For years I'd struggled with depression, but not until I listened to a podcast interview with author Robison Wells did I understand what was really going on. As Robison talked about his own difficulties of living with Severe Anxiety Disorder, I recognized many triggers that were influencing my own life. By the time the interview was over, I was wound up in anxiety and eager to talk to my doctor.
Later that week, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), in addition to my already diagnosed depression. I had hoped to stop taking my depression medication (addicting) for my new anxiety medicine (believed non-addicting, but fairly new). Unfortunately my doctor still felt my depression was a separate issue from my GAD (depression and anxiety are usually linked issues), so he began the long process of testing and adjusting medication.
The one thing I learned: mental illness never goes away. Medication can mask the symptoms, and sometimes my mental illnesses would completely blow past every safeguard.
So I began the long process to understand my illnesses. I learned anxiety is based in our 'fight or flight' response. For me, every situation is fight or flight. This means less blood flow to my brain because my body is getting ready to fight or run. Less blood to the brain means crappy memory because my brain is too busy trying to decide if I need to fight or run. I've even noticed my neck gets really cold when I'm freaking out, as do my hands and feet.
I realized there were periods in my life where I was clearly displaying GAD, but very little was understood about anxiety then. Even looking at my family's history I can see GAD coming from both my parents, though doctors then lumped everything into depression and 'nervous breakdowns.'
Sometimes the hardest part of living with depression and GAD is the well-meaning people who say, "Just think happy thoughts and you'll be okay." If only it were that easy.
When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, many people were quick to head off additional suicides by proclaiming how wrong suicide was and that people should never even consider it. I found myself explaining to my brother that Robin Williams was diagnosed with Severe Depression, meaning he was probably heavily medicated and always a suicide risk. The only thing his family could have done to avoid his death would have been to put him on a suicide watch, 24/7, for the rest of his natural life. But as we all know, all people have a way of getting done what they want to get done. Mentally ill people are no different.
I'm not suicidal. I had a cousin commit suicide when I was in high school. During the family viewing they opened the casket if we wanted to say goodbye. A brown suit with his head wrapped in a white towel cured me of ever wanting to go that route. But I do sometimes think about how the world would be better off without me.
As far as writing goes while I'm depressed or anxious, well, its hit or miss.
I know if I get out of bed, I'll be happier. I know if I just pickup my laptop from the side of the bed and write, I'll be happier. I know if I walk the fifteen or so steps to the kitchen, I can make hashbrowns and hot chocolate, both make me happy.
But I can't.
Sitting up is hard.
Answering the phone is hard.
Responding to email is hard.
Just leave me alone.
Social media is a great way to pretend I'm living life ... even when I know I'm not.
But there are days when I do move. Some days I'm completely fine. I still take my meds on those days. I've learned thinking I'm cured is REALLY stupid. I watch my emotions and try to take things slow so that I don't get overwhelmed. But sometimes going places that will trigger me is just unavoidable: ComicCons, writing conventions, and church. Huge crowds. Personal space. Uhg.
I've had cool things happen at places like these, but my anxiety hits the button that turns me into Lurch from The Addams Family. Coincidentally, inside I'm not like Lurch. I'm a freaking cheetah in a two-foot cage that some fat kid keeps banging with a stick to watch my funny jumping.
One time, someone came up to me at a writing conference and complimented me on a blog post I wrote and wanted to talk about it. From the comfort of my bed, that's AWESOME! What did I do at the time? I 'think' I said thanks. Don't remember too much after that. I'm pretty sure the person was female. But that's all I can tell you. My anxiety went into panic mode, only using short term memory, so I can't remember the details of the event.
Another time I met authors Mikey Brooks and Wendy Knight at the Salt Lake ComicCon. I've chatted with both of them on social media a bit, so I was excited to finally meet them. Wendy even burst into a big smile of (what I thought was) recognition. What did I do? I turned into Lurch and felt like I was only talking to Mikey... who I mistakenly called Miley.
Gods. Kill me now. I'd insulted both of them, which did not help the panic already in full bloom. But I had my kids with me so... the Con must go on!
Does this post have an end?
I don't think so. Life continues. I'm still going to have experiences with depression and GAD. Maybe that's the important part. Accepting the good with the bad. If I pay attention, I might even be able to spin it all into a lesson about the weaknesses of heroes and villains.
To learn more, click below:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
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