Hi. My name is Annika Spalding. In the past, I have experienced anxiety and depression, and I believe I am experiencing it again. Having been through this before, I know some of my signs, but it took me a while to take it on. I spend a lot of my time feeling very numb, I don’t know why and I don’t know how to snap out of it, but I have become quite at peace with it because it is familiar. I don’t even bother trying to fight it because I know it will pass. Sometimes it is days, sometimes weeks, and then the high comes.
Oh, how I love the highs. The bursts of happiness and feeling of excitement out of nowhere for no reason. I can’t distinguish my feelings too well, but I do know this high and I love it. Until recently, the highs would last for weeks and so I found the numbness more than manageable because I knew what was ahead. I knew the high was coming.
In the past, I found it easy to access support around my depression. I found it really comforting. I wasn’t close with my family and so I was so grateful for any support I could get. I loved counselling, mostly because it was a whole hour where I could talk about myself and my feelings and not feel guilty about it. Anti-depressants stopped me feeling consumed by my anxiety and balanced everything out. When I felt better, I came off everything, convinced I was better for good.
Wrong. Slowly but surely the numbness returned. I’d feel spaced out, zoned out, physically here but mentally just… drifting. My appetite disappeared and my interest in everything began to wane. I’d feel exhausted all day long but struggle to get to sleep, often tossing and turning during the night, and wake up feeling exhausted regardless of what time I went to bed. It didn’t matter. My body was reacting in the way I don’t allow my mind to. It was tired. It was tormented. It had enough. Anxiety returned in waves to my chest, I’d be sat on the sofa when it would pounce unexpectedly, and I’d have to remember to take deep breaths because I don’t want it to develop into a panic attack. I’m a mother of two, I have to keep myself together, right?
Wrong. This putting on a front, the whole “I’m okay” when really I’m not has caused some damage. There are people around me that are willing to listen and willing to help if I just speak up and admit that today, particularly today, I am struggling. And I don’t know why, don’t ask me why because I don’t know. I just need you to know that today is hard. Today requires effort at every point. I just want to go to bed and cry, but I can’t. I have to live. I have things to do. Children to raise. I have to work on stopping myself from sinking any lower because if I go lower than this then I will have to go to the doctors. I don’t want to do that. I know there is no shame in doing that, but I don’t want to go there. I was okay for a long time, I can get back to it again, surely? If I identify the triggers, ease myself of some pressure and practice mindfulness, I can get better by myself, right?
Wrong. Well, a little bit right. I’m a strong, independent female who doesn’t depend on a soul in this world. I know I can depend on me. But wait, if my mind is not in a good place, I can feel the heaviness in my chest and the cloud of negativity above my head, can I really depend on me? I think it is so easy to forget that we are in need of some TLC, we are so eager to please the world around us that we forget to take care of that one person we can depend on. We create this image of being unbreakable, and most of the time we are indeed just that, but there comes a point when we’re not and this image can lead to our undoing.
I’ve found comfort and liberation in being open about how I am feeling. Counselling and anti-depressants don’t work for everybody, I know they have worked for me in the past but I am keen to try holistic methods. It could be yoga or meditation, whatever I need to quite the mind and be still.
I’m a writer, but I rarely write about myself, so mental health awareness month is giving me an opportunity to start. Maybe this way I will find the courage to be even more open about it and perhaps even give me alternative coping mechanisms to the ones I have already.
Featured image: Yasin Hasan