I often wonder what life would be like without anxiety and depression. What would I have achieved by now? How would my mind work? I think about the type of person I would be. Would I be more like my sisters, strong, opinionated, fierce, or would I be more like my best friend, easy going, relaxed and content? A part of me really wants to live just one day with a calm, secure mind. The other part has accepted that this is it, this is my life and I’m just going to have to deal with the cards I have been dealt.
Every time I bring up my depression and anxiety most people react the same way, “I never would have thought it could be you,” and I know that, that’s the way I have wanted it to be. I don’t like the thought of people taking on my problems and having pity on me. I like to appear as “normal” as possible, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. As soon as the words leave my mouth, “I have depression and anxiety,” I instantly feel as if I’m defined by those words. I feel like people feel uncomfortable around me, like it’s always in the back of their mind. Maybe they are thinking, “I can’t say that, it might give her anxiety,” and they can’t make the typical “I want to just kill myself,” joke when something small has happened, (which I do all the time, e.g. I spill my coffee, “ahhh I just want to kill myself.”)
Listen: Lily Bailey explains what it is like living with OCD. (Post continues…)
I read my diagnosis from a referral sheet.
I don’t really remember when I was “diagnosed” with depression and anxiety, I can’t really remember any of my doctors saying, “this is what you have, you have depression and anxiety.” What I do know is, I have read it about myself, on and off for the last few years many, many times. Off I would go to a doctor, tell them about what was going on in my head (as if I knew what was going on) and I would leave with a referral letter to a psychologist. I would walk out to the front desk and ask the reception girls to fax it off for me, all while thinking to myself, “shit, I hope they haven’t read my file! It is not pretty.”
Often the letters would say things like, “high personal expectation, anxiety +++, severe depression, patient looks flat.” See, the thing is I knew most of those things about myself, I knew I looked flat (which is doctor code for shit,) I knew I had high personal standards. I just didn’t have the ability to put it all together. Being labelled with something that has always been considered taboo was hard to adjust to.
I know I’m not a crazy person.
I was listening to a ABC podcast during the week, (gone are the days of me calling my parents losers for liking ABC) Mel Jacob was being interviewed by Richard Fidler. He interviewed her about the book she had written about her husband being in jail, how she dealt with that and what she told their children. Mel said that one day she was driving past a prison and one of her children asked if their father was a bad person because he was in jail. “No, why would you think that?” her answer was. “Because you told us that bad people go to jail.” Mel had to stop and think if she did say this, then she needed to reiterate to her children that their father was not a “bad” person he had just done something bad. I thought about this for a while, how do we decide who is a “bad” person. Do we label everyone in prison as “bad” and do we label everyone with a mental illness as “crazy?”
While I was writing this, I asked a bunch of my friends the same question, “do you think depression and anxiety defines me? Or is it just a part of who I am?” I had to take a break from typing to wipe away the tears that were running down my cheeks when I received messages back. Good tears, happy tears, overwhelmed with love tears, the best kind of tears.
The general consensus was all pretty much the same all around. According to my friends, I’m supportive, a shit load of fun, funny, quirky and I try hard to be positive. Basically, they all think I am fabulous and one day I hope to think the same about myself. In my messy little head, I have always thought that depression and anxiety defines me, it is who I am. I have come to realise that it definitely does not! I will not let my diagnosis define who I am, it is a small part of my personality. A part that is doing its best to say, “I am not a bad person, I am not crazy. I am me, just me.”
If you or someone you care about is experiencing depression, anxiety or any other kind of mental illness, you can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. For crisis support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.