If you have ever battled depression and anxiety, you know they are worthy foes. I recently saw this description of them ~
Depression is when you don’t really care about anything.
Anxiety is when you care too much about everything.
And having both is just like hell.
In a previous post I told y’all I have a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS has a huge family tree with all sorts tag-a-long diagnosis, two of them are depression and anxiety. These twin devils like to reek havoc on your brain and emotions while EDS is pummeling your body. They’ve done multiple studies on these two in connection to EDS and it’s still highly debated if the cause is directly related to EDS or just in response to chronic pain. One study showed that 70% of people with EDS suffer with some form of anxiety disorder compared to 22% of a controlled group. In plain English that means if you have EDS your probably going to suffer with anxiety too.
The first time depression was brought to my attention was when I had to switch primary care providers. After reviewing the questionnaire I filled out he said he wanted to talk to me about my depression. I very quickly told him I don’t struggle with depression. He looked back at the questionnaire and stated according to this you do. I informed him I hated that word and it wasn’t something I had issues with. Thankfully he took my subtle hints and moved on with the exam. At the end he looked at me and I’ll never forget what he said. “If I faced everything you do on a daily basis, I would be very depressed. I’m impressed with how well you are handling all of it.” With that I did something I’ve never done in public, I cried. He sat there quietly and watched and waited with a look of understanding that I’ve never had with a doctor before. Then he continued, “I won’t use that “word” anymore but I do think we need to find a way to help you combat everything you are going through.” Because of one of the other members on the EDS family tree, mast cell activation syndrome, I don’t tolerate meds so unfortunately that didn’t work. But, it was the first time, at the ripe old age of 37 that someone told me it was ok not to have it all together. That it was understandable to feel depressed. This opened the door for me to start exploring and dealing with my anxiety and depression versus just burying it and hoping it would go away.
I feel like anxiety and depression work similar to a jack-in-the-box. Music is playing and I’m walking through life without a care in the world and then…
Terrifying!! Next thing anxiety has set in and my heart is racing and I feel like my whole body is shaking and the sense of eminent danger is so strong I can almost taste it. Everything is a cause for panic. I try to take a breath and proceed as normal but all the “what ifs” start attacking. What if I drop my water glass and it shatters and cuts me, what if I haven’t heard from my husband cause he’s in an accident, what if my son is hurt and can’t get a hold of me, what if my daughter is having a horrible day at school? They aren’t rational but they begin to wrap themselves like a boa constrictor around my throat.
Or maybe depression decides it wants a turn and I find myself numb and encompassed in darkness. No emotion. No feeling. Like being underwater, I can hear noises, see the sun-shining, and I know there’s life going on above the surface but I can’t participate. I can’t make out the conversations, or feel the sun warm my skin, and honestly I don’t care. I try to make myself care. I put on a good face and “fake it till you make it” but it’s exhausting. The only reason I even try to be happy is to avoid all the questions and concerns from my loved ones.
With either of these for some reason reaching out for help feels impossible. With anxiety I know my fears aren’t rational but I can’t shake them and to try to voice them would seem so petty and weak. And depression? Well, I’m so numb that to try to explain what I’m experiencing would take too much work and once again make me look weak.
Why do I think that being honest will make me look weak and vulnerable? When in all honesty when these two little devils show up it’s not any fault of mine. Whether it’s a because my body’s autonomic system is jacked up and sends the wrong signals at the wrong time or if it’s just due to the chronic pain, either way this is not a sign of weakness on my part. If anything I should look at it as a sign of strength and endurance because they haven’t beat me. They might steals some hours or maybe even days of my life but I won’t give up and let them win.
It’s a battle and there are a couple of weapons I’ve found helpful.
I’ve discovered one way to beat these trouble makers is by reaching out to my loved ones, people I can really trust. Letting them in on my fight and asking for prayer, help, a hug, or just a shoulder to cry on. When I wasn’t in the middle of the battle I talked with my husband and told him what I needed from him ahead of time. It wasn’t easy but now when I’m in the “pit of despair” or going 10 rounds with anxiety all I have to do is say, “I’m battling the blues,” or “Really anxious right now”. He knows what I need from him so no further explanation is needed and its way easier than trying to explain all my feelings and emotions in the midst of them.
Praise music has been a huge help. The book of Psalms, which is literally a book of songs and poetry, is filled with David crying out in his darkest hours and God’s response in faithfulness. I’ve saved some of my favorites to my Pinterest account for quick access. Like this one, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Psalms 34:4-7
I personally think that the biggest weapons these two use against us is the feeling of isolation. Making you think you’re alone and unloved. Please hear me! That is one of the biggest lies out there. You are loved and valuable, “For I, the Lord, will hold your right hand, saying to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
Don’t isolate no matter how good at the time it sounds. Reach out to a friend or family member. Get out and go for a walk. Get up and do something, even if it’s just making something yummy to eat or grabbing a cup of your favorite coffee. If you don’t have any one you can trust e-mail me. I’d be happy to listen.
I’m by no means an expert nor am I a professional but I wanted y’all to know that I understand. You’re not alone. Don’t quit and reach out for help.
As always I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.