Briefly explain to a healthy person what it is like to live with this illness.
Living with major depressive disorder and chronic anxiety is a form of hell I could never fully put down into words and I wish with all my heart that words would suffice to make people understand. Because you don’t look physically ill all the time nor do you appear to be dying, but what’s going on on the inside shouldn’t be overlooked because it may be exactly that. Having depression, as I’ve said before, is a hell I don’t wish on anyone. What it comes down to is feeling a pain so unimaginably intense that it feels about the equivalent of losing someone you dearly loved to death yet, you have no idea why you feel the way you do. It’s a sadness so dark that it makes you beg God to take you while you bite your pillow through sobs. You wish for death because it’s all that would take the pain away. You essentially become nothing but sadness. It’s there lingering and smothering your thoughts and heart every minute of every day. When you’re talking to people or trying to go about your activities, it’s always there and nothing you do distracts you from it for even a second. It’s like being underwater forever and constantly having that sensation of drowning as your lungs fill with water and you choke, except, you don’t die. You don’t drown. You’re just in that constant process. It’s like watching your entire world around you melt away and lose meaning and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You can’t make it stop. So you cry so loudly that your throat feels as though it might burst as you try to contain those sobs and beg yourself to hold on for just one more second, or, you just completely give up on yourself and on life. You lie and stare ahead of yourself with your body limp and tears silently stream down your face. I read a description of others’ experiences with depression and I couldn’t agree more and knew exactly what they were describing to be true in every way.
The mental pain seems unbearable. Time stands still. I can’t go on. I can weep for hours and yet not know what I weep for.
It’s a malignant sadness.
My bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
The unhappiness was like dust that infiltrated everything.
Profound melancholia is a day-in, day-out, night-in, night-out, almost arterial level of agony. It is a pitiless unrelenting pain that affords no window of hope. No alternative to a grim and brackish existence, the cold undercurrants of thought and feeling that dominate the body with horribly, restless nights of despair.
It’s not just pain. It’s meaningless pain. That’s all I want in life, for this pain to seem purposeful. If pain leads to childbirth it is tolerable, but if it just leads to blackness or nothing then it threatens to destroy.
Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I must die or be better, it appears to me. But I awfully forbade I shall not, and to remain as I am is impossible.
What tortures many people is that they don’t die. The pain seeps into everything. The thought that one might remain in this horrible state is too much to consider. No one knows how badly I want to die but death has its own horrors.
Then there’s anxiety. With anxiety you feel completely out of control. Your heart starts racing, you can’t think of anything except escaping from the situation you’re in and your thoughts jump to terrible places. Your hands shake, you can’t speak and you feel overwhelmingly stuck. It’s like being in quicksand. No amount of resistance will get you out. At times it isn’t just shaking and sweating and crying and worrying. At times it’s being paralysed;
If you live with anxiety it means you live in a constant state of worrying about almost everything. You’re more prone to think out a billion terrible scenarios of how things may work out and then catastrophise over each one. So you almost break yourself trying to prevent each one and put up road blocks everywhere you can. Small things like submitting an assignment a week before just in case your computer crashes 2 days before. Overworking just in case you don’t succeed. Being at an appointment half an hour early just in case there might’ve been traffic on your way there. Worrying about money, where you’ll live, whether the relationship you’re in will even be there a month from now… It’s like you almost expect the world around you to crumble down any minute.
Has your mental illness had any effect on your physical health?
Oh yes. Terribly. People often say mental illness is an invisible illness but really it isn’t. One can physically see how drained and lifeless a person with depression appears compared to how they look when they aren’t sick. Physically you have absolutely not an ounce of energy within you. It’s not just a psychological perception of no energy. If you forced yourself to go run around the block while feeling that way you literally feel like you might drop dead and you’ll black out. You oversleep, yet you’re always tired. You have no appetite and you may get frequent headaches and body aches. Beyond that, because you don’t eat well and you don’t even care about your health, your immune system is poor and you get sick often. Depression in itself may weaken your immune system because of elevated cortisol levels. The so-called stress hormone. Then there’s the side-effects of meds that make you feel like utter crap when you initially start taking them. You have side-effects like tremors, headaches, nausea, palpitations, body aches, generalised weakness, dizzy spells, insomnia, drowsiness, confusion and an endless list of other possibilities. I’ve pretty much experienced all of those throughout my trials and errors of trying out so many different meds. SSRI’s generally affected me the worst and I cannot physically tolerate them at all. The good news is that eventually the side-effects disappear but there may also be long-term effects of taking chronic medications like high blood sugar, weight gain, cardiac effects, etc. Generally, with good monitoring one should be fine. My personal issues have been extreme forgetfulness when I started off with my mood stabiliser, Lamotrigine. I also had weight gain with Seroquel but lost it again easily. I have recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism which may/may not have been a consequence of meds. I also had palpitations with my pulse being consistently as high as 120 with the antidepressants stimulating noradrenaline. Recently, with being admitted and all, I have gotten sick a lot as well and had bronchitis and colds twice within 2 months.
During my admission