DAYS LIKE THIS
Content warning: personal experiences with depression and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
I was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, generalised anxiety and OCD when I was 14. I had known since I was 11 that I was sad; I immersed myself in melancholic songs, books and poetry while other kids went to the beach and hung out with their mates. I felt different, like an emotionally deflated alternative to the typical beaches’ preteen. It was only when a close friend asked me why I was 'so negative all the time' that I realised my experience was far from what I believed to be generic 'teen angst' – people weren’t supposed to feel this way all the time despite what I had so successfully convinced myself.
By that point, anxiety had crept into my life. It presented itself predominately in social situations; an aspect that seemed unfair to me as a teenager who just wanted to have some damn fun. It crippled me both physically and mentally. Whenever I’d talk to people I’d feel my body react before my mind - first my palms would start to sweat (I wish this was leading into an Eminem reference but I’m trying super hard to be serious here), my fingers would begin to tremble and then… the overwhelming wave of nausea. I was so conscious of my own body reacting that this would trigger my anxiety even more – can people hear my stomach rumbling? Can that person see my sweat soaking through my shirt? Are those people talking about me? Does anyone actually want me here? A consistent voice of doubt shouted loudly from the recesses of my mind; driving me to avoid human interaction at all costs. I left school early most days, called into work sick for the majority of my shifts and lost a lot of friends due to my reclusive nature and tendency to become hostile when anyone confronted me about why I was the way I was.
I started going to therapy but I was still sick. I didn’t like my therapist very much, she reminded me of my hippie aunty and her office looked like God’s waiting room. She used to ask me what the possibility was of situations I was anxious about actually coming to fruition, I rebuffed her by reminding her that even though chances were slim… there was still a damn chance. Over the period of six expensive therapy sessions I was essentially imparted with the wisdom that what I was feeling was all in my head. Well fuck, we’ve got ourselves a real Nancy Drew over here… I knew my mental illnesses weren’t a wart that I could freeze off – I just wanted to know how to not let them win. She really was doing her best, I don’t blame her for not succeeding either – I was pessimistic and afraid.
I always say that my anxiety saved my life on more than one occasion. I was suicidal. I would sleep as long as I could throughout the day just so I didn’t have to endure existing. I cried regularly and pitied myself deeply. I fought with my parents and friends because I was so vastly uninterested by life that caring for others was my last priority. The one moment that stays with me was sitting alone on the top of the headland at dusk, looking out at the pastel hues of a winter sky. I want to die, no one will miss me, I thought to myself. My legs took me to the edge of the cliff, it was like my body was on autopilot – and to be fair it probably was considering how numb I felt. Luckily my anxiety sternly quashed my intentions with Yeah nice one idiot, what if you jump and you don’t die and you have to be fed through a straw for the rest of your life. I got up and walked home, feeling defeated because I was too scared to die but too exhausted to live.
I finally got medicated when things really got too hard. My twisted love for my own sadness had transitioned to resentment and I wanted to fight back now, instead of being consumed. Although medication helped me greatly, it was the support of those close to me that became the most important during this period. I found (and still do find) that the best form of self-therapy was distraction: going for ocean swims, driving and talking absolute dribble with my friends, making art, writing, listening to good music... it all played a part in my recovery. Needless to say, there were times when I couldn't distract myself, when the weight of my thoughts and feelings got too heavy and I felt like I'd break beneath them. It was during these times that I'd confide in the ones I love. I'd let myself cry, I'd let myself fear, I'd let myself feel it all... but I always held onto the reassuring notion that what was coming was better than what had passed.
Slowly, things started to pick up and I eventually saw the beauty and value in life. This philosophy only grew stronger after losing a friend to suicide. I empathised and understood his suffering but I wished, and still do wish, he had held out a little longer until things got better. Because that’s the thing, they do. I know everyone will tell you this, some who mindlessly preach it in a bid to make you feel better, but I can assure you… it’s true. These shitty feelings will run their course. Maybe not today, not tomorrow, not in a month’s time – but I promise you they do and they will. Life was never made to be perfect or easy. I still have days where I feel like I’d rather not be alive. I still worry about what people think of me or say about me. I still have moments where I’d literally rather hit my head against a wall than go out and face the world. But that’s okay because there are the other days and other moments and other feelings too – the good ones. The ones I refuse to miss out on.
Written by Claudia Harrison
Edited by Samantha Callender & Paris Jeffcoat
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000.