— kaffff (@kaffff123456) August 27, 2016
I used to be a social butterfly. If I was invited to an outing or family party, I not only wrote it on the calendar, but I looked forward to it for weeks.
Being a stay-at-home mom, these events were a way for me to socialize with adults—something that was rare in my life. I also looked forward to late nights gathered with friends poolside, sipping drinks and enjoying being surrounded with laughter.
When my anxiety disorder and depression began to rear its powerful head, I not only began to pull away from all outings, but I also feared just leaving my house. Instead of being the first person to a party, I became the one that canceled at last minute, unable to gather up the courage to attend.
Unfortunately for those people who don’t have the worrying gene, understanding this predicament is next to impossible. The average person thinks nothing about jumping in the car and heading to a family gathering or an evening out. In fact, I was that average person just a few months ago—I loved such events.
For the first few months, everyone was quite compassionate about my sudden condition. They watched as I lost weight and spent most of my time sleeping, never leaving the house. I was put on several medications that made me extremely tired, and keeping my eyes open was next to impossible. The pills did keep me from having panic attacks, but they didn’t seem to assist in my problem with socializing.
I became lonely, spending most of my waking hours at home with my dogs. The very thing I craved—friendship—was also the thing I feared the most. Not only was I afraid to leave home, but I also suffered nervousness when my own parents came over to visit.
Within a few months, my own family—the group that had tried reaching out to me—started giving up and happily gathered without my presence. I hated this feeling of knowing everyone was together, while I let this ugly disease take over; it seemed to be beating me on a daily basis.
I began spending all of my spare time with my dogs and horses. I talked to them constantly. My horse knew more about me than anyone else. He didn’t judge, and time spent with him instantly calmed my nerves which constantly seemed to be on edge, even with the help of medication.
The people I were closest to were getting their feelings hurt by me, thinking that I was ignoring them by not participating in family gatherings anymore, when the truth was that I physically couldn’t.
It has been years since that first panic attack that started my lonely days. I have progressed leaps and bounds in my battle against anxiety and depression, but it continues to be a daily struggle. My mind is a continual swirl of too much thinking, causing feelings of being overwhelmed. Since that time, I have learned to talk myself down on most occasions, but sometimes I still lose the fight.
The one thing that I’ve learned during this journey is to not be embarrassed about the struggle. Instead I’ve tried to embrace that it’s now a part of me, and I continue to learn more and reach out to others, trying to let them know that they are not alone. Through social media, I’ve discovered that thousands are in the same boat as I am, struggling daily.
But for those family members, friends, spouses and partners of those with anxiety and depression disorder—don’t forget us. Although we seem to push you away, we still need and crave you. Try to understand that we are attempting to break though the darkness and be part of daily functions, but sometimes we just can’t. Don’t tell us that we will be fine, as you have no idea what we are feeling. Instead, read up on this disease, and learn that it is a real fear and not something made up. Be there for us, even when we seem unlovable. It means the world. We are still here, even if it seems that we’ve disappeared.
And to those out there suffering—take it one day at a time. Find something that takes your mind off of the anxious feelings. Running is the way I vent, and I’ve also discovered that writing, cooking and walking my dog helps. Any activity that keeps your mind busy is a way to ward off anxiety. You are not alone, and every day that you beat it is one step forward.
Author: Jill Carr
Image: Twitter @kaffff123456
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina