Many, if not all, people have experienced the common cold. There are very obvious symptoms, including coughing, runny nose, sore throat, etc. It is easy to sympathize with people who have a cold because you have, most likely, experienced the same exact symptoms and know how annoying it is to be stuck with a cold. The cure for the cold is pretty simple and well-known, too. With rest, medicine, and some warm chicken noodle soup, you can overcome a cold pretty quickly.
However, there are things in life that aren’t as well-known or as easy to understand. Few people understand what it’s like to feel to be paralyzed from the waist down, what it’s like to have stage four cancer, or what it’s like to have a rare disease with no known cure. There are plenty of things that we just will not be capable of understanding or overcoming.
I am currently being treated for three mental illnesses: depression, anxiety, and ADHD. A lot of people know what it’s like to have depression, anxiety, or ADHD, but not many people know what it’s like to have all three at once. The cures for mental illnesses aren’t necessarily going to be the same for everyone, too, and it remains arbitrary in the sense that treatment is different for each individual. This has been one of the hardest parts of living with these mental illnesses. I hope that in writing this post, I can provide some sense of awareness of those who are struggling with multiple mental illnesses. They may not necessarily be the same exact three that I work through, but I want those individuals to know that they are not alone in the fight with mental illness.
The symptoms of these illnesses that are manifested in my life are quite contradictory most of the time. The ADHD part of me is buzzing with energy and constantly wants to try new things, but the anxiety part of me questions all of those new things and insists that they’re going to end poorly. The depression part of me has no motivation and struggles to get out of bed, but the anxiety part of me starts to list off all the things that I need to be doing and threatens that if I don’t get it done, I’m a failure. The battle between the three is incessant, and when the three aren’t competing, one of them is triumphing (which sounds like a good thing but really isn’t). For the sake of the coherence of this post, I am going to identify each illness individually instead of focusing on how the three interact.
Depression was the first mental illness I was diagnosed with. I was officially diagnosed with depression at the end of my sophomore year of high school, but it was something that I had been struggling with that whole school year. The depression was consistently an issue while I wasn’t on medication. Now that I am on medication, my depression consists of just a handful of bad days each month. It is also seasonal, which means that during the winter months, I experience more of the symptoms and have more bad days. Most days are good days, though. My depression can also be triggered by things that I see or hear.
On the days that it is especially prominent, the symptoms that I experience are a huge burden. I don’t feel like I can get out of bed. When I eventually do get out of bed, I don’t have any motivation to do anything productive. I mostly just feel like staring at a wall. I distance myself from people and if I get invited to do something social, I decline the offer. Depression instigated a sense of numbness in you. You lose the ability to feel emotions, especially happiness. It drains you and you just feel exhausted all the time.
Another part of depression that is really difficult to deal with is the suicidal thoughts. You become so numb that the thought of killing yourself doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. With me, there are things that I see or hear that trigger suicidal thoughts. If I see something on TV or read something about someone self-harming or committing suicide, the thought doesn’t seem to leave my mind and it feels like that is the only option for me, the only thing I’m capable of doing. Luckily, this doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is extremely overpowering and it takes everything in my power to not hurt myself.
Depression hasn’t been as much of a burden in my life as it used to be, but I’ll get reminders of its presence as I go throughout each day. It is still something that I continue to battle even though I am on medication.
Before I was diagnosed with depression, I was convinced that it was social anxiety that I struggled with and not depression. However, as soon as I started taking antidepressants, the anxious thoughts that I had subsided significantly so I assumed I was wrong in my self-diagnosis of anxiety. For a period of time, I was feeling pretty good so I went off of my antidepressants. I soon started having panic attacks that significantly affected my everyday life. I would have to call into work and cancel plans with friends.
The beginning stages of anxiety are really scary. You have these intense emotions of fear and just feeling incredibly overwhelmed, and you have no idea what it is that’s causing it. It doesn’t seem like there is a way out. Anxiety attacks are scary. As I’ve dealt with several anxiety attacks, I have identified some of the triggers of my panic attacks. I try my hardest to avoid those things so I don’t spiral downward because I soon as I start to spiral, there is no going back.
The other most prominent symptom of my anxiety is the thoughts that are constantly running through my mind. I am always finding some reason to worry. Something that I have found helps with this is writing things down. I have one notebook that I keep with me almost everywhere that I go. If there is something that is eating at me or bothering me, I will write down my thoughts. I have found that putting my thoughts into words helps alleviate the anxious thoughts.
ADHD was something that I always kind of thought that I had, but other people attributed my forgetfulness and inability to focus to being a teenage girl so pushed my self diagnosis of ADHD aside. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that the symptoms of ADHD really presented themselves, however.
I ended up taking online classes my last quarter of school because I wasn’t able to sit through hour-long lectures and focus for that long. I was extremely forgetful and couldn’t seem to remember what I was supposed to do throughout the day. I was easily distracted by noises that were in my surroundings, and I couldn’t have a normal conversation with someone because I was so distracted by the things around me. If I started a new project, I had the hardest time seeing it through and finishing it. I constantly needed to be moving, whether it be tapping my foot or cracking my knuckles or a number of other movements.
With ADHD, it is hard to find clarity in your thoughts. Your mind is running from idea to idea so incredibly fast that it makes deciphering one single idea extremely difficult. Your mind wanders and it’s hard to focus on an idea or person.
I use medication to lessen the symptoms of ADHD and it has worked wonders. I am so much more focused, and my sense of motivation and drive has been restored! It is truly a blessing.
Although living with mental illnesses is difficult and hard to cope with, there are lessons that can be learned. I am a much stronger and wiser individual because of my mental illnesses. I have an increased ability to empathize and sympathize with others. It also helped me raise awareness to others regarding what mental illness is like. A lot of people have no idea how to help someone with mental illness and don’t really understand what mental illness entails. It is my hope that by sharing my story, people can understand more of what happens in the daily life of an individual who copes with mental illness. I also hope that those out there who struggle with mental illness know that they are not alone in this journey. There is a way out, and the cure is going to be different for everyone. Some people will choose to use medication, some will not; some people will choose to go to a counselor, some will not. The way people cope is unique to each person, and it is my hope that you will find the cure that will best alleviate what you’re struggling with.