- your anxiety being interpreted as laziness or not caring when you actually care so much it’s crippled you
- it making you doubt the fact that you have anxiety even when you’ve been diagnosed multiple times and known for years
- literally everything seems to turn into a vicious cycle of worrying and avoidance
- your cognitive function and concentration dissolving away
- knowing all the steps you need to take to calm your anxiety but being too anxious to do them
I mean lets be real I have a lot of problems but for now I’m going to try to focus on just this one. It’s kind of the bane of my existence and probably causes me the most distress in my everyday life: I can’t do things.
Trust me I realise how stupid and lazy and negative that makes me sound but I’m deadly serious. It’s really hard to explain to people who don’t know where I’m coming from but hey what is the internet for? I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this.
The reason I know it’s not just laziness is that it’s not just things I don’t want to do, it’s also things I really do want to do! I have serious trouble sitting down to watch a movie (let alone a tv series) because I’m too scared of making the wrong choice and committing myself to watching something I’m not 100% on. I used to be a massive bookworm (Actually such a nerd that I’d read for hours in bed in the dark scared I’d get in trouble for not sleeping. I wonder why I need glasses now?) and now I’ll get a chapter into four different books and never finish any of them.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post for weeks. At first I used exams as an excuse which would have been valid had I actually been studying (spoiler alert: I wasn’t). I’m two weeks into holidays now and I’m not going to lie I needed a glass of wine to get this started so please excuse shitty grammar and mild expletives. I don’t know if any of this will make sense but I have to write something.
Then there’s the slightly more important things that I put off and put off until it’s too late and actually seriously affect my life. Number one is assignments. Over the year and a half I’ve been at uni I’ve handed in more assignments at their last possible due date than not. It;s not that I don’t care about my work, I care too much. This is a whole post in itself and I feel really strongly about it but if I want to cover it properly right now I’ll freak out and not post anything at all. That’s pretty much the essence of the problem. I have really high expectations of myself and I know I won’t meet them so I’m too scared to try. The supposedly reassuring saying “all that matters is that you tried your best” has always made me incredibly anxious because but what if I did try my best and it’s no good? It fucking terrifies me.
The fear gets worse and worse the longer I put off doing something. I’m not proud to say that I haven’t had a job in over two years. I can’t blame anyone but me for this because I haven’t applied for a single job. There’s been 101 excuses I’ve told myself and my concerned friends when they inevitably ask “Do you have a job yet? Have you even applied anywhere yet?” every time I see them. My friend overseas told me she was pregnant at 12 weeks, I bought her a present then and sent it two weeks after the baby was born. I am very good at telling myself excuses. I’m pretty sure if I was a talking doll my catchphrase would be “Yeah I’ve been meaning to do that.” Don’t even get me started on tidying up.
It does help a little being properly diagnosed with depression and anxiety because I do know that it’s something that comes with the package (yay!), but still I’m filled with overwhelming guilt every time I fail to do something that it seems there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to do. I’m a healthy, intelligent, privileged young woman but I can’t seem to do the most basic tasks! It’s so frustrating and guilt-inducing and just thinking about it now makes me want to cry so much.
The worse thing is I have no idea how to fix it. I keep telling myself “you can do this!” “I know you have it in you!” “You’ve done it before!” “Everyone else can do it!” “You just have to try harder!” and try and try and fail again and again. This is really dumb but at one point during exams recently I cried myself to sleep (and I mean ugly kim k cry face sobbing) wishing that I’d never done well at school because it created so much pressure on me now that I can’t live up to.
There’s a bit of a stereotype of depressed/anxious people being extremely pessimistic but I want to clarify that I’m really not. I honestly try so hard to stay motivated and tell myself I can do things but again and again over the past few years I’ve failed. Right now I kind of feel like I’ve done everything I can do except keep battling on and hoping some day this will all pass and I can be a fully functioning human. Wish me luck! Tips would be appreciated.
Mental illnesses can creep up on you in a lot of different ways. For it was gradual, a bit like when Mr Twit snuck out every night to add tiny slivers of wood to his wife’s walking stick so she never noticed anything until one day she realised something was really off and typical Roald Dahl chaos ensued. Okay maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as when Mrs Twit thought she had the dreaded shrinks but it definitely took a long time to build up before I realised something was actually wrong. To be honest even after I did realise it it took just as long again to convince myself I wasn’t just being overdramatic and to actually do something about it but that’s another story.
Basically what I’m saying is that for me, and a lot of people, it can take a really long time to realise and come to terms with changes in your brain, because they don’t happen all at once. Obviously sometimes specific traumatic events can trigger PTSD and panic disorder etc but that’s not how it happened for me. (For reference I’m mainly talking about depression and anxiety because that’s what I’ve dealt with personally and they are the two most common mental illnesses. However the general gist applies to most disorders).
Often there also might not be any identifiable reason behind it at all, which is probably even scarier than being able to pinpoint a certain trigger. For me there was, looking back I can pretty much map the stressors that piled up on top of each other like dominos until I slowly became clinically depressed and anxious. It’s hard when it happens so slowly – over a period of years for me – because you start to forget who you were before and think that that’s just who you are. It’s no wonder so many people don’t seek help if like me they don’t even realise what’s happening.
There’s a number of things that I know definitely contributed (and still do) to a downwards spiral for me, and while it’s a lot easier to identify them than actually tackle them it can help to break down what’s getting you down. For me the main thing is definitely sleep. I’ve struggled with sleeping for years and the more stressed I am the worse it gets. Most people aren’t fantastic at sleeping (a recent survey found that us australians are amongst the biggest sleepers in the world at an average 7.5 hours and that’s still under the recommended time), but I’m really, really bad. I have seen the light of dawn before falling asleep far more times than I’d like to admit, and before you imagine a lovely montage of 4am trains after nights out with the girls and still-drunk beach sunrises, it’s more like a lone red-eyed unshowered anxious wreck still not having started an essay before the neighbours start getting up to go to work. Not so cute. Anyway, my lack of sleeping abilities has had a lot of unfortunate carry on effects, including:
- missing lectures
- going to lectures but falling asleep
- waking up more anxious/depressed
- not being able to concentrate
- having to rely on coffee
- being late to everything
- looking like a zombie
- acne breakouts
- not giving myself the time to prepare nutritious meals
- not enough energy to exercise
- social withdrawal
- constant guilt for sleeping in
Which guess what… all end up causing more stress. It’s also just really bad for your brain to not get enough sleep because human brains evolved to work bloody hard and they need time to shut down every night to repair themselves and function properly.
Obviously not all of these things are purely caused by not getting my 8 hours but you can see how depression and anxiety can create such a vicious cycle which becomes incredibly difficult to break. More like a cyclone than a cycle. A cyclone of guilt and isolation and terrible self esteem.
If you’re feeling down it can be hard to work out whether you’re “just stressed” or if there’s a bigger problem at play. There’s a line between stress and mental illness and it’s not always very clear. This website helps to separate the two if you are confused.
But please, if you feel like everything is piling up on you talk to someone about it. Even if like me you are unsure whether you’re “actually depressed” (spoiler alert, I was) or just being overdramatic it’s much better to tackle it before it gets too much. And if you do already feel like it’s too much, please please know that you can get better and no matter how lonely and isolated and afraid you feel there will always be someone there to help you.
I’m not 100% what shape this blog is going to take right now but I’ve been wanting to start it for a long time and if I wait until I know exactly what I’m doing and it’s perfect it’s never going to happen so here we go!
Essentially I want to focus on discussing and sharing all aspects of mental health. I strongly believe that simply talking and sharing and learning about mental health is incredibly important. I’m guessing you somehow found your way to this tiny corner of the internet because either you or someone close to you is going through a tough time mentally and guess what!? That’s really normal! Mental illness is always going to be shitty and confusing and not always make any sense but if one day everyone felt comfortable enough to openly talk about it it would be a hell of a lot easier to deal with. And the best way to reduce stigma around something is to just start talking about.
I’m not going to pretend I’m a qualified psychologist/counsellor/psychiatrist, and the bachelor of science side of me is really wary of publicly putting out any information/opinions about such a serious health issue without citing every second sentence with a peer-reviewed scientific article. From my own personal experience however, I found that researching and knowing all the facts about something very helpful, but it’s not the same as hearing personal stories and encouragement from real “normal” people. In the last few years, a combination of understanding the science behind what’s going on inside my head and hearing what other people have been through and how they’ve dealt and still deal with it has really helped me. What has really made me feel more confident and strong though is knowing that a lot of the time, people simply don’t deal with it. Normal, strong, successful people can and do have breakdowns and severely depressed episodes and panic attacks and scarily low points and it’s okay! It’s horrible, yes (the last thing I want to do is romanticise mental illness), but it’s perfectly normal. Sometimes shit happens but it doesn’t last forever and I promise you will be okay 🙂
It’s true for any big issue, but I believe particularly for mental health, that the more accessible information that’s out there about it the better. I’ve definitely been through some pretty low, confusing times and I want this to be a happy, honest place where I can share my own experiences in the hope of making someone else’s life a little bit happier and less confusing.
If this blog helps just one person to momentarily feel a little bit less alone, scared, or hopeless then that’s all I want 🙂