As you probably know, I have the misfortune of living with both a severe anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Firstly, to understand what living with both feels like, you need to understand them separately to understand how they dramatically contrast each other. This really makes everything just that much worse.
With anxiety (and this depends on the person and their specific anxiety disorder, so I’m going to be rather general), you worry too much. This is a huge understatement in itself as “worrying” doesn’t seem to do anxiety any justice. It’s more like this constant fear of everything and anything in your life that could go wrong, will go wrong.
With anxiety, you can’t just “calm down.” Telling someone with anxiety “not to worry” is rather pointless. If we could not worry, then we really would. It’s not as easy as people make it seem. It’s kind of like how you would feel if “Jurassic Park” were real and you were sitting in those stationary cars when the T-Rex makes its dramatic escape.
It’s the feeling of, Oh, God, what is going to happen? What am I going to do? How can I cope? What will people think if I pee my pants from fear right now? What if “X” happens? What if everyone hates me and blames me for the T-Rex’s escape? I know I didn’t do that, but what if I never get to tell anyone the truth? What if I do, and no one believes me?
What if I’m destined to be a failure? Maybe this is God’s way of telling me I’m a failure, by setting a T-Rex on me. Oh, sh*t, I just remembered there is a T-Rex and I’m worrying about being a failure. Will people even notice if the T-Rex eats me? Will they even care? My hands are shaking so badly. Will the people in the car notice? Will they think less of me because I’m not handling this as well as they are? Oh God, I just remembered that embarrassing thing I did/said eight years ago. Oh my God, I’m such a freak. And oh my God, there’s a T-Rex right in front of me.
Obviously, the T-Rex is a metaphor for all that anxiety bubbling to the surface and breaking through. Basically, with anxiety, you care too much. You’re often overemotional and too sensitive. You have a tendency to worry about anything and everything, no matter how ridiculous it seems. Quite simply, you care about everything way too much.
Depression, in many ways, is the exact opposite. With depression (and again, I’m being general, as there are so many different types of depression, and everyone deals with it differently), you often don’t care about anything. You don’t see the point. Why care, when everything is seemingly pointless and hopeless?
It’s like a black hole. Depression sucks in all the negativity, all the badness and forces you to focus on that.1 It alters your reality to make life seem worthless. The black hole, so capable of drawing in every bad word, bad moment, bad action and bad event, seems to effortlessly repel anything even slightly positive or hopeful. As you can already imagine, having both is torturous. Imagine caring too much while simultaneously not caring at all.
Do you know what it’s like to think, Oh my God, I need to do “X” because of “Y,”and then think, What’s the point? It’s not like it matters anyway. This thought process goes around and around again. Imagine being oversensitive, meaning anything and everything slightly negative is ingested into your black hole of darkness. Imagine the T-Rex is breaking through the fence, and you are simultaneously panicking with despair and fear. (You’re the guy running to the toilet in this situation). All the while, you are wondering what difference it would make if you were eaten. (The guy in the toilet also fits this, as he is eaten. *Spoiler, but really, if you haven’t seen “Jurassic Park,” shame on you.) After all, you tell yourself, would anyone even notice? Perhaps, it would be the best thing for everyone.
This is what living with depression and anxiety is like. It’s both caring and not caring whether or not the T-Rex eats you. (I really feel as though I’ve pushed this metaphor further than it can go, but it sounded nice in my head.) Remember this before you judge someone, questioning their motives, their mental illnesses and their invisible ones.