you were focused on everything except the information that you needed. In those few minutes, you were worrying about past, present, and future. I hate this job. I’m just not smart enough. They’re always mad at me. I bet they wonder why they even hired me over the other girl.
It’s effortlessly giving out an easy response when people ask you what’s wrong. “I’m just tired, didn’t sleep well last night.” Great, now they know there’s something wrong with me. I’m so embarrassed. WHY CAN’T I JUST BE NORMAL?!
It’s the countdown until you can be back in your safe place. Eight hours…Seven hours…I just want to go home so I can get back into bed.
It’s feeling the tension solidify every muscle in your body. You are causing yourself physical pain in your core, back and shoulders from being so anxious.
It’s your boss saying your name in a meeting, expecting one of your brilliant ideas for the latest marketing campaign. And it’s your blank stare and just as blank mind, telling them you’ll need to brainstorm some new ideas to cover your ass.
I’m not smart enough, they can do it better. I’m doing this wrong. I don’t know all the details. I don’t know everything about this; I can’t do it. I bet I made mistakes on that blog, I always do; I’m going to get yelled at. If I don’t do this myself, they’re going to mess it up. They think I’m insane. I don’t fit in at this job; I bet they all talk about me. They probably tell their spouses about me too, I’m ‘that girl from work.’ I think I should quit. The End. Again.
It’s turning your head towards the wall as unprovoked tears start to slowly fall down your cheeks. I don’t understand why I am so sad.
This shit sucks. Big time. And the damage it can do and does to your life perpetuates the issues. Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but society needs to stop using it as a weapon and start understanding it. We need to talk about it. Because ‘normal’ is a facade, it does not exist.
The difficult step is learning to turn anxieties into constructive goal-getters and shutting down depression’s grasp by having a grateful heart and making self-care a priority. And dammit, don’t you dare stop working for it.
I’d love to hear your story. If you’re comfortable sharing, feel free to comment below! You’re always welcome to send me an email as well here. Also, please do not forget to contact your local support network or one of the many national hotlines if you are in crisis. SO much love to you fighters!
Photo by Lauren Jenkins – Instagram @lmjhdesign