Anxiety and depression

I’m a person who struggles with anxiety and depression. I wasn’t born depressed, but I definitely have a tendency to develop depression as a part of my personality. I remember being 13 and feeling a “dark thing” enter me and it left me in shadow most of the time ever after.

Anxiety and depression limit what I do in life. There are some normal activities I steer clear of because they cause me too much anxiety, and I could probably be capable of having a higher-level career if I was able to handle anxiety better. Sometimes I find myself wanting to do something but unable to do it because I am paralyzed with a sort of dark heaviness that drains my energy beyond reason.

The dark heaviness is often coming from life circumstances and although it might look like a chemical imbalance if someone were to scan my brain, I don’t think it’s an inborn trait. I have a sense of weariness that comes from the frustration of identifying problems every day that I want to solve that I can’t solve, and knowing that each day will bring new problems, many of which I still will not be able to solve. I have a sense of hopelessness from knowing that the world I live in is totally wrong and yet the task of fixing it is unfathomably large and hardly anyone around me is willing to even look at what the problem is. I am very emotionally sensitive and sometimes when I’m feeling tired, frustrated and hopeless it causes additional effects like trouble concentrating, feeling “spaced out” and forgetful. When I’m in this state, tired and spaced out, I make stupid mistakes, and then I get more frustrated, which causes a snowball effect where I keep feeling worse and worse until I just want to escape from my life. All these factors are a part of the Dark Thing.

I have found cognitive behavioural therapy very useful, and I took medication for a few years. I am not on medication now, but sometimes I’m on the verge of needing to go back on it because I’m not doing well.

There are a few reasons why I don’t want to be medicated. I have a belief that medicating depression just covers up the problem without solving it. I hate the pharmaceutical industry and I don’t want to give them any money. I hate drugs and don’t want them in my body. I’m scared of side effects–both known and unknown. I’ve been on medication before and I know that it numbs me—I feel less anxiety and depression, which is good, but I also feel less joy. I am capable of feeling joy sometimes, and I want to keep that capacity. I also know that anti-depressants kill my sex drive, and since sex is one of my favourite things in life, I don’t want to lose that. It’s a contradiction to give up one of the few things you enjoy in order to feel better. It’s just trading one problem for another problem of equal magnitude. Not worth it.

My official plan is to manage my mental health by meditating. I know that meditating helps me a lot, because I’ve done it before and it has helped me a lot. It helps me by relaxing me, which makes it easier to sleep, easier to think clearly, and easier to deal with problems. This prevents the Dark Thing from building up too much. Sitting quietly and listening to my body also means that I acknowledge feelings I’m having that want to be acknowledged, which means that when they feel heard they can finally let go, and I feel better. If I don’t listen to my feelings then they build up until I can’t ignore them, and at that point I’m usually not even a functioning human being anymore.

I don’t necessarily follow my official plan though. I don’t do meditation very often even though I know I need it. It’s hard to explain why this is, but my best guess is that it’s exhausting to process emotions and our default habit as humans is to find distractions in order to avoid them. I also have an underlying attitude that it’s silly or frivolous to just sit and listen to my body for a while. This is an attitude I need to let go of. It’s not silly or frivolous to take care of yourself, and emotional care is as important as any other kind of care.

Sometimes I have a really bad time, where I either cease to function entirely and just sit still feeling paralyzed, or when I lose it and start sobbing. In these moments I face the fact that I either have to start meditating or I have to take antidepressants again. It’s one or the other, I don’t get to choose neither. And yet old habits are hard to shake. I’m still at an impasse where I haven’t done much of anything and I’m letting myself just be a mess.

Just this month I did finally sit quietly and listen to my body again, and I was amazed that I got all sorts of insights and clarity in a short time. I also felt more relaxed. I know that the brain gets into habits with emotions, and when the brain is in the habit of feeling anxiety it jumps right to that feeling all the time and stays there. I know that retraining the brain to feel something else is a process that requires a change of habits and a practice over time. I know I can do this is if I stick to it. I should do this regularly, not just when I’m in a crisis, because that’s how you prevent a crisis.

Even though I don’t like taking medication, I did for a while because I wasn’t going to be able to get through my life otherwise. I went off it a few years later when I got more stable.

Even though I don’t like taking medication, I wouldn’t try to stop someone else from taking it. We all get to make our own decisions about how we take care of ourselves, and we all respond differently to medication—some people might like it better than I do.

Some people might look at my situation and think I’m absolutely crazy for not being on medication. I clearly am losing out on some things in life because I have mental illness that is untreated. This is where values and priorities come in. I value the feelings of joy that I feel really strongly when I’m unmedicated and I value having a sex drive. Feeling sexual desire is actually one of my sources of energy. I have a right as a human being to feel joy and to feel sexual desire and to be energized by that. I have the right not to have that numbed. If I had less anxiety I might be able to move into higher positions at work, but I don’t think this is something I need. I don’t have much money, but I also don’t think money is that important.

I don’t think children and youth should be medicated, because there is a risk of side effects, one of them being increased suicidal feelings, which is a very big deal. I think young people need to learn how to manage their emotions and they shouldn’t be encouraged to see drugs as a solution to problems, because that’s the wrong approach. Medicating a person numbs them to emotions, good and bad. When you medicate a young person, they might lose the opportunity to learn to experience joy as well as pain.

If there was a large lobby group insisting that everyone with depression necessarily had to take pills, and that was trying to cover up other ways to deal with depression, and that was calling people “bigots” for managing depression in ways other than medication, then I’d be really pissed. This would limit the choices available to people for how to take care of themselves, and it would steer everyone toward the method that generates money for capitalism instead of the method that connects us to our humanity. If there was such a lobby group, I’d call them a part of capitalism and I’d say they didn’t care much about depressed people.

Feeling the emotional impact of the shitty world humans have created is a part of the human experience, and we can decide that it’s a reason to make things better, or we can decide to blame ourselves for being defective and just numb ourselves to it. Some people might have to numb themselves because they have no other choice, they can’t manage otherwise. I’m not trying to judge those people, I know it’s rough. I have been there. But anyone who can should fight for a better world so that people don’t have to feel this way in the first place.

You have probably guessed by now why I decided to write this post—because my attitude toward anxiety and depression is the same as my attitude toward gender dysphoria. I think our natural feelings are a part of who we are and can be managed, and I think that being born with a tendency to feel uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily mean we have to use medical interventions. This is my attitude toward mental illness, including my own.

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26 thoughts on “Anxiety and depression

  1. I share those states of mind and perspectives. :/ So many times a day I have to talk myself back in from the ledge, *even though* I take a bucket of psych meds. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” J. Krishnamurti (https://goo.gl/images/UJ77US)

    This ONE quote made me realize that there’s NOTHING wrong with me (or most individuals) for feeling depressed, anxious, paranoid, neurotic or most any common mental illness. That alone was incredibly healing.

    Those of us who DO experience these are the ones who still have some semblance of humanity. It’s those who are ‘normal’ who have actually abdicated their humanity in order to fit in. God help them.

    So, love your depression, accept your anxiety and revel in all those sometimes overwhelming feelings that you are going a bit crazy. It sounds paradoxical, but I never, ever want to become ‘normal’.

    I love you just the way you are my friend.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. FreeGoddess said it better than I could have. I struggle as well. I’m right there with you as we speak. Life can feel unbearable at times. Sometimes, I wonder how I have survived this long–I’m sure you’ve had days like that also. I believe that we must have some sort of strength to keep going and to reach out and attempt to make meaning with others. Please know that the part of yourself that you’ve shared on this blog has made an impact in my life, that you are important and worthwhile and deserving of compassion, comfort, and rest. I’m here if you ever wanna talk. Solidarity, sister.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dear Purple Sage,
    thank you for being so candid. There is so much wisdom and valuable information in what you wrote. I say that as a woman who was depressed for 25 years or more (age 15-40+), often suicidally. I am not age 67. I never took drugs to “help” me. I slowly made my way out of depression by cultivating my capacity to listen-feel my body.

    The one thing I want to point to as extremely valuable is your expereince: “Just this month I did finally sit quietly and listen to my body again, and I was amazed that I got all sorts of insights and clarity in a short time.” This is huge!! People need to know this, especially women. The body is amazingly quick in resolving our emotional pain if we just feel and track it in the body. This is how I have worked with students for many years and they, like me, and I see now you, realize how paltry talk therapy is in contrast to the power of listening to our body! The body is direct, swift and never lies. Whew! What else can we say that about? Not much.

    I also feel very sympatico with you in “…knowing that the world I live in is totally wrong and yet the task of fixing it is unfathomably large and hardly anyone around me is willing to even look at what the problem is.” Bingo. I often complain to myself “this world is very hard to live in” for those very reasons you name. I try to counter that with the humility that I can only do what I can do. And I do know the impact of one person can be great, even if “just” upon one other person. And isn’t every person a universe? Many years ago on college campus I had an experience where I stopped and talked with a woman (someone I hoped to avoid because, I confess, I judged her as “odd” and a “misfit”) who told me after the conversation that she had intended to go home and kill herself! I was stunned, floored. And humbled and grateful that I somehow was guided in spite of myself to not avoid her.

    One last observation. Your opening statement “I remember being 13 and feeling a “dark thing” enter me and it left me in shadow most of the time ever after.” I take this seriously and literally. A dark thing, I would call it an entity, entered you. I take it as fact. Likewise, YOU have the power to remove that dark entity/thing. I have experience around that, too. It is too much to go into here, but I’m happy to communicate further about it if you like. If not, please do look into those who can deal with the reality of what you described and help you remove it. You are sovereign over your body and psyche. And just like listening to the body, the removal of this dark thing can be amazingly swift. It is not something I deal with directly myself, but I can recommend qualified, experienced people who do, and one who did with me.

    Sending you love and all good things for your happiness
    Vajra Ma

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Choosing a pathway out of dark places is a magnificently wonderful thing to do. Some days a pathway will work and on other days, not so much. But if we didn’t get up and plant our feet on that fucker again, then we might as well have just stayed asleep. You are a brave vibrant woman, and although you might, every now and then, be inclined to dismiss that definition, it is true none-the-less. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Given how many challenges and expectations women are forced to live with every single day of their lives, it’s no wonder so many of us are struggling with anxiety and depression.
    It seems to be common now to hand out medication to “correct” how we feel – as if a natural, response is somehow dysfunctional. The fact that in many ways these feelings are a normal response doesn’t make them any less painful, though. I’m not convinced that medication is always the best route, although it may work for some – hopefully the meditation will continue to be of benefit.
    And what you do matters and is valued – it makes a difference. I cried when I first read your blog, because after so many years of feeling a hopeless failure in all things feminine, to find an intelligent, articulate voice saying that it was okay – that being hopelessly bad at being feminine did not make me a defective freak, but simply a woman that wasn’t feminine – and that that was an acceptable, totally okay identity to have – meant more than you can imagine. Thank you so much for that.
    I hope your load lightens in time.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I meditate on this 10 minute video every day – hundreds of times now – and it never fails to make me think and move my soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUtH0DDJorM

    Remember who you really are. You ARE NOT your depression (I am/was depressed). Instead we FELT depressed as a result of our culture, circumstances and diminished coping skills.

    (Sorry for the caps – no other way to emphasize key words.)

    Hugs! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As always you make some excellent points. I’m glad you’re in a place where you can take care of yourself and I hope the clouds lift sooner rather than later. Like others have said, I think it’s normal to have mental health issues in western societies and there’s nothing innate about it (though some might be more predisposed to develop conditions). When you look at it, we tend to have little control over many things that take up a large part of our time (such as work), we are surrounded by narratives that include unachievable aims/goals/aspirations that can leave us feeling inadequate or worse, and as women, particularly marginalised women, we face a never-ending series of obstacles, discrimination, violence and oppression that is incredibly stressful. There’s no way we can adjust to such an unhealthy system, and it’s normal to feel resentful about taking medication that will only ever tackle the symptom and does nothing to change the cause of our health issues. It’s a pattern in capitalist, individualist societies to frame such issues as individual ones, offering a plethora of money-generating “solutions” to “improve yourself” and “make yourself feel better”, placing the onus on us rather than the rotten system at the root of it all. Which makes it worse for us of course. Sod it all.

    Having said that, like you antidepressants and CBT worked for me and I’ve not had any major problems for about twenty years. I wouldn’t hesitate to take antidepressants again if I felt I needed it. (Anxiety, on the other hand, has thrived, no matter what I’ve tried to do.) A key moment for me happened when I was berating myself over something. I don’t know how it happened but I stopped and asked myself what I would be saying to a friend if she came to me and happened to be in my situation. Would I be criticising her? Would I tell her she was useless and hopeless? Well obviously the answer to these questions was no, so why was I doing it to myself? From this point on I started to be more compassionate towards myself and the snowball effect started to go in the opposite direction: I got better. And it has served me well since, though of course I do stumble occasionally until I reach the duh! moment that makes me realise what’s going on. I can then take the steps to leave the vicious circle.

    I hope you can find your way out soon, I’m rooting for you and sending you healing vibes. Be kind to yourself 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Very refreshing to read such an open and honest piece. I share many of the feelings you express in this article – for me meditation as I fall asleep has helped in more ways than one. I find using a youtube video, like some others have suggested, really helps to keep the mind focused for those of us who have tendencies to over-think and analyse. Keep using writing to express your thoughts and feelings, it’s the most powerful tool we have!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It is complicated. As long as I can function in life, I don’t want medication, but not being able to hold a job is just not acceptable. Capitalism is shit, yes, but starving on the streets instead isn’t an alternative.

    However, I have embraced the lack of energy that caused me to not do any liberal feminist activism (which I was doing because the only feminist group in my area was libfems) anymore because I couldn’t see the point of it. Not having the energy to do a lot of things means I have to prioritize. And that’s a good thing.

    If I could choose, I would certainly not choose to be ” well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society”, but I would choose to be able to cope with that sick society just a bit better. While still being angry about it, of course.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Since I know you are a serious reader, please consider looking into Lynne Farrow’s book The Iodine Crisis and Jamie Bowthorpe’s Stop the Thyroid Madness. Both iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism — extremely common conditions completely overlooked and ignored by the medical industry — cause depression and many other illnesses. If you suspect you are hypothyroid it is very difficult to receive proper treatment, but one can easily treat iodine deficiency oneself by taking Lugol’s solution. And, no, for readers who think the medical industry tests for these conditions, IT DOES NOT. I was hypothyroid for decades and nearly died, and my TSH — which does not test for hypothyroidism — was “normal.”

    Many will disagree with me, but I think we put too much emphasis on nonphysical reasons for depression, etc. It is, of course, because we are not animals [sarcasm] — we are brains in cases of skin and bones and therefore not subject to physiological reasons for seeming mental health issues. And not looking into underlying physiological conditions makes lots of money for Big Pharma!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi. I agree with your view of the fact that medications are helpful but have many more drawbacks to it. But more than that i am very proud of the fact that you have openly talked about the reality of depression and in my opinion you are a very strong human . We all are always here to help and support you.
    -RNS

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Purple Sage!

    I’m late commenting on this but I just wanted to thank you for this post. I could have written almost every word the same… it is very, very difficult to get out of negative thinking habits because our brains *do* want to stay in what’s familiar. I’ve thought a lot about this: Why do we do things that are self-destructive and self-defeating? I also know that meditation would probably help me, but to be honest it scares me, and I too also feel silly doing it. Anything that smacks of the metaphysical or “spiritual” just makes me uncomfortable. I’m currently on meds but I agree that it’s not ideal. Somedays I’m like, “Why am I even still putting one foot in front of the other?”

    Anyway, thank you again for this. It helps us all to know we’re not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As someone currently on medication, it’s not ideal, but it’s helped bring me back up & be more stable/rational. I also came off it last time after feeling better, and went into a relapse. Long-term, self-care (e.g. Meditation) is for sure in the plan – I, too, could be better when it comes to prioritising it!

    Like

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