The beast that is anxiety and depression is one to consume you, physically and mentally. It’s a beast that takes away simple pleasures in everyday life. I, myself, have met this creature and its destructive nature. And I know I’m not alone: if you’re reading this, you yourself have probably suffered from depression and/or anxiety or know someone who has. It’s a disease and it should be treated as such.
Despite increasing awareness of the reach of mental health, the stigma remains still and makes it difficult, almost impossible to speak out. I chose to speak out for those who are battling the Beast in silence and for myself, to be in command of my vulnerabilities. Words are powerful – and I hope these words are able to educate the ones who don’t understand, and inspire the ones who do.
When I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it didn’t add up. How does someone who admittedly has a seemingly fantastic life feel so empty inside? How does someone who oozed with confidence suddenly become the least confident person in the room? How does the feeling of happiness escape you in the blink of an eye?
For a long time these unanswered questions fuelled my anxiety and almost destroyed the life I had grown content of. Instead of attempting to find the answers, I became dependant on other methods to numb the pain, alcohol being one of them. Alcohol would then trigger what I can only describe as self-sabotage: the key self-defence strategy my subconscious would engage in to eliminate any possibility for anybody or anything to impact my emotions.
This changed me into a person I didn’t know I was capable of being; someone I no longer recognised. I began to harshly inflict judgement on myself, attacking my own character and its motives. It created a deep feeling of regret which, ultimately, was the key trigger of my anxiety. I soon grew to resent myself. Everything I did was calculated. Everyone I hurt, I did so intentionally. All these actions I took to avoid being the one on the receiving end. Every choice I made was for self preservation.
It took me a long time to realise that the Beast was a disease, and not simply a sign that I was not coping with day to day life. I reached out to people, but not the ones who had experienced this before. Naturally, I was told that everybody goes through these things and that sometimes life is tough, but it will get better. I believed that; I believed that everybody went through this, and I was just not capable of dealing with it as adequately as everyone else seemed to be.
This couldn’t be further from reality. We don’t all come up against the Beast. I had an illness that controlled my life to the point where life just didn’t seem appealing anymore.The daily struggle took away any enjoyment life had to offer. It took control of my mind, selecting which emotions I was capable of feeling and when I was capable of feeling them. It made me forget who I used to be and demolished any hope I had of being that person again. It took me to a place that I never believed existed and it let my demons, its comrades, absolutely consume me.
Gradually, I started to come to terms with what this was. I learnt how to control it, how best to cope with it and how to reign it when it tried to become untamed. After working closely with a professional, I started cognitive behaviour therapy, which helped me control the negative thoughts and destructive habits of over thinking.
I don’t recommend anybody try to battle this on their own. It’s important to surround yourself with likeminded people who are able to give you the support required to overcome this. Don’t distance yourself from the people in your life who don’t understand it – it’s not their fault. Just find the ones out there who do, because those are the people who will play a significant role in your recovery and ability to beat the Beast.
Today, I’m still suffering from anxiety and depression. As cliche as it sounds, I now know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My mind just needs to be the one to reach it. I’m not embarrassed to admit this, and neither should you be. Admit it to yourself first, then scream it at the top of your lungs so everyone out there can take comfort in knowing they’re not alone in this battle.
To anyone reading this suffering from a mental illness, you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to take on the Beast. Express your challenges and embrace your vulnerabilities and I promise, you’ll find that your mind will be at ease and the Beast will no longer be in control – you will be.
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” – Jim Morrison
Words by Mirna Butkovic
Feature image: Pinterest