I am feeling a lot better today in comparison to that awful morning. I realized that my writing down only negative feelings was not giving an accurate representation of the whole spectrum of my experiences. For my own sake, I’d like to reflect on the after, on how I move through my depression (and now my anxiety).
I think I’ll begin by tackling some of the intrusive thoughts that entered my mind as a result of the nightmare:
“Out of sight, out of mind. Your friends don’t really care about you”. I felt overwhelmingly alone in this town so far away from people that I can rely on. I really felt, in that moment, that all my life was composed of was mistakes – one after another that led me to where I am now, isolated and disconnected. While I won’t deny that there is some truth in this sentiment, I don’t believe that it’s quite that hopeless. I’ve gotten a little bit better the past couple weeks on joining my classmates in social gatherings – we may not have a ton in common aside from school, but it’s definitely nice to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I can make a better effort in trying to keep up or catch up with my friends back home. The only barrier is my own willingness to do so. I may be alone, but I don’t necessarily need to feel lonely. In that moment, overwhelmed by anxiety, I felt like I had no control over anything, that I was trapped in this prison of isolation. But reality is always more than just that feeling.
I may very well regret the path that led me here, but there is always something meaningful to be found in the most unexpected of places. Even if you can’t see it yet. There isn’t a single person out there who doesn’t regret something. Mistakes were made, but you can still make the best of what you have. Even though I feel so very far away, I know that there are people who love me. And people whom I love very, very much. (And a future cat that I cannot wait to love). So I’ll hold onto that.
“You don’t belong here” and “You’re not doing enough.” Both of these statements are true, but not absolute. Rather than feeling drowned in these statements, I should look at them as motivation for doing better, working harder. Without a doubt, I’ll likely look back at these years and think that I could’ve done more, should’ve done more. And that’s okay. As long as I’m able to say that I was happy with what I did, then that’s enough. I don’t think I’m the type of person who can push myself to do things that are productive all the time. I just need to work within my own limits to find a middle ground that I’m content with.
I can look back on these thoughts and reason them apart because I’m not currently distressed. In the moment, those thoughts were as sharp as knives, constantly stabbing at my mental state until I wasn’t capable of rational thought. In the moment, it would not be helpful to think through those intrusive thoughts and try to argue against them. It’s not a battle worth fighting. Instead, it’s better to just let them happen. Let the thoughts flow through. Acknowledge them as they are and let them gently fade away. Giving in to them doesn’t mean you’re giving up. You’re just waiting for a better time to engage them, when despair and agitation are not working so hard against you.
And so I cried until I couldn’t anymore and hyperventilated until my body was physically too tired to even continue doing so. Then I wrote that post and distracted myself until the agitation settled down, and my body realized just how tired it still was. Enough to drift me back to sleep – a dreamless, soothing nap.
I think that if I realized sooner that I didn’t need to fight the thoughts that were coming in, that if I just let them wash over me, they would do me less harm, then that experience wouldn’t have been so traumatizing. But it’s fine. I’m growing. Learning. I’ll be stronger next time.
I described the experience as a new monster appearing as it was the first time I had ever had an anxiety attack. Depression, I was familiar with. But anxiety? Oh no, that couldn’t possibly ever happen to me. But it did.
Perhaps it’s because they’re not really separate entities. After all, the co-morbidity of anxiety and depression is around 50%. They both stem from the same imbalances of neurotransmitters in our brain (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and GABA among others). So really, they’re the same monster with different names. It felt like something new, but it may have just been a different manifestation of my previous vulnerabilities. When I look at it closely, those anxious thoughts don’t seem so different from the ones that come during my darkest moments of depression. They’re far more similar than they are different.
And so I’ll fight my anxiety the same way I fight my depression. Letting myself feel those emotions, writing and talking about them, and indulging in a video game or an episode of my favourite TV show if I need the distraction. Maybe someday, it’ll get to the point where I can’t self-manage these bad moments. Then I’ll get help. And it’ll still be okay.