Sometimes I feel invisible. Like I don’t matter. It makes me doubt and question myself. I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’ve been hiding it for just as long. I’ve felt ashamed of it. Like its a weakness or something others will see as one.
Interestingly, I have many friends who battle with it daily and I don’t judge them or think they’re weak (quite the opposite!) but for some reason, I’m my own harshest critic and can’t understand why I can swing from being bubbly and happy to anxious, panicked and feeling low in a matter of minutes. It’s overwhelming.
I was in two minds whether to write this post. Fear of who might see it and judge me for it has made me hesitate and even as I write this now I’m not sure what the end result will be.
If you’ve never experienced it, depression can be more difficult to explain than you can imagine. It’s like a freight train of self doubt running over you. A canyon of low self esteem to drag yourself back up from. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say ‘but you’ve so much to be happy about’ and I know they’re right but for some reason, I can’t shake the feeling at the pit of my stomach which makes me want to curl up under the duvet and not come out. It’s hard even for me to understand why I feel unhappy or anxious when on paper there’s not much that seems to be wrong. In fact, I often feel worse for being so apparently ungrateful for all that I have.
I tend to get bogged down. Always worrying about the detail. So many years of trying to get everything just right in an effort to fit in and be accepted. My thoughts and opinion of myself are so often shaped by what I think others think of me.
And therein lies the rub… “what I think others think…“. How can I possibly know? I’ve always been aware of others and their actions, in fact, that’s part of my problem. I over-think and over-analyse. I pattern spot and I’m fascinated by other people’s behaviour. But when I’m feeling low, I focus in on the negative and that’s all I see. I build up a store of all the things that make me feel like I don’t really matter to anyone and the self doubt is like a tidal wave. All of a sudden, I’m drowning.
It’s not easy to tell people you’re struggling with something with such a loaded definition. The word itself is all too often associated with words and phrases like “crazy”, “mental”, “unstable”, “attention seeking”, “dramatic”… They aren’t words I want labelled with and I get anxious around people who talk about not being able to tolerate “miserable people” or “crazy people”. It’s taught me to hide how I’m feeling at all costs. Sometimes that cost is to be aloof and quiet in a desperate attempt not to run out of the room in tears. It often results in me holding people at arm’s length to try and retain what little control I have left. It often results in people, including some of my closest friends, in not knowing how to help me. It makes me feel even more alone and I’m left wondering why other people can’t see that I’m crumbling in front of them. Truth is, I’ve got so good at hiding how I’m feeling, many people don’t even realise.
Recently, I’ve had the courage to face this and confide in a few close friends. Some who understand because, sometimes surprisingly, I’m not alone in how I feel. We help each other by giving each other a space to talk without feeling judged. We can tell each other we’re feeling terrible without having to say the words. I can’t begin to explain what a relief that is. Having to explain over and over again that the reason I’m sad is because, despite everything, I sometimes still feel worthless and alone, just makes me feel truly awful. Yet I still need someone to realise and just give me a hug and or sit with me and let me know that they are there and that I matter.
It’s these friends who remind me about my own courage and the inner strength that I so often discount. They remind me that caring and understanding people are parts of my character that I should be proud of. They remind me that I’m taking on massive new challenges in the near future and still working towards my dreams and goals.
I find this both uplifting and terrifying. I sometimes want to hide from it all and ignore it before it becomes too big a task to take on. My friends remind me that one step forward at a time is all you need. It’s progress. It’s taking chances. It’s living life.
Sometimes I need to remember not to give up on myself.