It can be very difficult for those who are new to anxiety and depression to find their new “groove” in life. Firstly they have to deal with symptoms that to all intents and purposes make them feel like they are having some kind of cardiac incident. I have been there myself, chest pains, tingling feelings in the fingers and shooting pains in the arms etc. Difficulty breathing, dizzy, nauseous. Hell, unchecked anxiety is terrifying. Even once we learn, (despite out continued objections) that our heart is fine just like the rest of our physiology and that the problem resides in our heads, we still worry.
Anxiety is strange, I don’t know if I suffered from it before my breakdown. Unfortunately it is very hard to remember emotions and when all is said and done, despite the physical symptoms, anxiety is all about emotions. I know that my anxiety is closely linked to my depression. The reason I tend to talk more about anxiety than depression is because to me anxiety is the key. I know that my depression is a whole bagful of repressed memories, self hate and guilt built up over many, many years. Depression, that feeling of hopelessness and despair, “why bother it will not work out anyway”, “I will do it tomorrow”, “your 0-4 in life so far, why bother trying again”. Yes, depression is the sum of all self hate, the total of all failures, the book of despair.
I have only begun to sift through this soup of mixed memories, sorting out truth from fantasy. Looking at each moment as they come to light and try to decide if I do even need to feel bad about it? Has enough time elapsed to accept that yes acting the way I did twenty years ago was wrong but I can now forgive myself. What makes it harder is working out what things were just due to me being an arsehole and what was illness. I think for me the first step with depression is accepting that it is most likely more than you think.
I have looked back as far as I can, even then there is a problem. Early years are missing, I know there is a probable reason for this. A past trauma that has been buried to deep to even be seen, but there non the less. This could be the start but I know that growing up there were signs of what would now be classed as ADD or ADHD. I struggled with paying attention, I did not do well in school and due to where I lived I spent a great deal of time on my own. I grew up mostly surrounded by adults, certainly people older than myself. This may have led to me learning things ahead of my time, skipping bits of age related learning in favour of more advanced ways of processing.
I do not remember being an unhappy child but neither do I remember much at all. It is as if childhood happened, but did not register. Singularly determined to be good at things but without the patience to actually learn, a habit that still lingers today. Patience for me is a hard thing, I am far to impulsive, which is strange because I crave order and logical patterns. The more I reflect the more I realise that who I became, was not me, but the sum of many errors of mind starting from a young age. Nobody is to blame, circumstance and environment were what they were. I can not blame because it was nobodies fault that what happened, when it happened.
Even with no blame, it is still a struggle to decipher the tangled web of mixed emotions and behaviours and the trigger event that started them off. At what point did the first wrong connection be made? At what point did I learn the wrong kind of “life skill” and make it a part of my mental makeup. I know that by the time I left school the die was set, cycles were already starting to happen. I never knew back then, only by reflecting on life as a whole is it possible to see patterns in behaviour. Every day I learn more about myself, every day I have the chance to change things. I have already faced down so many demons, I am starting to lose some of the fear of doing so. I guess one of the hardest parts with facing your past is facing the results of your actions.
Earlier I said there was no one to blame for my childhood, but my early adult life I have to take responsibility for. Yes, I understand that how I acted was not all under my control, but I still caused hurt and pain. I have for a good thirty years left devastation in my wake, shattered peoples lives, created a mess and left it for someone else to clean up. What did I care, I was normally drunk, drugged or both. I would have been emotionally numb. Soon ignoring anything that caused a negative emotion became standard, it became so easy.
At the start of each cycle, I would be 110% committed, this was the one, this was the future. I would live, sleep and breath this new direction in life. Soon however the novelty would wear off and the reality would settle in. My impatience would become frustration, my frustration soon became negative, negative frustration soon became linked to the depression and the whole thing would collapse like a sand castle with the new tide. I would look for ways out, look for ways of changing. Nothing I started ever got finished, the lies would start. The drinking would increase, judgements made that would end in disaster. Looking back I wonder how many chances at life I have had, probably nearly one for every year thus far.
I have had so many different jobs I have lost count of them all, had so many relationships that could have become a life but they were never allowed to mature. Prior to my last relationship which lasted twelve years the longest I had been with someone was around nine months. This being the average timescale of my cycles. I can not remember a different life. I struggle to remember the good parts but the ends are all fresh and crisp. I have relived those ends so many times, not the actual events but the compressed emotional impacts that are now attributed to each kind of incident. Every lost job would be my failure, enhanced, added to the mix of the others, distilled into self hate and served. Every relationship would be likewise twisted and driven deep like a knife to the heart.
It was as if I came to see this destruction as deserved, how dare I have anything good in my life. I did not deserve anything good and as such I would destroy it, laughing at myself as I put myself through the agony, trying to forget, to bury it, but only the memories were buried. The behaviours has been learned, the emotions came on demand. Enjoy, destroy, self hate, restart, enjoy, destroy, self hate, restart and on and on. Every restart came from the suppression of these disasters and blame being allocated to wherever was easy.
All the warning signs were there, I ticked all the right boxes on every test. Had I ever had these tests that is, I bet if I was to ask my family and friends honestly they would all say that they suspected. How do you tell someone that you think they are mentally unstable? I do count myself lucky, I have depression and anxiety and I am functional. Some I know suffer far worse than I do, whilst I can relate to their pain, I know that it is often worse than mine. I also know that my salvation lies in my acceptance of my problems. It is not easy, I still have so much to do, so much to learn, and so much pain to endure. Knowing that I can not only accept but also talk openly about more and more of it is very therapeutic.
Being so open does not come without its own problems, I am sure that my employment has been damaged by everyone knowing the grizzly details of my trip down the mountain. My last relationship has been destroyed and while I do not regret, I do however feel an immense guilt. I am also open to attack from those who wish to take my words and use them against me, or those who wish to deride me as just an attention seeker. I do grow stronger as support out-ways opposition, and yes I guess in a way I am an attention seeker. I wish to draw people to read what I have to say, because I am not the only person who feels this way. I do not speak on behalf of others, but I do know that others identify with what I write.
I tend to write about anxiety as it is new to me, depression has been with me for so many years that I have kind of overlooked it in favour of this new side effect/ illness. Anxiety scares the crap out of me, but I have made friends with it. But I am always aware that the anxiety is nothing compared to the depression that lies beneath. I have learned to be careful around them both, I am still fragile but I am getting better. No longer do the blows knock me down, I can stand up to them now. Who knows, one day I may be free.