My Husband, My Hero

Loving someone with depression and anxiety can be as hard as having it yourself. Having been in both positions, sometimes simultaneously, I feel quite qualified to make that statement. To see somebody you love so much going through something you know to be so awful makes you feel helpless, frustrated and sad.

On the surface, my husband is the happiest, bubbliest and most joyful person you could meet. He is the life and soul of the party, the one others go to in order to be uplifted. He is amazing. His constant desire to help others and bring them happiness is nothing but inspiring and he does it out of a genuine love and want to make the world a better place for the people in it and he wouldn’t change a thing. Helping others smile is what motivates him and always has been.

He is my hero.

But he is human too and underneath the surface he is as sensitive and fragile as the next person. Some days he struggles to wear a smile and some days he doesn’t manage at all. When you give so much of yourself to other people it’s easy to forget to hold something back for yourself. It’s easy to become overwhelmed.

His depression isn’t the same as mine. He deals with it differently and while I make no claim to be an expert on the subject, I feel this is true of everyone. No two people experience mental illness in the same way. Just because we may have been through similar experiences, it doesn’t mean we know how another person with the same diagnosis is feeling and it’s important to realise that what works for one person may be completely useless and irrelevant to another. What triggers my anxiety alleviates my husbands. When I’m not feeling good I’d rather stay in and cuddle up with a cup of tea and a trashy American cop show. When JJ feels anxious he’d much rather get out into the world and do something, when he’s feeling depressed he just wants to sleep. I’m sure for other people the triggers are different as are the coping methods, we’re all unique. It’s not caused by weakness any more than somebody getting the flu. It is something we can get better from but it’s not a quick fix. It’s not something to be ashamed of it is something to be learned about and understood.

But what is true, and what we can assume is this…the best thing we can do for a loved one who is depressed is to be there for them, to make sure they know how much they are loved when they are feeling unlovable. To make sure they know how much they are valued when they are feeling worthless. To let them know you are there when they are feeling alone. To offer them your patience when they don’t know how to express themselves. To offer them a friendly ear without the pressure of having to talk if they don’t want to. To just be there for them with the reassurance you aren’t going away and encourage them to get the help they need, whatever that may be.

I love you JJ, you inspire me every day.
Keep being you.

Life In The Shadow Of Anxiety And Depression

It’s impossible to think straight when the walls start closing in around you. Something that would be insignificant when perceived through a rational mind is life threatening when you are in an extended state of panic. A panic that grows and grows until it’s bigger than the problem that created it, until it’s bigger than you. It blocks out the solution, it blocks out everything. You wish you didn’t feel this way, but you can’t remember what it feels like not to.

Your stomach is in knots, your skin flushes ice cold, but you’re sweating, burning up inside. Each time you think of the thing that’s brought you here the feeling intensifies. Your heart pounds hard in your chest, you feel every painful beat. You want to cry, and sometimes you can but sometimes the tears won’t come and you’re trapped with the fear. It’s exhausting to live with. A constant state of being ready to fight, terrified you won’t have the energy to win this battle for yet another day. And you can’t talk about it because nobody would understand, or they would judge you, or see you for the failure you feel you are, or they would find out the secret you have tried so hard and for so long to conceal.

These are the times you would give anything for the sorrow, the all consuming grief that shakes you with heavy sobs. The solace of letting go, a release valve to try and relieve the tension, the fear, the feelings of worthlessness. Trying somehow to cry the pain away, but never quite managing it. A sorrow so profound it leaves you exhausted, broken and weak. When the tears come you don’t think they’re ever going to stop. Your eyes are puffy, your face swollen and red, your body aching and your heart, your lungs, your entire chest hurts. You feel sick from the fatigue of crying so hard and yet you cannot stop.

These are the times you long for the numbness. The days when you don’t feel anything at all. You see people around you, laughing happily, but you feel nothing. It doesn’t hurt, there is no fear, there isn’t anything at all. You watch the world through grey tinted glasses, alone amongst friends. You’re along for the ride with no idea how you you got on it or where to get off. Trying to fit in, laughing at the jokes, smiling in all the right places, but it never quite reaches your eyes. Hearing everything as a dull, muffled blur as if from under a heavy blanket. Staring into the middle distance, your eyes fixed on nothing. Your mind blank and empty, your heart more so. Trapped in a state of apathy and lethargy, you are hollow, lost and without hope, aspiration or motivation.

These are the times you have to keep fighting. To reach out and grab whatever it takes to stop you falling any further away from yourself. To talk to someone, to write down your feelings just to get them out, to scream into a pillow. To keep going and hold on to the thought that this too will pass and maybe with a bit of help, you can find your way back to the path back to wellness, the path back to you.

Bad Fire

I don’t really get bad moods anymore. I’m so thankful for that. Sometimes I still feel sad, sometimes I still feel anxious, sometimes I feel elated and sometimes I’m slightly annoyed. But what has gone is the overwhelming irritation that rises up from within, seemingly without reason and causes me to feel so angry it’s tangible. It itches from within, it hurts and it can’t be explained or understood, it’s just there.

It builds like fire, rising up and taking over. The spark that starts it can be anything or nothing. Spontaneous internal combustion, volatile and unstable, ready to flare up at any moment with no prior warning or explanation. Something that didn’t irritate you one day can make you explode the next and without notice. You’re hurting from within, scratching at this invisible sore that you can’t understand and you can’t explain.

And the only way to quell this awful feeling is to lash out, be it at yourself or other people in your life. To shout, scream and snap. It’s not really anyones fault and deep down you know that, they’re just in the wrong place at the right time. You aren’t in control, you don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. A harsh, biting word, a raised voice, a nasty look. It comes from somewhere other than you, somewhere dark and primal.

And then there’s the brief spell of blessed relief. The itching has stopped, the anger is gone and for the briefest moment, there is peace. You can breathe again. The storm has passed and you can hear yourself think.

But then the guilt starts to fill the void and you’re plagued with remorse for your outburst. You shouldn’t have lashed out like that, you should have kept your temper. You hate how awful you made the other person feel with your carelessly thrown words. Why are you such a nasty horrible person? Your mind forces you to play it back, over and over again until it bears no resemblance to your actual transgression and you start feeling irritated again and you feel that itch to start burning in your chest and stomach once again.

I hadn’t noticed the absence of these feelings until recently I saw a glimpse of my former self in the eyes of someone else and I realised how much better my life is now without rage. It can be beaten. It can be controlled. It can be overcome. You don’t have to live with this pain. There is help out there in so many different forms. Find one that works for you and start to enjoy life and embrace it.